Omerta – City of Gangsters Review
This game was reviewed on the PC.
The year is 1920 and prohibition is at its peak. The people and the law aren’t necessarily on speaking terms, as fellas and dames of all walks hit the casinos, hotels, and underground clubs for a taste of that precious alcohol. This is the time when organized crime has its pockets in almost every establishment that existed, including the very organizations that were supposed to uphold the law. This is your opportunity to build your empire and become the most feared mob boss on this side of Atlantic City. With the recent popularity of shows like Boardwalk Empire, a game like this is bound to pop up, and Kalypso Media takes the initiative with Omerta – City of Gangsters.
The game begins with an interesting concept: You choose the face of your character and a name, then, while you build your stats, the story fills itself in. There are six attributes to each character: Muscle, Finesse, Toughness, Smarts, Guts, and Cunning. You’ll start out with six points on each, and depending on the kind of background story you choose, you’ll end up with a completely different character build. You begin by choosing the childhood nickname (Earful, Berries, Hood), and each name has three attribute changes (for example, Earful is +1 to Cunning, +1 to Smarts, and -1 to Muscle). You’ll then choose your trade, your most notable achievement from the old country, and the reason you left Sicily to come to America. Each of these choices leads to three attribute changes (two positive and one negative) so select your story wisely!
Once you begin your journey in America, you’ll notice the plot is not as rich as the setup would have you believe. There is a basic storyline, but not one that has big twists and turns, or that deviates too far from one character you’ve created to the next. You’re simply in it to kill off the competition through criminal acts or robberies, and building establishments as you go, and get enough money to bring your brother over from Sicily. You’ll meet new friends who will make up your gang, with up to 15 unlockable characters. These characters can be used in combat, or to run errands.
The neat thing about this game is that your characters actually walk around on the street, from one place to another depending on their assignments. So if you ask your pal, Daredevil, to go deal with the local bar across the street, she’ll actually walk out of your home base, and run across the street into the bar. You can zoom in or out depending on what kind of view you’d like, so you can zoom in closely to see her actually walk across the street, or zoom out to watch a bird’s eye view of the entire neighbourhood. Little touches like that are very fun to see, and add an extra amount of realism to the game.
Each building you rent and set up as a business affects your income, your popularity, and your supplies. If it’s supply you’re after, you can set up places like a Distillery or a Brewery. From there you can create places to sell your supply, such as a Pharmacy. There are dozens of different buildings you can make and they all have their own uses. Establishments (and people) who work under the table create dirty money, and above-board establishments (and people) create clean money. Clean money can be used for legitimate resources, such as purchasing homes that you can rent out, or paying off certain people. Most of the time you’ll be dealing with dirty money though, as almost everybody has some level of crook about them in this game.
For a game that seemed so open-concept at first glance, it’s actually extremely linear. You’ll take over one city, sure, but then simply move on to the next. Once the main objective is met in each city (for instance, obtaining $5,000 in dirty money), the game progresses to the next part of the story and you leave all the work you’ve done behind. Even if you buy up every property and control the entire city, you aren’t going to get any bonus achievements for it or see any impact on the game overall, which may deter you from doing more than the bare minimum to complete each section.
Another thing you will come to notice as you deal with individuals selling or buying supplies, is that the stereotypes in this game are key. Because the spoiled, rich, white girl will sometimes pout and ask you to buy her gifts after a transaction, understand when dealing with certain people that based on their race, religion, culture, and accent – you can expect specific setbacks with them. Each person you deal with has advantages and disadvantages to dealing with them, based on his/her stereotype. This actually makes the game much easier once you realize this – as you know what you are potentially getting into because the characters don’t really deviate from their stereotypes.
Feeling lucky, punk? The combat in the game is an added feature to the mechanics. There will be times when scaring people or doing back door deals is simply not enough. If a gang member of yours gets caught or imprisoned, or if the Klu Klux Klan is beating down your door, you’ll have to jump into a combat scenario and show your enemies who the boss really is, and kill your opponents before you swim with the fishes. You will have a chance to pick your gang members that will enter the fight. Once there, you will have to strategize each move as it is a turn-based, tactical RPG-style combat mode, and you will be able to control each one of your teammates separately. Keep in mind, a big factor in the game is that your gang members can fall prey to friendly fire, so aim your shots carefully.
If you’re not into tactical RPGs, you will have a chance to skip this combat scene and not fight – but there is also a chance you’ll lose. As you pick the gang members to fight in combat, there is an Auto-Completion button to the left of the screen. The percentage chance of success will go up based on who you assign. If your chances look good and you don’t feel like entering combat, click the button and you will either win or lose. This option is only available for regular fights – you will still have to play through any storyline fights, and the Auto-Completion button will be greyed out. As for the multiplayer, it’s sure to get a few disapproving grunts from those who are looking forward to beating their opponents in the city, as it only lets you play combat mode. However, if you are a fan of turn-based combat involving guns, knives, baseball bats and the occasional kick to the head, this will be your shining glory.
The audio in the game is quite impressive when you really break it down. As mentioned before, you can zoom in and out of the game, but as you do this, the music and the sound effects change. As you zoom closer to the street, you’ll see people walking around, fire hydrants, sidewalks, and cars that go by. The closer you are to the objects, the lower the volume on the music is, and the louder the sound of a car engine passing by becomes. This was extremely well thought out and really adds a whole new layer of appreciation to the game. The music itself switches between swanky, brass-style numbers that we’ve all come to associate with the 1920s, or the rich, soothing tones from Little Italy. The voice actors really dive into their characters, and they are very diverse. From soft and sultry voices to the exaggerated and annoying, the variety is something you can count on.
Visually, the game has a classy appeal to it, but it is not without its flaws. One of the most significant issues in the game is that it does not allow you to change the camera angle, which can get extremely irritating in combat mode. There were many instances where you can’t see where you or an enemy is, as there might be a wall in the way of your view. Even if you try to pan in or out, you still won’t be able to see behind those walls, and it can hurt combat mechanics severely. There were also a few notable glitches where gangsters will get hit and fall through walls, or you look like you’re stuck in one. Aside from these setbacks, the game visually delivers on all fronts. The amount of detail put into panning in and out is fantastic, and it’s nice to have your instructions and the people you dealt with setup like a case file from the 1920s –complete with black-and-white headshots, and a yellowing paper as a backdrop. The area map is hand-drawn and cartoony, which is a nicer touch than trying to jazz up the game with futuristic layouts; inthe 1920s, the technology wouldn’t be as advanced and a lot of people would rely on hand-drawn maps.
When you look at everything Omerta has to offer, the whole package is bound to get you interested. In full 1920s fashion, you’ll be feeling like a real mobster with your back-door deals and your vendettas. Will you have the money to pay off your debts, and the muscle to carry out your wishes? Or will you find yourself in Brokesville hiding from some angry Don? The only way you’ll find out is to put yourself in the action and build your American Dream – gangster style!
Omerta – City of Gangsters receives a 4.25/5.0
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