You would be forgiven if you hadn’t heard of 171, an open-world game from developer/publisher Betagames Group. The game released on Steam in early access on November 17, 2022, and it seemingly came out of nowhere. I only happened upon it, like most good things in life, via a random YouTube video by sheer luck of the almighty algorithm.

And like a good little gamer boi, I was immediately skeptical of any purported GTA clone in early access, especially one by an unknown developer/publisher with little to no fanfare. This sort of asset-flip cash grab is a dime a dozen in the age of easily programmable shovelware catastrophes.

But when I saw 171 in action, I admit my interest was piqued. What I was seeing looked really good — almost impossibly good. The $30 asking price was a little steep for my liking, considering the game could very well stall and get the old abandonware treatment.

But 171 was calling to me, telling me to take the gamble. And I gotta admit, I’m glad I gave in, because what is on offer is maddeningly compelling, and it paints a picture of a possible smash hit in the making. But I am trying to avoid meteoric levels of hyperbole here, so allow me to tamper my praise. 171 is also at times extremely rough. But even so, this is one to keep an eye on.

What you get right now is a small chunk of what I am assuming will be a much larger Brazilian sandbox. There are already a decent amount of NPCs going about some semblance of everyday life. Considering there’s probably not a ton of different cars — let alone high-end sports cars — tooling around the dirt roads and back alleys of this fictitious Brazilian city, the vehicles that are on offer feel authentic.


And lord have mercy if the driving in 171 doesn’t already feel pretty good; it’s definitely on par with any open-world Ubisoft game. This is usually the area in which these GTA clones falter the most, and in which the top dog really shines. I would say it is currently somewhere between Ghost Recon Wildlands and Watch Dogs 2, which is high praise for an open-world game from a relatively unknown developer in these early days of development.

I haven’t experienced much combat yet in 171; hell, I haven’t even found a gun in the hour or two I spent mucking about. And considering combat can be even more of a lynchpin than driving mechanics, that will be one area that could make or break the experience. But until I am able to acquire a firearm, I can only go by what I’ve seen in other videos. And so far, I’d say it looks fine.

What really blew me away, though, was the attention to detail. In my opinion, that is what really sells the simulation aspect of these games, and so far, I’d say the developer is headed in all the right directions. The NPCs are varied and run the gamut from overweight guy in his undies to a house mom in a petticoat and a shower cap. There are also region-specific radio stations with quite a variety of songs, featuring pop, folk, and rap stylings.


As far as I can tell, Betagames Group is located in São Paulo, so I am assuming there is an attempt to recreate and reflect everyday aspects of Brazil represented in 171. For example, as I was delivering a package during one of the handful of missions types currently available, a random pickup truck drove by playing music that at first made me assume it was an ice cream truck. But upon further inspection, it was a propane delivery vehicle. I have no idea if trucks like this play such a little ditty in Brazil, but it was unique enough that I totally bought it as a foreigner looking in.

There is a day and night cycle in the game — you can see the shadows tick by, which will hopefully be smoothed out as the game gets further along. I haven’t seen much by way of weather patterns yet, but the lighting is impressive and the overall city design is interesting and refreshing. I enjoy whipping around tight corners on dirt roads between tightly knit rows of small houses with stucco, concrete, and iron fencing. I even climbed over a fence surrounding such a home, was able to get into the car parked in the driveway, and then smash through the gate in an act of brazen, well… Grand theft auto…

As much as I love GTA, it gets a little boring seeing the same, familiar depictions of well-known and well-trodden American major metropolitan areas. So having 171 set in Brazil is, if nothing else, a breath of fresh air. Much like with Sleeping Dogs or the Yakuza series, it gives me a glimpse into a world I wasn’t born in and only know by name or in passing. It’s a chance to get a glimpse of a world almost completely foreign to me as an American who hasn’t traveled to these regions, even if it’s only a digital facsimile.


But there is still a decent amount of jank, which the developer is upfront about and, really, is to be expected from a game of this caliber. Cars can sometimes spawn in with the front end melted into the road. I exited my vehicle once and was standing on top of it. Some of the NPCS seem to have arms slightly longer than they should. At times, the radio would just stop playing until I changed the channel.

But here’s the thing: Similar things plagued Cyberpunk 2077 at launch. I would go so far as to say that if Betagames Group can smooth out the rough patches and punch up the bits that really pop, 171‘s 1.0 release could be in better shape than an industry-leading developer’s most recent mega-AAA title.

I did run 171 on my Steam Deck, but it chugged quite a bit on the default settings. For the most part, the controls worked just fine (with a little tweaking). I’ll have to devote some time into tinkering with the graphics settings to see if I can get better performance. Since the hitboxes for interacting with the menus are off — I had to hit well outside the “New Game” option in order to even get it to respond — this might be an endeavor better left for a quiet night of heavy drinking.


Curiously enough, since discovering 171, I’ve come across articles from late 2020 — like this one from Gematsu — that report plants for PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch (!!), with the hopes of also hitting PS5. No release date was given, and none of these digital storefronts mentions 171 currently. Back then, QUByte Interactive (also based in São Paulo) was mentioned as the publisher, but it seems like that partnership must have fallen through, as Betagames Group is currently listed as both the developer and publisher on 171‘s Steam page.

And then things went quiet until 171 was eventually released in Early Access on Steam just before Thanksgiving of 2022.

Whether or not Betagames Group will be able to fulfill their grand ambitions and land 171 on consoles remains to be seen. But overall, 171 is a surprising little game that holds a lot of promise. But we’ll just have to wait to see how this one shakes out.

I, for one, am already hooked. Now I’ll just patiently wait to see if they can stick the landing, line and sinker, or however that old saying goes.

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