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Gangs of London PSP

Published by Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
Developed by SCEE London Studio
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £34.99

When the PSP was first announced many feared the handheld would be home to ports of PlayStation 2 games in one form or another. To some extent, and disappointingly so, this has actually happened. That said there have been some original titles for the console such as the excellent LocoRoco and Taito’s stylish puzzler, Exit. Gangs of London is the latest original PSP title that we’ve seen and it’s certainly an ambitious title that crams in a lot of content.

As you can probably guess, Gangs of London is concerned with rival London gangs attempting to seize control of the city. The game features a variety of modes. The modes on offer are Story Mode, Free-Roaming, Gang Battle and The Pub. Story Mode is the heart of the game and here you’ll take control of one of the game’s five gangs and attempt to take control of the other gangs’ territory. There are five gangs in the game; Morris Kane Firm, EC2 Crew, Talwar Brothers, Zakharov Organisation and the Water Dragon Triad. Each of the gangs has its own characteristics and ratings.  Vehicles for instance have a top speed, acceleration, handling and durability rating. Once you’ve picked a gang you’ll see a gang specific introduction and then you’re taken to a screen where you can pick a mission to undertake. Once you’ve completed all of the missions in a territory, you can then challenge the leader and if successful you’ll claim his territory.

The other modes in the game help to pad out the experience to a certain extent. Free-Roaming allows you to drive around London and complete a few objectives, some of which bizarrely involve zombies. Gang Battle is a turn-based game which again sees you trying to seize control of London and see off the other gangs in the process. You can move gang members around the map, purchase cards that give certain bonuses and so forth. In truth it’s a simple turn-based strategy game. It’s certainly not a bad experience but it’s not as in depth as turn-based games of this nature usually are. Finally there is the mode known as The Pub. Here you can play Darts, Skittles, 8-ball pool (both US & UK variants) and you can even play on an arcade game if you wish. These games are actually quite enjoyable, have multiple difficulty levels and can be played as multiplayer games (using the one PSP). There’s also a bonus section that allows you to look at the five gangs’ attributes and send a demo to your PSP owning friends via the Game Sharing feature.

On the face of it then it seems as if Gangs of London is certainly a game with potential and it certainly is, but it's potential that hasn’t been fully realised. The missions you’ll carry out in the Story Mode are rather sterile affairs and only last a few minutes. To make matters worse the controls are quite unsatisfactory. The driving controls feel far too sensitive which makes driving more challenging than it should be. The AI of both your enemies and the characters that accompany you in certain missions is not as good as it should be. There isn’t a real story as such, more a string of missions which also detracts from the game. When all is said and done the games you can play in The Pub mode are more enjoyable than the main game. The game isn’t a disaster, far from it in fact, but it could have been much better and more involving.

Graphically Gangs of London is a bit of mix. The game doesn’t have cutscenes as such but storyboard style comic strips, similar to what you’d find in a graphic novel, and these are actually quite impressive. The in-game graphics are rather bland though. London certainly doesn’t look bad but you’ll notice the textures are rather low on detail which gives the environments a rather sterile look. Other areas of the game simply look OK. The strategy map that you’ll use to select missions from (and also what you’ll use in the Gang Battle mode) is quite simplistic but easy on the eyes. The various games you’ll find in The Pub mode all look OK too.

Gangs of London won’t give deaf gamers any real problems. All of the graphic novel style clips that accompany the Story Mode introductions and missions are subtitled. Tutorial messages, for all of the game modes, are all in text and all of the objectives are shown in text. In fact there’s little to complain about in this respect.

It’s actually quite difficult to level a final judgment against Gangs of London. For all of the game’s faults you can actually see that there is a lot of untapped potential here. Certainly the Gang Battle and games found in The Pub mode are not without their charm. Unfortunately the Story Mode, which is the heart of the game, is disappointing and it’s ultimately the mode that most gamers will judge the game by. The missions needed to have been more interesting, the controls needed to have been better and it really needs a fully fleshed out story to make the whole thing feel worthwhile. If a sequel could correct all of these issues then we would certainly have a much better game.

Overall Game Rating: 5.8/10

Deaf Gamers Classification:

(Click the letter or here for details)

Potentially this could have been great. Unfortunately much of this potential hasn't been realised and the overall experience is quite disappointing.