Ok, I have to say it: Gameloft has become the developer to beat on the app store. I still read the occasional gripes and complaints on forums or in reviews, but Gameloft’s true competition on the app store is really limited to a handful of other developers (such as EA, Chillingo, etc). When I first started purchasing games from the app store to play on my iPod Touch 2nd Gen, it became apparent that Gameloft was out to create high-quality, console-like games for the iDevice platform. Their previous titles such as Brothers in Arms, Hero of Sparta, and Real Soccer 2009 far surpassed other offerings at the time. However, Gangstar: West Coast Hustle brings a whole new level of quality to their already-impressive line-up. From what I see in Gangstar: West Coast Hustle, I can hardly wait for the release of Modern Combat: Sandstorm!
Gangstar: West Coast Hustle is a full 3D sandbox style game that comes with central missions, a storyline, side missions, and mini-games. You are put into the life of a Mexican gangster and are quickly immersed into an over-the-top portrayal of Mexican gangsters (or gangstas for some of you). They do somewhat overdue the stereotype, but I find it rather funny at times. While the storyline can be silly, it is also very immersive and addicting. The missions combined with the ability to roam freely make this my new favorite game on my iPod. By the way, I am not going to draw comparisons to GTA 3. I think Gangstar: West Coast Hustle can stand on its own as a game and has enough creativity to be measured on its own merits rather than comparing it to an older game on another platform.
Virtual Controls that Work: Most (if not all) iPhone/iPod gamers know that virtual controls are tricky and take work to implement correctly. It is easy to tell that Gameloft took the time to get the controls right. They give the player three control methods for driving, so you are sure to find the method that works best for you. I have found that the touch controls are my favorite by far, but I can use all three control methods. On a side note, I would like to see Gameloft implement a calibration or sensitivity option for the accelerator steering.
Artwork: The artwork used throughout Gangstar: West Coast Hustle is right on. It is consistent in style and creative. I think it adds a lot to the overall perception and enjoyment of the game.
Achievements: I love the achievements that are located throughout the game. There is something fun about running over a pedestrian and getting a “cold blood” achievement. I can see Gangstar: West Coast Hustle being one of the few games that iPod/iPhone gamers actually try to finish (100% – complete all of the missions, side missions, mini-games, and achievements).
Finally, a True Sandbox: We have seen Payback and Car Jack Streets come with high expectation, and both of these games have failed to live up to the hype. In order to play a true sandbox game in today’s gaming world, you need to have a believable 3D environment. Gangstar: West Coast Hustle devlivers this and then some. While the map is not huge, it is very impressive for a game on the app store. For those that haven’t yet heard, the map is fifteen square city blocks. This leaves a good amount to explore especially for a game on a mobile platform.
Fun and Addicting: Gangstar: West Coast Hustle has that “it” factor that so many games are missing. It is just plain fun, and I keep finding myself wanting to play just a little more. It has proven to be similar to what Call of Duty became for me on the PS3. I have so many games, but I just end up wanting to play one. Gangstar: West Coast Hustle is that one right now. I would be surprised if this game doesn’t make it into at least the top 5 games on the app store at its current price point.
Attention to Detail: It is the little things that count, and Gameloft did not leave them out. Details such as the prefect-sized mini map, gun stores, service delivery, car rentals, side missions, and ramps add a lot to the game. I was very impressed by the level of detail included in this game!
Draw Distance: Ok, even though this is a negative, let’s face it: a mobile device with limited processing power cannot compete with a PS3. I think gameloft probably found a lot of performance issues while developing Gangstar: West Coast Hustle and made a decision to reduce the draw distance to create a better gaming experience. While I think this was the right choice, it is sometimes frustrating when you are driving up a hill and can’t see the road ahead very well. However, the draw distance didn’t ever really affect the gameplay.
Not Enough Cops: I really wanted bigger and badder cop chases in this game. There isn’t that much difference between one badge (low wanted level) and five badges (high wanted level). I was expecting a little more aggressiveness at the high wanted levels. I hope that gameloft can add a little to this in an update. It is my only real gripe with gameplay. It is also very easy to just keep killing cops and buying health packs to survive.
Gangstar: West Coast Hustle is a fantastic title that you would be crazy to miss out on. I am excited to see what Gameloft does next, and I have high expectations for games coming over the next few months. If Gangstar: West Coast Hustle is any indication, the app store is going to get even better. Hopefully we will see this level of detail and fun incorporated into some good first person shooters, RPG’s, and action/adventure games. All-in-all Ganstar: West Coast Hustle is easily a Must Have title!