All the authenticity in the world can't make this crime-sim feel like any less shallow.
By Katie Williams on February 11, 2013 at 1:17 pm
Who’d have thought a bunch of Hollywood-handsome dudes would find fortune in a life of crime? Omerta: City of Gangsters starts with some promise, just like the American dream that lures your Sicilian player character to 1920s Atlantic City -– but just like the gallery of good-lookers on its character creation screen, things soon go astray.
Working your way up from speakeasy supplier through to king of corruption is a journey told through two oddly disparate threads of gameplay. On one hand, you have your city view; it’s where you’ll scour the city’s dirt-brown houses for venues to open money launderers or alcohol distilleries. Various objectives make themselves available here, and while often veneered with a charmingly-accented voiceover telling stories of edging out the competition, their goals are all basically the same: make more money. The city view strangely lacks the refined subtlety of developer Haemimont’s Tropico city-building series, with little compelling you to continue opening one shady business after another.
Things get a little more interesting with the tactical combat missions, though. Their careful, considered pace suits the gangster concept perfectly; a layer of cunning and wits is added to the usual mafioso narrative of executions and drive-bys. You’ll collect a storied crew of badasses, from whom you can craft a perfect prison breakout or heist team. Unfortunately, the tactical side of things too often veers into nonsensical –- predetermined cover points seem random (a table can provide cover, but often, something as robust as a brick wall cannot), and woeful pathfinding AI will often see your henchmen plotting obtuse routes through the missions’ warehouses and backalleys.
If there’s one thing Omerta has going for it, though, it’s that it is aesthetically bang-on. You might find yourself zooming in to examine classic cars, or raindrops falling forlornly onto the cement at night. The characters are excellently voiced, affecting the scummy New Yorker accent hilariously, and the prohibition-era soundtrack will have you feeling as fabulous as a girl in a flapper dress. It’s a pity about the inconsistent gameplay, then, which falls depressingly short of its potential.
“Now that you’ve dealt with the distractions, we should return to the task at hand: making money.”
That’s something one of your goons suggests to you early on, and it doesn’t take long to reach the realisation that this pretty much encapsulates the entire Omerta experience. There are nightclub shootouts to be had with firearm-toting members of the Ku Klux Klan, but you’ll instead spend most of your time opening breweries and shady pizza joints because, well, the game told you to. You’ll make money, but have little incentive to do so. There’s no rise or fall to the gameplay, and what could have been an explosive strategic masterpiece instead feels like a long, quiet sigh.
- Tactical missions can be very enjoyable; you won’t quickly forget fighting out a rival gang and the cops for a bank vault’s loot.
- Captures that sepia-tinged nostalgia of the 1920s so perfectly, it’d have Instagram kids envious.
- The city view feels rather shallow, almost like a pitiful stab by Haemimont to draw in its Tropico-playing city-building lovers (who’ll find themselves incredibly disappointed).
- Weird bugs and design decisions mar what could’ve been some stellar tactical gameplay.
- Really – you’d expect more of a thrill from the era of speakeasies and shootouts.
If you’d like to try Omerta for yourself, you can download the 700MB demo from our file library.