All good things must either find a way to reinvent themselves or come to an end. Unfortunately, after spending some serious time with Gangstar New Orleans, the sixth and most recent installment of Gameloft’s ever-popular series of open world action-adventure games for mobile, it’s hard not to wonder whether Gangstar has jumped the shark.
Gangstar New Orleans isn’t a terrible game. It’s an enjoyable enough experience that will likely keep fans of the series and newcomers who are intrigued by the game’s Grand Theft Auto-style look and feel. It’s a chance to let loose from the expectations of modern society for a bit and, as the name of the series suggests, play the role of the big bad gangster taking over turf and driving way too fast on city streets. For all intents and purposes, it does exactly what it says on the tin.
For a lot of players, this will be enough. However, for those familiar with the series previous entries it’s hard to shake the feeling that this open world is a little claustrophobic. With mission suggestions at the ready, there’s not the same need to immerse yourself in the city’s streets searching for your next task, taking your time along the way. These suggestions can make you feel a little boxed into the game’s suggested narrative, which isn’t as smooth as in previous Gangstar games.
When compared with Gangstar Rio: City of Saints in particular, the missions themselves feel a bit stale as do the combat mechanics. Drive from point A to point B without getting arrested, take out a few guys here and there. As much as the game is about turf control, for all of the cutaway scenes, there isn’t a lot of explanation as to how all of this makes a difference within the larger narrative. In terms of mechanics, a lot has changed in the mobile shooter world since Gangstar Rio. There’s a lot that can be learned from how other games like Modern Strike Online have dealt with the aim/success rate issue that still plagues gun-based games.
With the left and right turn options at the bottom of the screen, the driving controls inherited from Gangstar Vegas feel a little more natural than early series entries, though why there hasn’t been an attempt to bring more precise driving controls in sync with the walk around joystick is worth thinking about.
One thing that Gangstar Rio does really well is trying to get reflect the city’s unique history and culture. For a city of 1.2 million people, New Orleans has always punched well above its weight culturally and there’s perhaps no city with a more engaging mythology. The city’s French roots are front and center (your best friend in the game is Alain – not Allan) as is the lasting legacy of the southern slave trade in the form of voodoo priestesses roaming the town. The city’s distinct neighborhoods are also well represented and you’ll find the French Quarter pretty well preserved.
While the graphics on offer in Gangstar New Orleans have been criticized, it does seem like a worthwhile trade-off for how well the game performs on older mobile devices. Given the scale of the game, this just wouldn’t be possible with richer graphics and those who aren’t on latest-gen devices should be grateful for the decision at a time when some of the cooler games are falling out of reach.
Gangstar New Orleans is free-to-play on both iOS and Android. Like all free-to-play games in this general genre, there are oodles of in-app purchases on offer that can help you progress faster and give you something to brag about to other players through the game’s world chat option (which feels more than a little outdated in 2017). Some of the purchases come with a hefty price tag so you’ll probably want to avoid browsing the store while exhausted.
At least with this one you probably won’t have to worry about the little folks in your life racking up big bills – Gangstar New Orleans is very much for adults only.