Gangstar: West Coast Hustle

I’ve spent the last two weeks hitting the streets of the ‘west coast’, stealing cars, akin part in gang warfare, drive-by-shootings and generally hot-footing it when the blue and red lights appear. GameLoft’s latest App Store release allowed me to do all of this without getting put in jail. The app you need to search for? It’s called, Gangstar: West Coast Hustle.

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If you’ve played GTA, then you’ll feel right at home with the style of gameplay in Gangstar. Unlike GTA where the story plays more of a critical role, Gangstar allows you to dive straight into the game anytime you want, and start missions without having to drive around to different checkpoints, although the option to do this is open. This makes it great for when you want a quick game as most missions only last about 10 minutes.

Gangstar graphics are nothing revolutionary but there’s enough detail in the city surroundings that you drive around in different cars and weapons you can buy, borrow or steal. Playing the game on the iPod Touch 2G showed no slowdown and first-time loads take less than a minute. On entering the game, you have immediate free-roam of the city to do anything you want. Steal a car, beat up a pedestrian for cash or just cause general mayhem and panic around LA.

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The control system for the game is similar to other Gameloft games such as Terminator: Salvation that I reviewed a few months ago, an on-screen D-pad allows you to control directional movement whilst the controller on the right are for entering/exiting cars or invoking the use of a weapon.

With most of the time spent in a vehicle of one type or another, the control systems are what really define the gaming experience. Default controls for Gangstar use the accelerometer to turn left and right whilst you hold the on-screen buttons on the left for braking/reversing and on the right, the acceleration pedal. You can customise these controls and replace them with a wheel that you turn for directional movement and a slider for choosing how fast you want to go. My experience was that neither of these control systems were brilliant for high-speed or accurate driving, so you’ll spend a lot of time hitting other cars, pedestrians, walls and fences, but on the whole, they work well enough to play the game without too much frustration.

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The designers have deliberately made objects such as trees, street lights and traffic lights non-collision, so you can just drive straight through them. A wise decision, because the controls aren’t precise enough to allow you to avoid finer objects like these – which often results in pedestrians paying the ultimate price. Ramps and mounds of dirt can be found around the map which allow you to launch your car into the air for some impressive driving or to avoid the cops when they’re hot on your tail.

Speaking of cops, they’re not much of a challenge and you can avoid them altogether simply by starting a new mission from the menu. Your wanted level increases as you kill more pedestrians.

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For those that are interested in the storyline, there’s plenty of cut-scenes at the start of each mission, but for those who just want to play, you can happily skip the animations to get on with the mission. Each new mission progresses the storyline a bit further as you meet new characters and complete a range of different missions. There are a bunch of different side-missions that you can activate by travelling to the checkpoints on the map or by selecting them from the menu. These missions usually include checkpoint races or taxiing people around the map whilst racing against the clock.

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You can get Gangstar: West Coast Hustle from the App Store in iTunes for £3.99 – exceptional value considering the hours of gameplay you will get from the 50 missions.

2009-09-01 Onwah Tsang

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