App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
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Whenever people talk about the more insidious side of mobile games, one of the companies that always pops into my mind is Gameloft. They're a company that consistently makes clones of PC and console games, wraps them in annoying mechanics like energy timers and pop-up ads, and puts them on the App Store. While some of their imitations can be fun, I am confident in saying that Gangstar New Orleans is not one of them. In fact, I'd go as far to say that Gangstar New Orleans is one of the worst experiences I've ever had with a video game.
Game theft auto
The Gangstar series is Gameloft's Grand Theft Auto clone. Knowing that, it's no surprise that in Gangstar New Orleans, you can run around an open world, do crime, and carry out missions to unfold a story or accomplish optional objectives. Since this game is by Gameloft and is free-to-play, there are also loot/upgrade mechanics, a turf system, in-game events, an energy system, and all other kinds of mechanics layered on top of the basic GTA formula, most of which are poorly explained, if at all.
When you aren't just spending energy and currency on things, you're free to wander the open world of Gangstar New Orleans, but I wouldn't recommend it. The world here is super buggy, featuring cars that randomly disappear and environments that are easy to get your character model stuck in. Bugs aside, Gangstar's version of New Orleans is a bunch of nondescript buildings with the occasional neon signs referencing jazz slapped onto them. Perhaps the best thing about Gangstar New Orleans is that you can avoid most of these problems with the open world by tapping to enlarge the mini-map, which just allows you to tap to select and start missions you want without having to navigate to them.
Avoiding the open world won't prevent you from experiencing issues with Gangstar New Orleans though. When tasked with actual objectives, all of the game's bugs make things even more infuriating. The most common (and frustrating) of these bugs for me was one that moved your player character to take cover behind nothing, leaving you exposed to be shot to death by enemies.
Even when things aren't bugging out though, wrestling with Gangstar New Orleans controls will routinely make you fail missions. There are just too many virtual buttons to juggle, and this gets exacerbated by Gameloft's attempts to streamline controls by combining button functions. One button, for example, controls your ability to sprint and jump, which obviously cuts down on the amount of buttons to hit, but also results in times where you're running from enemies and end up vaulting off of cliffs and dying instead.
I will say that Gangstar New Orleans makes some attempt at bringing life to its world through its story, but the personalities it presents to accomplish this are uncreative and sometimes pretty problematic. The uncreative side of things involves your typical “crime story” archetypes, most of which are completely unmemorable, but the real problems arise when looking at how Gangstar New Orleans represents people of color in its game.
For some reason, Gameloft decided to represent black people in its version of New Orleans first-and-foremost as voodoo worshipping caricatures. Right out of the gate, almost every black person is represented with some form of magic or mystery as their defining characteristic. These things involve facepaint, glowing eyes, and even the ability to literally summon zombies from the grave. It's a move that totally misrepresents a religion and a race in ways that feel cheap and offensive.
The bottom line
There's really nothing redeeming about Gangstar New Orleans. It's a bad GTA game with no personality, terrible free-to-play mechanics, representation issues, and a boatload of bugs. Just don't bother with this game at all. There's no reason to.