With great power comes great responsibility.
Rockstar's GTA series is one of the most powerful video gaming franchises around, commanding the attention of gamers and the wider world beyond. It wields this power responsibly for the most part, using violence as a narrative tool rather than as an end in itself.
Gameloft's Gangstar Rio: City of Saints copies the GTA formula pretty brazenly, but it doesn't achieve the narrative depth necessary to justify its violence - for instance, kill 20 random NPCs and you'll find yourself picking up an 'achievement'.
You may not be bothered by that, of course. We're not here to tell you where your moral compass should be pointing. Unfortunately, Gangstar Rio has plenty of other problems to get bothered about.No model performer
You play as a bad guy looking to turn good. Your attempt to break free from the underworld is literally blown apart when a car bomb leaves your other half splattered all over the windscreen.
Following a handy bit of reconstructive surgery,which actually manages to improve your appearance, you're reborn as the vengeful Angel.
This assassination attempt pretty much puts paid to any pretence of going straight.
Missions in Gangstar Rio see you ruthlessly slaying bystanders, intimidating the ruling classes, and generally embedding yourself in the seedy underbelly of Gameloft's take on Brazil's most famous city.
It's a predictable setup, but predictability is forgiveable if the gameplay is any good. Unfortunately, in the case of Gangstar Rio, it isn't.
There are six different control setups for the game's vehicles, but none is particularly successful. The best configuration is a combination of sliding sticks – one for steering, one for speed – though it never feels like anything more than a compromise.
What's even more frustrating is that Rio's streets are particularly unflattering for Gangstar Rio's patched-up handling. Tight, grid-based inner-city roads are paired up with carriageways with as much freedom as a bundle of tightly bunched spaghetti. Driving is most certainly not Gangstar Rio's strong point.
But then, neither is the on-foot action. The main problem surrounds the handling of weapons.Off target
Targeting is something of a lottery, and the AI is comically poor at times, meaning that even simple tasks like shooting a single target can be a challenge.
When you do complete a mission, you rarely manage it in a slick fashion – the game simply doesn't allow you to.
Worse than all this, though, is Gangstar Rio's joyless tone. Where games like GTA IV and Saint's Row use humour and characterisation to offset the violence, Gangstar Rio plays it dead straight.
There's no humour to be found here, and all of the characters would be thoroughly unlikeable if they were in any way believable. The end result is a game without any character or drive.
In contrast with its obvious inspiration, Gangstar Rio is neither powerful nor responsible. It does a passable impersonation of GTA in a box-ticking sort of way, but if that's what you're looking for you'd be best advised to wait for the forthcoming iOS port of GTA III.