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Omerta: City of Gangsters Review

Posted by Joel Guttenberg On Thursday 14 March 2013Comments Off

Available on 360 and PC l Published by Kalypso Media l Developed by Haemimont Games l Classified M l Supports 1-2 players

REVIEW IN BRIEF > Omerta allowed me run my crime business from a city view while occasionally getting down and dirty with some isometric turn based combat. It quickly put me in the mood to spout famous movie lines like, “I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse” and “Somebody messes with me, I’m gonna mess with him”. In gameplay terms, it didn’t exactly grab me, but it didn’t do anything terribly wrong either. A decent little distraction.

REVIEW IN FULL > The first thing I noticed about Omerta was the richness of its setting. It may as well have been a character in and of itself. The prohibition era of the roaring 20s was nicely evoked, particularly in the cut scenes. Sepia toned photographs between missions told my story. I was an Irish American immigrant trying to make my way in Atlantic City, the best way I knew how. The land of prohibition provided a lot of opportunity, but only if I was prepared to make my fortune in dirty money (which I was).

The gameplay was split between two main areas. I spent most of my time looking at an overhead view of a 1920s neighbourhood. I acquired businesses and properties and tried to make decisions that would net me either clean or dirty money, and hopefully not raise my heat level with the cops too much. This overhead view did look good. Buildings and other structures were clean and crisp. Smartly dressed little men and women wandered to and fro on sidewalks and boardwalks, and beach areas were teeming with deck chairs and umbrellas (though strangely there were no beachgoers).

Once at the party, my chosen henchman would stand there like a statue while other citizens danced and jiggled about. I guess gangsters just aren’t meant to have fun.

I sent members of my gang out to scout new areas of the map, negotiate business deals and steal liquor, weapons and money. Occasionally I took out my opposition with drive-by shootings. I found I could also throw parties to gain the favour of politicians or celebrities. Once at the party, my chosen henchman would stand there like a statue while other citizens danced and jiggled about. I guess gangsters just aren’t meant to have fun.

Some businesses allowed me to produce my own contraband, while others permitted me to sell my stock or perform illicit services for money. Certain businesses, such as hotels, could be used to produce clean money. While these operations had their uses, life without a steady stream of dirty money tended to be more difficult. Various NPC personalities bought and sold the game’s three main resources (beer, liquor and firearms) in different quantities for varying amounts of cash. An accounting degree definitely would have given me an edge. Without one, I felt like I was being sized up for a nice pair of concrete boots.

This part of the game also allowed me to manage my gang. Once I acquired new and better weapons from dirty cops or other crime bosses, I was able equip my team from the gang management screen. This interface also allowed me to manage levelling up and assignment of perks. I could also hire and fire various thugs from here.

As I progressed, I triggered combat encounters. Combat was viewed from an isometric perspective, although the camera could be rotated. Movement and actions were turn based and I got a chance to control each gangster based on his or her attributes, such as initiative, action and move points. Each team member could move across the map and potentially take cover, all the while consuming move points. Attacking an enemy or using a special ability such as first aid consumed action points. I’d seen similar (and better) systems in XCOM and Jagged Alliance, but City of Gangsters did a decent job.

Characters were well animated and had some nice recorded lines (although they did get stale after a while). The sound effects were great, from the iconic rattle of the Tommy Gun, to the terrible soft thud of the bat as connected with its target. I found the combat to be a reasonably basic move and shoot (or punch or swing or stab) affair. Gangsters did unlock special abilities like grenades or Molotovs, or the ability to set traps, but some of these could only be used once per mission. There were also some stealth elements. Enemies wouldn’t react if they didn’t see or hear anything, but once a weapon was fired the element of surprise tended to be lost.

I found the cover system to be quite intuitive… most of the time. Clicking on a little green chevron next to an object caused my current gangster to crouch behind it. Unfortunately, I didn’t always find cover where I expected it. I couldn’t work out why I could hide behind some doorways and not others, or why some tables and desks offered cover and others didn’t.

The sound effects were great, from the iconic rattle of the Tommy Gun, to the terrible soft thud of the bat as connected with its target.

The different weapons were fun to experiment with, and each type had a few upgraded and special variations. Weapons could also cause effects such as bleeding or concussion. I generally found it was a good idea to look after my gangsters as falling in combat resulted in them carrying an injury with related penalties for a while after the mission.

The other annoying element to the combat was the camera in areas with tall buildings. Although the outline of my team members was visible through the structures, I struggled to find a decent perspective to manage my team’s movement through some areas. It might have been better if objects between the player and the subject had become opaque or, better yet, disappeared whenever they obstructed the view.

Omerta also featured a sandbox mode and a multiplayer mode in addition to the main campaign. My brief foray into the multiplayer mode saw me accept a battle from a stranger and then get wiped out without getting the chance to move even once. I was afforded the chance to upgrade my gang as I earned experience, but it was clear to me that the game didn’t balance match making. I decided that I’d need to play a little against friends before taking on the sharks.

I found Omerta: City of Gangsters to be a nice little distraction. It had no major faults, but it didn’t grab me either. Perhaps, I just couldn’t make it in my own two-bit town. As James Cagney’s character, Tom Powers said in The Public Enemy just before he got his comeuppance, “I ain’t so tough”.

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