In Gameloft's canon of games, the Gangstar series is its GTA. An open world crime sim that sees you working your way up the underworld ladder via shooting, poor driving, and plotting with unsavoury characters.
The new entry to the franchise Gangstar: New Orleans is no different. There's a power vacuum in New Orleans, and it's up to you to build up a crew and become the head honcho.
It's fair to say that I wasn't a huge fan of the previous entry in the series, Gangstar: Vegas. And while this game does go some way to deal with the multitudinous sins of its predecessor, it's not without faults of its own.
Nothing is free
The open world pretension is still in place here. You can jog or drive around the city perpetrating petty acts of crime. Well, petty by the standards of the game. Smashing a man's face into the pavement for no reason should never be considered petty.
Missions that push the narrative along are behind an energy system. You can tap on them in your map to start them instantly, so there's no exploring the city to pick something to do next.
That in itself makes the whole thing feel disjointed. You're not part of a living breathing metropolis, you're some sort of incorporeal ghost leaping from murder spree to murder spree, aided and abetted by a cast of gurning, vacuous characters.
The action is reasonably slick. There's a cover system, and your guns auto-target enemies so you're not flapping around shooting scenery while goons and hoodlums fill you with hot steaming lead.
Controlling vehicles is particularly good, especially compared to what it has been in the series before. Darting through the city is fluid and, dare I say it, fun.
None of the challenges you're given last very long. Shoot a few men to death, get to a specific point, shoot some more. There's still a basic lack of charm or wit in any of the challenges. You know, the sort of thing that made GTA so great.
That's not to say there isn't fun to be had here. It's just a blunt, shoving sort of fun. You can see through some of the fog to see the game that New Orleans really wants to be, and when it shows its hand, you'll enjoy yourself.
There's still clunkiness in spades, but it's not as annoying as it has been in previous instalments in the series.
It's spelt gangstEr
Yes, it's free to play, yes there are bugs and problems. And the representation of various different cultures is icky at best. But Gangstar: New Orleans still just about manages to be entertaining.
It's a sloppy, confusing entertainment, like a sandwich with baked beans in it, but you will have a good time while you're trying to stuff it inside of you.