Gangs of London
We take the weight off our plates of meat to have a butchers hook at SCEE's virtual take on the big smoke's seedy underworld.
Take the weight off your plates of meat, loosen your Peckham Rye and sit back and enjoy casting your mince pies over our trip into London's seedy underworld in Gangs of London.
Developed by SCEE's London Studio (the people behind The Getaway series on PlayStation 2), Gangs of London casts you as one of five organised crime syndicates, each bent on expanding their 'manor' and taking over Central London for themselves. Choose from the Water Dragon Triad (Chinese), Zakharov Organisation (Russian), Talwar Brothers (Asian), EC2 Crew (Yardie) or the Morris Kane Firm (East End). Each has their own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to the game's stock in trade - driving and third-person, squad combat.
To tackle the other gangs and make London your own, your outfit needs to complete a series of missions all over the UK capital, in order to undermine your rivals and claim their turf for yourself.
Like the more free-roaming GTA: Liberty City Stories, objectives are varied including simple delivery missions where you must drive from point A to B in a time limit, assault missions where you and your crew must blast your way through an opponent's establishment, and combinations such as forcing a speeding vehicle to a stop, then exchanging fire over the bonnet until one of you is brown bread. There's even some on-foot stealth action to tackle, where creeping through the bushes and stabbing gangsters in the back is more important than tearing up in your motor and going full-auto.
But screeching around has a big part to play in Gangs of London and from peering over the shoulders of The Getaway team, the GoL developers have set out a fairly sizeable and accurate slice of Central London for you to vent your road rage on.
Landmarks such as the London Eye, Trafalgar Square, Eros, Waterloo Station and of course the ever-present river Thames are all here and pretty recognisable for those of you familiar with the city. Cars, vans, black cabs and red buses frustrate your speedy progress, but are also available for you to hijack to aid your (Congestion) charge around the big smoke.
London's just as dangerous a place to be when you're on-foot, but luckily you rarely go it alone against a rival gang. Many missions see you and a crew of up to three thugs heading into a scrap. Your boys follow you around and are more than capable of taking care of themselves, but you can order them to stop and charge forward, either as a group or individually, giving the rucks a tactical flavour.
There's no switching weapons in the game, you're stuck with what you're issued, but you can swap between your men, directly controlling them and therefore gaining access to their weaponry, such as assault rifles, shotguns, grenades, knives and lead pipes.
With that kind of ordnance, you can guess GoL's streets run pretty red with 'claret' and it's certainly no place for the young. This brutality extends into the brilliant graphic novel-style cut scenes that tell the story of your chosen gang's rise to power. The visceral, static images are backed up by some great voice acting, getting under the skin of your gang and making you feel like a valued soldier in their army.
But as engrossing as the main Story mode is, you'll be 'made up' when you take a look at all the extras squeezed onto the UMD like the back of Del Boy's three-wheeler.
As well as being able to tackle completed missions again, you can take the streets in a number of free-roaming modes including: as a loud-shirted visitor in Tourist Mode you whizz around the Capital armed only with a camera and a number of landmarks to visit; 4 Weeks Later brings the undead to London's streets and you have to take them down; and, The Knowledge lets you learn the streets as a trainee Black Cab driver.
In addition to free-roaming, there's the single or multiplayer game, Gang Battle. Up to five players can go head to head in this strategic 'board game' based heavily on the family classic Risk.
If all that's built you up a thirst, how about a visit to The Pub? Far from being a pint-drinking mini-game, here you can try your hand at a number of traditional pub games including full darts, pool and skittles game.
Just playing the brilliant and brutal Story Mode is reason enough to pick up Gangs of London, but with the amazing array of extra modes added to the mix, GoL raises to a "must-have". Now to petition Sony for a standalone version of Four Weeks Later. Braaaiiinnnsss!