A botched hit.
Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels are such shocking and delightful films not because they’re bursting with violence, style and swearing, but rather because they’re full of all those things and they take place in Britain, land of tea time and good manners. Watching those films is a reminder that anybody, with the right cocktail of balls and bravado can make being bad look good, even you. Cue Gangs of London, a PSP game that should toss you the keys to the slick lifestyle of a UK gangster, including hot cars, loud guns and silly accents.
Unfortunately, Gangs of London
doesn’t have those
keys. Instead, it lamely provides the second-hand ride it inherited from its equally boorish big brothers, The Getaway
games. If you aren’t familiar with them, they combined uninspired driving missions with awful action episodes, and Gangs of London
was cut from the same moldy mold, presumably growing somewhere in London where nothing interesting ever happens.
In Story mode, you choose from one of six gangs and run missions until you ultimately crush your enemies and dominate the organized crime scene. But where there should be six story lines, there aren’t any. Instead, every campaign simply begins with a gang boss deciding he wants to take over London, and then every mission is framed by weakly written sketches that never come together in any sort of narrative thread.
The ability to play as each gang does have one, interesting upside in that all the top gang members are persistent. So after gunning down your enemies as the Russian mafia, for example, you can start a new game as the Chinese gang, and find yourself on missions to kill your old crew.
This never gets more than a little weird, though, thanks to Gangs of London
’s awful A.I. Whether you’re fighting a Russian thief or a Chinese thug, your enemy will either stand and shoot at you, or charge brandishing a blackjack. Between those two options, there isn’t much room for personality, or even sentimentality. There’s a ton of room for exploitation, though, setting the stage for some of the saddest fights this side of YouTube
For example, no matter what, everyone is specifically trying to kill you. This can be used to your advantage in melees by simply standing behind your henchmen. Your enemies, in their single-minded pursuit, will catch their polygons on your crew and just stand there getting beaten to death without fighting back. It’s like you’re jumping them into your gang.
This artificial OCD
doesn’t always work in your favor, though. If you’re in a gun fight and cops arrive at the scene, they will completely ignore the dudes with assault rifles, and focus their entire squad on taking you down. If that only happened to the South Asian and Jamaican gangs it might be chalked up to social commentary, but these cops are only racist against you
Naturally then, the toughest missions are the driving scenarios where you have to avoid both cops and gang members. As long as you weave through traffic, though, you’ll be fine. Other missions just require you to stand your ground and kill a set number of enemies who will run at you in waves. Due to the exploits mentioned above, these are cake. There are also some easy stealth missions where, as long as you crouch, your enemies can’t see you, even if you’re obviously hiding behind a potted plant, or a dinner chair.
And I’m not even sure if the shooting sequences qualify as gameplay; you just lock onto enemies with the R button and tap X until they die. It doesn’t matter how many bullets you take in turn, because most of your health regenerates anyway, and even if you were to miraculously die, in most cases you’d just take over as one of your henchmen. If the bad guys shot themselves, the game wouldn’t be much easier.
The only tough parts are the driving sequences, where cops occasionally put perfect licks on your front fenders, spinning you into nearby walls or pedestrians. The driving controls are mostly fine, although you spend an inordinate amount of time in vans, which are too sluggish and slow to have any place in a game about fast gang livin’.
Thank god then, for the inclusion of darts, 8-ball pool, and Skittles. Who needs hookers and coke
when you’ve got parlor games? There’s nothing remotely gangsta about any of these, by the way. You can’t break your pool cue over your opponent’s neck, throw darts at a surly waitress, or even jimmy the arcade machine for some extra change. Welcome to Gangs of Salt Lake City.
While you’re here, you might try the free-roaming modes, until you realize they’re just never ending versions of the game’s normal missions. The worst of these is a zombie attack game (they only want your
brains), while the best lets you freely drive around London, running people over and jacking cars. It’s odd, though, that you can never do this during Story mode. Instead of freely driving around and picking up missions, you have to use a map screen, which takes you out of the experience.
Now, I’ve never been to London, but from the game it seems like a well rendered city with a lot of boring looking cars and stupid pedestrians. Although the world is realized with an impressive level of detail and clarity, there’s none of the style or flash found in Guy Ritchie
’s films. The cars all look like station wagons, the textures are bland, and the animations are terrible. The music is surprisingly tasteful and underscored, and the voice acting is great, though it’s wasted on the terrible script.
Sure, I’m busting its balls, but Gangs of London isn’t all terrible. It’s just really easy to pick on the bad A.I. and repetitive gameplay. The driving segments handle well, and because it’s so easy, the Story campaigns always move at a brisk pace. But Gangs of London should be insane, stylish and hard with a kooky plot and high-octane violence. Instead the experience is awkward, wooden and dull - British in all the wrong ways.