Omerta: City Of Gangsters Review
Back in 2002, my neighbour purchased Mafia: The City Of Lost Heaven. We would combine on weekends playing the living hell out of it, one of us on the mouse and the other wielding the keyboard and together, we spend months whacking mob bosses and rising through ranks in the family to become the ultimate gangster.
Reflecting now, the game probably took us 3 months longer than it should have to complete due to the stupidity of us trying to play a single player game with a peripheral each, but I wouldn’t go back and change a single thing. That experience kick-started my passion for gangster related fiction and after tirelessly watching films like The Godfather, Goodfellas and Scarface and more recently playing through Mafia II, it was no surprise that I was excited when I saw Omerta: City Of Gangsters on the release cards. But does it stand up and present itself in true mob fashion or flounder like, *shudder*, Original Gangstas?
Omerta is an RTS stylised simulation game, a very interesting angle to a genre that’s predominantly dominated by the third-person perspective. The game takes place in the 1920′s around the time of prohibition in Atlantic City and your character Freddie Tannino, fresh off the boat from Italy, has to establish himself in an already corrupt and violent town. To become the big cheese, you must take Freddie through recruitment, scooping up and running your own new found family as well as raiding business to create your own, infiltrating enemy strongholds and controlling under the table deals in an attempt to become bigger than Capone.
The game predominantly makes you view the world in a Sims-style isometric view, allowing you to direct what you want your cartel to do and watching them perform said deeds, but also delving in a little deeper when it comes to battle scenes, letting you take down opposing factions in a turn-by-turn showdown. Essentially it’s like any simulation, the game starts you with a sandbox and a wad of cash, throws you into the deep end and prods you with a pointy stick to start building, earning and growing your empire from the ground up. Omerta mixes this act up by using fully playable turn-based action scenarios, adding another dimension into what is already an interesting title. Multiplayer features are also slotted in, as is a never-ending Sandbox mode with four different maps included.
What first washes over you like a cool breeze is that Omerta is incredibly true to its roots, as most everything about this game makes you feel like you’re pacing the boardwalk for yourself. Throw on a pair of quality headphones and immerse yourself as the audio quality is fantastic, but the best attribution by far is the game’s attention to detail. Haemimont Games have really gone all out to make sure every square centimeter of this title captures the player’s attention and I can recall a number of times where I paused the game and just spanned the map, zooming in on what I could out of pure interest. It’s an incredibly beautiful title and combined with the voice acting, images of original looking gangsters and the way it flows in gameplay, I was incredibly fixated.
The other stunning aspect about Omerta is the aforementioned turn-by-turn battle scenes. Every gangster you hire has his own individual attributes that you can level him up in, be it health, accuracy or stealth amongst others and you can even equip them with different weapons that suit their abilities when going into battle to help survive through the ordeal. Upon entering the building, you have Movement Points and Action Points in your possession which you can start using as soon as it’s your turn. MPs allow you to move around the map, letting you take cover behind objects so enemies can’t fire at you easily, or to move closer to your objective. Run out of movement points on your turn however and leave yourself open for fire. APs are essentially how you take down the opposing criminals by firing your gun; use a few just for shooting or use more points for a more accurate shot. Every member of your gang has a certain amount of HP, so it’s imperative that you make your Movement and Action Points count or the AI will make you pay. This is really the strategic part of Omerta, the only part that makes you think three steps ahead and adds a new and exciting layer to the game.
As you delve down the rabbit hole, certain things start to become blindingly obvious. The originality in the story is one I’ve seen a thousand times over: the young go-getter with nothing to lose rising the ranks to become the boss of all bosses. It’s not that this can be declared a fault by many, but it seems to be the automatic fallback to everyone’s gangster story and possibly a little bit of thought here could have really changed the overall experience. Sadly, there were times where I could literally guess what was about to happen just by being familiar with Mafia movies which really blew out the immersion that the game had worked so hard to build. As the game progressed, I started to lose focus from the simulation aspect of the game, instead waiting for the next point in which I could play Mafia Pokemon. I realised then that I was actually ignoring huge chunks of the gameplay all because I found the battle scenes far more interesting, making me question if the core game was boring or if the turn-by-turn parts were really quite good. Whatever the reason, the two of them don’t sit well together and the only real way to make them work is to add another element into the game, ensuring the player is interested no matter what style they are involved with.
Let’s make it clear: if your heart is dedicated to anything surrounding the 1920s crime era, you will adore Omerta, or at least for the first half hour. The game becomes immediately amazing to the senses and draws you in with its tutorial and visuals, but as the experience wares on, so too does your patience. I desperately wanted to love Omerta more than I did, but the lack of interesting gameplay really depleted any fun I thought I was having, leaving me disappointed with a game that has the potential to hit all the rights notes but doesn’t quite make it.
- Classic Mafia feel
- Immersive sound
- Brilliant turn-by-turn action
- Attention to detail
- Lackluster story
- Repetitive gameplay
- The resonating disappointment that this game has the potential to be so much more
Platforms: PC, Mac, Xbox 360
Reviewed on: PC
Developer: Haemimont Games
Publisher: Kalypso Media