- Artistic Direction
- Audio Design
Omerta: City of Gangsters is a game that promises much. Starting off as a young italian immigrant with lofty dreams of power and influence, commanding an empire of organised criminals in a bid to become the ruler of “Atlantic City”, players will intimidate, dominate and fight their way to the top. Sadly, Omerta: City of Gangsters’ offer is one you should definitely consider refusing.
Omerta: City of Gangsters (PC, also available on Xbox 360)
Developer: Haemimont Games AD
Publisher: Kalypso Media
PC Specs: AMD FX 6100, 8GB RAM, x2 AMD RADEON HD 6970 (Crossfire Mode)
The history of organised crime in America is a fascinating one. As a brit who has never gone stateside, the Mafia is not a part of history that often finds its way into history textbooks here. Our only real exposure to the subject matter is the likes of The Godfather trilogy or maybe even the Mafia series from 2K Games. One would hope that a game which boasts the ability to start your Italian-American army from scratch would expose the player to a rich history of warped morals, deception, influence and maybe even honour. Sadly, unlike The Godfather or Mafia, which plunge the audience head first into the deep end, Omerta: City of Gangsters splashes you from time to time before tripping you into an experience shallower than a childs paddling pool.
My first clue as to the experience laid out before me was the character creation screen. Here, you pick a mugshot from a selection of about twelve, and assign a history to your player in order to build their characteristics. On reflection, this three minute chore proved to have little effect on the later game, serving only to build up some generic goon to act as my avatar.
This done, the game set off on a painfully slow and long winded process of introducing me to the various elements of the game. You will spend a good deal of your time in the overview screen, where, with a birds-eye view of the region you are currently based in, you will set about buying/renting/capturing buildings and businesses necessary to build your resources and likability (more on this later). Whilst the game offers a variety of businesses which you can take over or start up, the different types of businesses blend into a bland grey mass, doing little to differentiate themselves from each other in either appearance or purpose.
These actions are completed by gradually recruiting more and more goons to go about their wicked ways, robbing, performing drive-bys and generally intimidating the hard-working folk of Atlantic City into bending to your will. New goons will possess new skills, and can be given equipment in order to help them specialise in various necessary tasks. Don’t get too hopeful of a deep levelling system or inventory management; it’s shallow, borderline simplistic stuff.
The only place the gameplay deviates from this highly repetitive formula is through its combat sequences. If you loved the combat from XCOM: Enemy Unknown, you might be able to tolerate this shameless imitation. Here, you’ll point and click your way through the lair of a rival gangster in a bid to take over the location for yourself. Unlike XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Omerta: City of Gangsters boasts some of the worst controls for movement I have come across in the genre for a good few years. Simply pointing at the spot you wish your character to move to will display the amount of steps required in order to reach that destination, and clicking this area should trigger this movement action. However, for some unknown reason, characters will often take more steps than indicated, zig-zagging their way through the room rather than running straight to the cover you pointed at. I can’t count the number of times my bitesize mobman would be left fully exposed and surrounded, a mere few feet from the boxes he should have been able to reach and take cover behind. This glaring bug aside, I had little trouble with these sections even on the higher difficulty settings, turning these futile sessions into a miriad of annoying one-liners (fully voiced) and frustrating movement mechanics, with the only consequence of failure being a fine or restarting from an autosave. Perhaps the biggest negative one can throw at this mode is that later on in the game, you won’t actually have to carry out these missions yourself. An “Auto-Resolve” option is available for all these fights, which with enough resources and stats built up (inevitably) is an option much more preferable to the awful dialogue and cumbersome movement within.
This highlights one of the major flaws in Omerta: City of Gangsters; a lack of challenge. Any task can be achieved simply by waiting for your income to build as you take over more buildings, going through a combat sequence, waiting for more resources, rinse and repeat and hey presto! You’ll move onto the next area. The only potential negative consequence built into the game is the prementioned “likability” meter and your “heat level, both of which have so litte consequence on the gameplay, as by the time these levels reach a problematic high, you’ve already built up the resources to buy your way out of trouble.
Gameplay and writing aside, there are some nice additions to the makeup of the game. The soundtrack give an authentic 1920’s America feel, and the artistic direction certainly isn’t something I’d put on the growing list of cons.
Aside from the campaign, there is a multiplayer mode, which is essentially the mediocre single player mode but for more people, and a sandbox mode, which is essentially the campaign except without the plot. These modes will do little to boost the experience, unless you have a friend whom you wish to suffer with.
On the surface, Omerta: City of Gangsters is a harmless title. Think Mafia Wars by Zynga crossed with XCOM: Enemy Unknown and you’re nearly there. The only thing that makes this game insulting is the price tag. At $39.99/£29.99, this is a game that aims to be much more than simply Mafia Wars with 3D rendered environments, and yet falls so far short of this goal, it almost seems an insult to charge anything at all. Until the inevitable price drop occurs or a wealth of free DLC is brought in to boost the quality of this underwhelming product, this is one game that belongs in a pair of concrete shoes.