The game is played from either street or strategy mode. Strategy mode sees you using the mouse for point-and-click control, viewed from high above the street, although you can control camera distance with the scrollwheel. Control like this is easy to grasp and although there are plenty of keyboard shortcuts, you can get started quickly with just the basics.
Street mode gives you direct control of your character. And while the game is never as immediate as GTA, being able to move while issuing fire commands with the right mouse button does give the game a more action-oriented feel. The choice is totally up to you and you can switch modes mid-game with no delay.
Above: Street mode lets you get up-close and personal, but it doesn't make the game a GTA clone
The game itself sees you assume the role of one of three criminals, who have been forced to enter Paradise City as an alternative to jail or, in one case, the electric chair. Of course, this a dangerous move, so your character's primary motivation becomes escaping the city alive. But first you'll need to gain control of various neighborhoods to complete your mission.
There are 16 levels, each with up to 14 neighborhoods. Each neighborhood has statistics attached to it, such as money left and power points. Once you locate the neighborhood's boss, you must intimidate him (read: shoot him) until he agrees to yield control. He then goes on a humiliating walk of shame, telling each business that there's a new boss in town - namely you, until the sector is handed over to you. Adjacent neighborhoods are now ripe for the taking.