Damn it feels good to be a gangsta.
If anyone is ever in the mood for running a city under the auspices of organized crime they have plenty of options to get their fix in a family-friendly way via the App Store. Freemium mafia games are pretty much their own subgenre at this point. While Crime Connection isn’t without its own set of problems, it manages to stand up quite well against its peers.
For some reason that isn’t entirely clear, the player’s character suddenly gets involved in a turf war and is subsequently swept up into the “Gangsta” world. Yes, sadly they’re all referred to as “gangstas” despite the distinct mafia theme. A mysterious woman who knows a disturbingly large amount of information when it comes to running a crime syndicate (and giggles way too freaking much) takes players under her wing and they soon find themselves running a significant chunk of a city. Structures will be built in order to acquire cash and experience, turf will be beefed over in order to expand and take over important supply buildings, and “gangstas” will throw-down in a Rock, Paper, Scissors-style brawl.
Crime Connection may look like it at first, but it isn’t solely a free-to-play city builder. There’s a fair bit of stuff to clear out and build, sure, but a surprising amount of thought has gone into the combat system. It’s not super deep or anything but it utilizes an interesting weapon triangle (melee > explosives > firearms > melee) that can severely impact a fight if not utilized correctly. Once a style is chosen players will have to select the “gangsta” cards they wish to use and attempt to either decimate their opponent or end the three round fight with more overall health. New recruits can be trained through special buildings, higher levels open up tougher characters, and the player’s avatar can acquire more expensive (and effective) gear to increase their chances as they level up.
The sim aspects aren’t bad either. In many ways it works a lot like other freemium titles, what with the timed resource gathering and all, but a few small details help to set it apart. It’s mostly the extra resources (gems, weapons, etc) and the way they simply get added to the stockpile at a rate dependant on the number of certain buildings that are owned, but having to also construct living spaces in order to increase the area’s population and by extension gain access to more advanced buildings is also appreciated.
It’s a fun ride, but it’s also a rough one. Simply starting up Crime Connection for the first time took quite a while. Once I had it installed it still had more data to download; a process that probably finished a good half hour or more after it initially began. Once I was actually able to start playing I still had to wait. Opening a menu pulls out a selection wheel, cleverly depicted as a revolver’s chamber, that takes just long enough to spin into place to feel unwelcome. The load times between fights and accessing non-cityscape options are also a pain. The characterizations are also rather irritating and somewhat insulting. Of course all of these issues can be overlooked in the grand scheme of things. What really troubles me is the fact that the higher level recruits can only be purchased using special GREE currency, which can only be acquired by spending real money. In other words, after a certain level players won’t be able to improve their squads unless they’re willing to pay for it. And that’s not cool.
I was honestly surprised by how much I’ve been enjoying Crime Connection. It’s got plenty of that familiar freemium style, but manages to change things up just enough to feel unique. The presentation is somewhat contradictory – with some catchy music/nice visuals and ridiculous hang-ups with the interface – but the real problem I have is that somewhat massive paywall which will undoubtedly penalize high level players for hanging on to their cash.