A Gathering of Developers’ Mafia dragged us into the mobster underworld of the 1930’s with much gusto and aplomb; so much so that when I first sat down and played it, I couldn’t stop. We have other mobster games taking place in a more modern era. The Grand Theft Auto Series has it’s roots in mobster action, but in the modern, Sopranos sort of way. Then we have games like the Hitman series, where you are… a hit man. I began to realize something. We need more mafia inspired games in the era of Al Capone. It can be action, adventure or even an MMORPG (imagine the possibilities), but I wanted another 1930’s mobster game. Gangland is such a game.
The premise of the game is simple. You play as a Sicilian mobster tracking down the killers of your brother. Not mind-blowing, but works for advancing the story. You are in a town called Paradise City in the New World that tries to emulate the 1930’s feel, but only to a small degree, well only because I have never seen a mobster movie with Ninjas. The game has mixed elements of action, strategy, and empire building, which includes illegal brewing of alcohol, doing drive-bys and writing out contracts to hit men. Sounds good, right?
The graphics are good – not the best of recent memory, but still has a lot of style and is impressive on many levels. There are problems with the engine, but not on the graphics department. There is a lot small things that add up and end up hurting the title a bit. You do travel the streets a lot, and one thing that doesn’t take long to notice is that there is no traffic in the streets of Paradise City. With that, the city feels less alive and active. Besides the open roads of the city, the level of detail is very satisfying, both indoors and out. The city feels alive from the steam coming from the sewer vents… but why no traffic? It takes away from the title and makes you feel like you are busting caps on a Sunday afternoon. Overall, however, I am impressed by the detail and the graphics. Despite a few niche complaints, this game has high marks in the graphical department.
The game play is sound in its design. The idea is there, but not executed properly. The game is very violent. You will kill a lot of thugs. You stroll down the street with your goons and in broad day light, some baddies will open fire on you. It’s a very simple concept. Taking cover around objects and buildings is important to survival of these small gang war fights and adds a small strategic element to the skirmishes. The cops that are around tend to shoot at any mobster, but I get the feeling they hate my group more. The cops lay into my mobsters more then they do at the opposing faction of goons. Your goons also love to use their guns even when they can’t hit the broad side of a barn (Come to think of it they are a lot like Stormtroopers). You pay for their folly though, in cash for the ammo they waste. Some hired hands only use melee weapons and charge right into the fray of submachine guns shooting at them. The AI is barely acceptable, your goons are dumb and they will die. Then again, this is a war and there needs to be a lot of dead bodies, an unfortunate way to accomplish that goal. Another thing, as violent as this game is, don’t let the exterior fool you, the cartoon like mobsters… nothing cartoon about them. So, with the seriousness of the game, it makes one wonder, why that choice in character design?
You have to work your way up the bloody mobster ladder. You only start with one goon small jobs. Eventually, you move up to extorting gun shops and restaurants. As you gain knowledge in running a protection agency for local commercial establishments, you can hire more goons to follow you around. There are even special missions that open up and once completed you can hire stronger units, like Ninjas and Snipers (a great looking character… his gun is in a violin case, nice touch). The hired hands you get depend on what type of place you control. Control of restaurants will only get you bouncers while something a bigger might get you a goon with a Tommy gun. Controlling gun shops is of extreme importance, you can get ammo from them – a high commodity in the game; mainly, because the aim of your goons is horrid.
The game is also quite hard and you can expect to die… a lot. The worse thing is; if you die near the end of a long mission and, then you have to restart the mission again from the beginning, destroying an entire hour. That type of thing can throw off players? a lot. The developer is promising to add a save feature in a patch, but in my opinion, it should have been there in the beginning. Once you get past the first few missions, you begin to run your own mob. This is where the game picks up a little with the introduction of a ton of new content for a young mobster to do.
Multiplayer… I have yet to find a player on a server, so I can’t really comment. I guess that statement alone lends some credence to the quality of the multiplayer game.
The game has sound ideas, but not executed properly. I feel that if the game was in the oven for a longer time, we would have a nice golden crust of mobster goodness. After playing the amazing Mafia, I was left wanting more.
The graphics are good. Not mind blowing, but the level of detail is good and has a lot of nice little touches to make it stand out. I am confused with the cartoon characters though… not a humorous game at any point. Overall, the style and atmosphere of the environments shine through.
The music is nothing I haven’t heard before. It matches the style, but doesn’t stick out. The voice acting will make you cringe. Guns and other environmental effects are nice, but nothing spectacular.
The challenge part of it isn’t challenging. It is more like luck and added with the frustration of no saving during a mission. It can turn some people off. After beating the game, I see no real reason for going through it again. As for multiplayer, I have yet to try it, as no one plays it multiplayer. Wonder if that is saying something?