Release Date: October 3, 2006
Welcome to London, England, land of fish and chips, bad food and good liquor, heady accents and "God Save The Queen," Here, in the country that invented its own version of "mob violence," things are about to get ugly in the way only an Englishman can get...
Gangs Of London is, by basic appearances, another installment in the "Let's Try To Be Grand Theft Auto" club. As a thug of the European persuasion, you're given a small hold somewhere within the city of London itself, with one singular goal in your head: By the time the dust settles and the police have hauled away the beaten and the dead, you and yours are going to be king of it all. The Lords of London, if you will.
Once you're in, though, things take a different approach. Rather than giving you full purchase over the entirety of the landscape in front of you, Gangs is strictly mission-based, using the entire map but in bits and pieces. Take, for instance, one of the very early missions, where you're sent in to take out The Snowman, a butcher who specializes in human tenderloin and has stepped on one of your mate's jugular in the most terminal of ways. While the entire map is technically available, the mission itself is entirely set within the scripted environment. This allows more details specific to the scenario you're in, and gets around a degree of the technical limitations of the PSP as a platform. (It also avoids getting directly in the way of comparisons between Gangs and Liberty City Stories...)
Missions vary between around a half-dozen different categories. Assaults have you and a pack of blokes packing full and heavy heat, gunning your way through the other gangs, while Infiltrations are completely the opposite fare, demanding some really soft footsteps and a knack with a blade or crowbar. Add on Chases, Protects, Kidnappings, Deliveries, Getaways, and Defends (more on that in a second), and the variety of missions is pretty dramatic.
Even before that, there are six ways to approach the story at its root. London is being picked apart from all sides by multiple gangs, all hell-bent on picking up all 30-plus territories. Pick your group: the brutal Zakharov gang straight from old Russia, the "urban flavahed" EZ2 Crew, the Guy Ritchie-inspired Morris Kane Firm, and three other mobs of menace all want that same turf, and it's going to get redder and deader as things heat up. Each level is a single segment of turf. If you don't own it, finishing the mission successfully gives it to you, unlocking more and more levels towards the grand finale. From point to point, you may even be called on to defend your forts – remember the Defend missions I mentioned? You, maybe some friends, and a lot of bullets are going to have to make a stand against the "enemies."
From the first few levels, a few things end up being obvious: This game is about driving and shooting. There aren't any pick-ups (don't go looking for health packs!), and any gun you happen to be given has no limit to the bullets in it. This should open up the doors to huge, loud, explosive gun battles that aren't limited by your ability to find those rare M16 clips in back alleys three cities away. Car chases, in much the same vein, are quick and simple affairs: You get in a car and go. Your buddies will shoot out of the doors if they can, and you – as the wheelman, if you will – have the entire city to try and blaze through as necessary. The preview build I got was smooth, nimble, and everything I'd wanted.
That's not even getting into the additional out-of-game modes. The Pub lets you screw around and play traditional British pub games (I can't vouch, as I'm not English) like Skittles and 551 Darts. There's also a set of in-game alternate modes, in which you can tool around London as a tourist and snap photos, try to control a riot as it grows out of control, or, my personal favorite, try to survive a zombie invasion in the aptly named "Four Weeks Later."
Some of the internals need a degree of touch-up; there are far too many issues with the aiming system (shades of GTA3), and some of the scripting simply doesn't work, especially in Tourist mode. All that aside, Gangs of London stands to be the very thing we've seen in movies for 40 years, from Michael Caine to Jason Statham, where the old English hooligan shows exactly how crime is done.
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