Monotony is the Real Crime
Cue the faux Dr. Dre beat; Crime Lord is loading. The game, brought to us by VascoGames, is an action title where players control Paulie Bonbanno, corruption-king on the come-up itching for revenge for his slaughtered family. Sound familiar? Calling this a clone would be an unfair insult to clones.
Crime Lord: Gangster City starts you off damn near broke on the corner of a nondescript street. Barring the few pedestrians wandering here and there, you have but one “friend,” a bodyless head in the HUD at the top of the screen representing your lone gang member. The game delivers instructions on the how-to’s of crime in Gangster City – known in- game as Hunters Hill – via a series of pop-up windows showing a variety of missions to make money, to hire more gangsters, to fight for more turf. Gangster battles are handled instantly and are outside of your control. Gaining turf increases your daily income, funding future battles. With enough time and hired killers, you can take over all of Hunters Hill. Whether or not you will actually enjoy investing that time is another matter.
These missions are where the monotony of Crime Lord first rears its ugly head: 1 – head to the mission start. 2 – Tap the screen to commence mission. 3 – Head to the object. 4 – Pick up payment. For most players, initial days in Gangster City will be spent rinsing and repeating the above mission objectives. One could argue players are still getting used to the controls – the left virtual thumbstick controls all motion (it changes into a steering wheel once you get in a car), with gas and brakes on the right as images of actual pedals, but the steering , though finicky, performed surprisingly well, so the “getting use to it” argument is out. Perhaps the developers wanted players to explore the city… except nothing is really interactive; doors don’t open, and there are no drive-thrus, so there’s very little worth exploring. The graphics aren’t spectacular and that fake midi-like Dr. Dre beat I mentioned stays the same from the moment you open the game; both factors add to the feeling that you’ve seen this all before.
The design doesn’t provide enough actual variety in the jobs gameplay, so getting over the initial hump to a place where hiring gangsters and spending their lives as currency is a sustainable business model proves to be a boring process. Also, there’s no real “crime” in your missions: delivering packages or picking up cars is hardly illegal. If you picked up Crime Lord and thought you would be able to commit vehicular homicide in between running and gunning, you will be disappointed for the majority of the game.
It appears that VascoGames is betting players determined to take over the city but unwilling to waste time on the repetitive missions will spend real money on Gangster City dollars. Crime Lord is free to play, but costs add up fast if you hope to have any semblance of an enjoyable experience. It’s $1.99 to remove the ads – which can be invasive — and the store offers Gangster City money packs at up to $19.99. That’s more than the cost of several older but still fun iterations of Grand Theft Auto, the OG (original gangster). I’d hate to think VascoGames invested less time in making the missions fun because they would rather players use their naggy in-game store to pay for their gangsters. If you’re an insomniac looking for a sleeping pill, Crime Lord: Gangster City 3D might be worth buying – just run a few missions, and you should be dreaming in no time. In my opinion, there are plenty of other, better games out there for $2.00 that don’t depend on advertising or focus on in-game stores to fund enjoyable play.