Growing up I wasn’t a huge Cowboys and Indians kind of kid. I was a fan of the gangster era, whether it be the crooks or the G-men who chased them I always wanted to be playing Cops and Robbers with every toy gun becoming a Tommy Chicago Typewriter and every bank job becoming a blood bath. I grew up, and when it came time to put down children’s toys another man with the same passion did something from which I think I have never recovered from. Brian De Palma made The Untouchables and I realized my love of the era wasn’t a childish thing but a fascination of many. I took it a little far, traveling around with my friends in ties, fedoras and trench coats (pre-Trench Coat Mafia days) and we would hit the town dressed in the height of fashion – for Prohibition. There was a style to the genre and as I reluctantly put my coat and fedora aside I remembered this feel as I added my own sound effects to games over the years. Sometimes ad libbing movie dialogue as I played and every time a game came along like Omerta: City Of Gangsters with a speakeasy door and words like “copper” or “payola” thrown around I got my hands on it and got transported back to the days of squirt gun Tommies and the palookas I called pals.
Taking the role of a fresh-from-the-boat immigrant, with dreams of the big life, the player will work his way up the criminal hierarchy of 1920’s Atlantic City. Starting with small jobs, his character recruits a gang and expands his empire by taking territory from other gangsters. Eventually he establishes his own crime syndicate and becomes the de facto ruler of Atlantic City.
The storyline is fairly straight forward in this aspect but this really doesn’t do it justice as it also plays heavily on the injustices of the era and tries to have fun as well as accuracy with the missions and characters. You get to fight the KKK at one point in the storyline, ‘nough said.
- Historically accurate representation of Atlantic City and its landmarks
- Strategic gameplay allows city overview, planning, expansion and gathering of intel
- Turn-based tactical combat with a cover system and stealth action
- 15 unique player controlled characters each with unique personalities and backgrounds
- A RPG system for development of player characters and managing their equipment
- Competitive and cooperative multiplayer mode with persistent gangs
- 15+ hours of gameplay in a single play-through
- 20 unique maps visualizing the various districts of Atlantic City
Gameplay (Hands On):
It is for the most part top down gameplay on the general map in a standard city simulation setup with close quarters mini maps at mission sites. The games attempt at impressiveness is very apparent when you look at all the detail on the main city map, it is a historical looking map of the time period with little cars and people bustling around with density dependent on the areas population. So in the warehouse district near the docks where most of the shadier, less reputable business’ operate there is very little pedestrian traffic and after dark the streets are almost deserted except for those up to no good. Whereas the influential neighborhoods have people walking on the streets and regular police patrols, all visible from a God’s eye view. The detail holds up when you zoom in tight on the maps to the point that if you send one of “your boys” on a mission you see them leave the safehouse, head over to the location of the job and do the work. This is particularly fun and thrilling when you send someone for a driveby and you watch not knowing which is your car as one suddenly has muzzle flashes coming from the side of it and pedestrians start dropping. You can zoom in close to see the detail of this or stay wide on the map watching the happenings all over town.
When you are choosing your gang you not only get a name with strengths and weaknesses but you get a mugshot that looks like it was taken right off an old police blotter and often a greeting that shows some of the personality you can expect from this member. This personality isn’t just limited to the conversations either, their fighting styles and techniques are direct representatives of the character. For example a favorite at the game demonstrations was a character named Doc, the persona of a Drunk Irishman out to not just commit crimes but to have fun in the process. His character traits include “Dance for me laddy!” which involves him shooting at someone’s feet drunkenly to scare them causing a fear buff. On the mini maps during missions his movements are more limited because he doesn’t walk anywhere he staggers. And may “The Blessed Mother Mary and Joseph” be with any fellow gang member in front of him when he starts firing blindly with his two pistols, there is a percentage for them being hit as well.
This happens in close combat missions where you go to mini maps with each character having a certain number of action points to effect moves and attacks in with a turn-based gameplay. Anyone who has ever played a Jagged Alliance game has a pretty good idea of how this system works and will find the gameplay intuitive. If you haven’t had this kind of gameplay your map is broken up into squares or hexagons and each character depending on attributes can move a certain distance and perform a certain attack with each of these actions using up action points. When the action points are out the turn is over for that character, when they are all used up on all your characters or you are done moving them your turn is over and it is your opponent’s turn, in the case of campaign that is the AI. In these kind of games the intelligence of the AI can be a deal breaker: too good and they are almost impossible to beat, too easy and the game gets boring. With Omerta I could tell they had already found an excellent balance between the two so it will simply be a matter of not shooting themselves in the foot to make it good for market.
The thing about committing crime is it eventually draws the attention of the coppers. The boys in blue are a bit slower to pop you in the clink if you are just shooting up other thugs but when you start trouble in respectable, upstanding citizens’ neighborhoods, well then something needs to be done about it! This is all measured much like the GTA series with five stars of heat, when you hit five stars the police launch an investigation against you which if you don’t nip in the bud will land you in the pokee permanently. You can buy off the cops (which costs more each time you do that), give them a patsy (doesn’t make you any friends) or… well maybe there are more ways to keep the party goin’ as well as appearing to keep your nose clean in the first place.
The better you do the more experience you get which translates directly into leveling and new skills as well as cash for better weapons and vehicles. There are different skill trees set up to cater to different play styles and part of the fun is putting a new talent to use. In this way Omerta plays a lot like an RPG, because you choose how you get through situations and you are often given lots of options on how to do that and skills to suit your fancy. It is in the depth and detail that Omerta really sets itself apart from other sims, it is part RPG, part action shooter and part city simulator all rolled into one.
Let’s face it when you played cops and robbers as a kid part of the fun was having your pals with you. Besides the campaign play you can also play Omerta at the mini map mission level as Versus or Co-Op. Versus is pretty straight forward, you are given a map and pick your teams and shoot it out with each other in different maps. The Co-Op which was a personal favorite you and your friend pick your gang and try to complete an objective like rob a bank and get away fighting against the AI using the action point system. This all takes place on Kalypso provided servers so you can play your friend across the room or across the country and with Steam in the works for this the players available should open up even more.
I have played a lot of mob games over the years in just about every form and I don’t think I have been as excited about one as I am about this one. Don’t get me wrong, there has been some great gangster games lately but it has been a while since a great mobster city simulator has come along yet alone one with so much massive detail and style crossover. Expected out in February of 2013 this is one to keep an eye out for and might make the difference between you feeling like a boss or a chump.