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PC Game Review: Omerta: City of Gangsters

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Never has a game frustrated me so much while still making me want to play. Normally when a game is rubbish, as a reviewer, you can’t wait to get it over with and write the damn review. Or, if it’s a great game, you don’t want to write the review because it means you have to move on to the next thing.  Here we have a game that isn’t good, but one I still have trouble putting down.

Omerta is a turn-based strategy game set in Atlantic City, New Jersey in the prohibition era of the ’20s. You play a “just off the boat immigrant” trying to make his way in the New World. Naturally, you opt for making a killing as a mobster and aspire to run the city as a Capo. This should be a winning formula.

Unfortunately, the execution is less than perfect in so many ways. But, let’s start off with positives. The soundtrack is stellar and I found myself playing the game longer than I originally planned because of catchy period music. In fact, at least at first, the music has a soothing effect when you are frustrated. Graphically, it isn’t bad either and it loads from map to map fairly quickly. The plot is clichéd, but interesting enough to cause you to proceed through it. The graphic novel style, think old Max Payne, cutscenes are well done. There is enough there to make me want to like the game.

Now to the bad. The turn-based combat is appalling in its execution. The gunplay is annoying and the AI “cheats” all the time by firing through walls, doors, and at very odd angles (ones you can’t use). The UI during combat is clunky, unresponsive, counterintuitive, and stiff. I find myself avoiding all but the mandatory combat by using the automatic function. You really wish they hadn’t bothered and just stuck with the “management” part of the game and expanded on that a bit.

Other problems include the fact that many of the maps are so small that you finish them too quickly.  You then have to start over, establishing your properties and income from scratch. This quickly becomes tedious and frustrating. Frustrating enough that I found myself swearing in Italian and other languages under my breath.

Yes, there is a sandbox mode which allows you to expand on one map to your heart’s content, but why break up the main campaign so much? Oh and there are things left out of the tutorial that are crucial. Nowhere does it explain where to get “unique” weapons and it takes a bit of research on Google to find that out. Consequently, it is possible that if you aren’t paying uber-close attention, you could get far into the game having missed some very helpful weaponry for your “forced” combat.

Also on the downside, the catchphrases for your gang are lame and repetitive. They even use them if it is irrelevant to the task at hand. This gang is made up characters you pick up along the way and most of them are useless. You equip them with weapons and even choose their skills if you get them at lower levels. Most of the skills on offer are utterly useless and at least one of them is broken. The weapons are unimaginative and generic, adding to the vapid combat that you try to avoid at all costs.

The game comes across as a rushed product that is half-finished and not properly tested. It is a half-baked con job for fans of turn-based strategy and Mafia games. Unless they seriously patch it or you are buying it heavily discounted in a Steam sale, I would avoid this like I would avoid getting into the garbage hauling business in New Jersey. This is definitely an offer you should refuse.

Omerta is to good turn-based strategy what Jersey Shore is to quality TV.

Omerta: City of Gangsters is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Alcohol Reference, Blood, Language, Violence. This game can also be found on: Xbox 360.

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About Marty Dodge