Gameloft’s Urban Crime provides freemium spin on popular Gangstar series

Urban Crime is a new title from Gameloft for iOS devices. It’s available as a free universal app for both iPhone and iPad.

The game is a spinoff title from the company’s Gangstar series, themselves heavily inspired by the immensely popular Grand Theft Auto series of computer and console games by Rockstar Games. Like Dungeon Hunter III, Urban Crime provides a freemium spin on the established series rather than presenting a self-contained paid app.

Urban Crime casts players in the role of an anonymous, stereotypical black gangster sporting cornrows on his head, a T-shirt that is too big for him and pants that are in a perpetual state of being about to fall off — just one of many hiphop cliches presented throughout the course of the game. Players can explore an open-world city freely and take on a selection of missions. These fall into several broad categories — vehicle theft, assassination, delivery, escort and chase. Completing missions increases the amount of city territory controlled by the player, with the eventual aim to be the complete takeover of the city of Miami.

An energy bar limits the number of missions which can be undertaken per day, though this can be topped up through the purchase of energy items using the game’s hard currency.

The game also features a leveling system, limiting access to certain content, vehicles and weapons until the player has reached a certain milestone. These restrictions can, however, be bypassed through spending hard currency once again.

The game features some social features, though there is no facility to play together in real time. Instead, the game allows players to hire friends into various gang positions, each providing a bonus to energy, accuracy, health, cash, energy regeneration speed and the speed at which territory control is lost over time. Players aren’t required to use the feature, but it does make gameplay marginally easier. Friends can be invited using Facebook, Gameloft Live or SMS text message, allowing for viral marketing through a variety of channels. Players can also share in-game achievements such as attaining new levels via Facebook.

Monetization is handled through the sale of the game’s hard currency of Diamonds. Soft currency can also be purchased directly. Hard currency can be used to unlock content early; purchase more powerful weapons; purchase energy restoration items or temporary “unlimited energy” boosters; and purchase vanity items including gold and platinum versions of weapons that are considerably more powerful than their regular equivalents.

Although the game’s 3D city map is fixed, its social game-like structure and lack of focus on coherent narrative mean it will be possible for Gameloft to expand the game over an indefinite period of time with additional mission types, further items to purchase and unlock and additional incentives to virally promote the game to friends.

According to our traffic tracking service AppData, Urban Crime is currently ranked at No. 125 in the top free iPhone games chart, and No. 35 in the top free iPad games chart. The nature of the game and its controls mean it is better suited to the big screen of the iPad, and this is reflected by the user figures. Following an initial spike in users on release day, however, the game is already slipping down the charts.