In the rough streets of the Prohibition Era Atlantic City, you have finally made it to the ‘Land of Opportunities’ from Italy. Despite your former life, you end up back in the life of crime in the city of gangsters. For those who don’t know, Omerta is Italian slang that symbolizes a code of silence for consequences. As you are a leader of an Italian gang, the meaning of this phrase becomes clear as you progress through the game.
Starting with just a five dollar bill in your hand, this turn-based strategy mafia “tycoon” game sends you back to the “Ragtime era” to fight for control of the city, one beer bottle at a time. From trading with local speakeasies to confronting gangs that want to wipe you and anyone who has your back into the sewers to go swim with the fishes, Omerta offers you the chance to create your own mafia from ground up. The question is whether this combination of turn-based combat and tycoon simulation is the next big thing, or does it sink faster than a pair of concrete shoes?
Omerta’s Pitch - From looking at the gameplay without playing it, Omerta seems really interesting as a mix of one of the Tycoon games with some of the Godfather game aesthetics. Added to this formula is the turn-based combat found in titles like Firaxis’ XCOM: Enemy Unknown. As your character enters America, he goes into business for himself, purchasing houses and running retail shops. Depending on your kind of sales, you’ll get dirty or clean money which leads into building up your reputation, negatively or positively, with the law enforcement breathing down your neck. Sometimes the law gets a little too close, and you’ll have to raid a police station, killing police officers and taking incriminating documents. With the henchmen that you hire, they join you in some very simple turn-based combat against the coppers. The idea of the game is great, but after a while, you realize the gameplay doesn’t live up to the original pitch.
Ragtime Presentation - The audio and visuals of Omerta: City of Gangsters gives off a classic Ragtime vibe. Cars from the time period and post-WWI buildings set the mood making the game seem a little bit more believable than I anticipated, but my expectations weren’t set that high.
LIKE WAKING UP WITH A HORSE'S HEAD IN YOUR BED
Skipping Records - With dialog or music repeating every so often, you get the feeling that the audio engineers weren’t quite done with the game. After defending the hideout for the first time, I found myself listening to my character’s monologue over and over and over again with the background music overlapping itself. It took a lot of my willpower to continue playing this game just so I can tell you about how unpleasant that experience was.
Dated Cinematics - Transitioning between different chapters in your character’s story, tacky cinematics break down the latest thing happening to your gang and what you’ll be encountering in the near future. The first time that I experienced ‘audio skipping’ was during one of the lackluster cinematics on the Xbox 360 version. These moving pictures with jazz ballads in the background might not have even needed to be included in the game as voiceovers are the only part that seems to convey the narrative properly. At the end of the day I didn’t even care about the story due to how poorly it was presented.
Stereotypes - There is one word that is needed to describe Omerta’s story and characters: stereotypes. Your character is forced to leave Italy for something that he has done which is dependent on player choice, and now he is going to continue his work in Atlantic City. As for the story, you are a violent Italian immigrant that has been dramatized and romanticized in dozens of 20th century mob movies before and there is no variation. Your one goal is to bring your brother to America so he can live in the ‘Land of Opportunity’ alongside you. A simple, unoriginal tale to go along with a very bland game.
Other than the stereotypical story, you run into a number of different kinds of “characters”: the drunken Irishman who is always looking to buy booze, the big African-American club owner that roughs anyone up who wrongs him, etc. The list goes on and on. You simply won’t be getting much of originality from this game. The fact of the matter is the characters have no depth and just spurt out exactly what you expect them to say.
Out of Date Gameplay - As I explained before, Omerta: City of Gangsters is a mash up of tycoon business aesthetics with turn-based combat in a gang-based city. The problem is each one of these games feel like they were made separately by different development teams with art teams working to put everything together in the last couple months of development. The combat works as simply as you’d expect it to but has major issues such as percentages being inaccurate. When you are standing next to an enemy with 90% chance of hitting someone, you shouldn’t miss three shots in a row from one character, nor should another character miss his three shots with 75% chance of hitting right after that.
The tycoon business system of building an empire works but isn’t as easy of a system to jump right into. With a simple HUD, there really isn’t much to explain but some menus are hidden making it confusing for what you need to press to access them. When bringing up the city transactions, henchmen chart & business reports, you have to pull the right trigger to even see the options. They run you through a short tutorial at the beginning of the game but that tutorial doesn’t help much as it left some things out.
Omerta: City of Gangsters is an enjoyable gangster strategy & business simulation for those that have been dying for a chance to be their own Don Corleone. With an alright gameplay experience and lackluster presentation, the only two things that really seemed to redeem Omerta were the simplified turn-based combat model, and a business simulation similar to Roller Coaster Tycoon. Unfortunately, the development team couldn’t create an interesting experience for everyone else.
It felt like Haemimont Games had two different gameplay development teams working on each side and then had to smash them together in time for Kalypso to ship it on time for their expected original release date. As someone who has beta tested for a lot of games, I feel like Omerta: City of Gangsters is an experience that just wasn’t complete with tacky cinematics or bad audio transitions added onto the problems already given making for a game that can be easily trumped by watching the Godfather Trilogy.
*This review was based on the Xbox 360 version of the game with a review copy provided by the publisher.*