Review: Omerta: City of Gangsters
Last years’ turn based strategy game, XCOM, is all you need for a game that perfectly mixes micro management, a fulfilling story and stylish levels into one kick ass package. However sci-fi isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but surely we all like gangsters? This is where Omerta steps in. Set to shine in XCOM’s glory, it’s worth noting that many retailers are selling Omerta as a budget title and that should set alarm bells ringing!
Fans of XCOM will tell you that part of its beauty is how hard it is. The game hates you, only too happy to punish you at every opportunity should you make a mistake or invest haphazardly in its micro management system. Omerta on the other hand is so easy it makes a mockery of the finesse and style of XCOM. XCOM’s story had a sense of intrigue, suspense and at times panic, Omerta will only panic you that the story is so dull, which is a shame as on paper it sounds like a winning combination.
You will spend most of your time scrolling around a top down view of the map; this is your hub world. You can zoom in and out, pan about and rotate the view making everything easily visible and by using the handy mini map you shouldn’t have too much of a hard time finding objectives or particular buildings. Whilst scrolling around the map I got a tremendous amount of screen tearing – it’s surprising as there isn’t that much going on!
Most missions have a variety of solutions, from violent to collaborating with a business or target. Each also has prerequisites you need to fulfill before you can complete them – then it’s a waiting game until the timer finishes – it’s a bit like those freemium games on mobile devices and Facebook, the ones that fall into the guilty pleasure category! As well as shaking down properties that are visible on the main map you can also enter contracts for other characters, similar to the mission structure for trainee assassins in the Assassin’s Creed series. Each of these missions involves a cost to your wallet whereas hub world missions affect how business owners respond to you.
You’d think completing all these dodgy deals, committing drive bys and raiding businesses would attract lots of attention from the police but that would make for a short game! Instead, if you attract too much attention you will trigger an investigation into your illicit affairs and a countdown begins, if the investigation completes it’s game over. To stop this you can bribe the officers or choose a number of more devious ways to deal with the heat and stop the investigation. It’s all a bit too easy to avoid and serves merely as a slight inconvenience and a way to limit your time in each area – you can only stop an investigation so many times before it’s going to cost you too much money.
Certain missions will trigger combat scenarios that require you to engage in turn based combat. Each member of your team has an allocation of action points (AP) and movement points (MP) that fully deplete after a character has made an attack. Like XCOM, each character can move into cover for added protection, essential when entering unknown environments because a fog of war prevents you from seeing any enemy movements.
XCOM’s turn based combat was well implemented and a lot of fun but Omerta makes a complete mess of it. Movement tracking is trial and error, instead of showing a visual icon of the distance you can move it’s not until you place the cursor and attempt to commit to a move that you will have an idea if you have enough MP. Moves don’t snap to the environment meaning you will make plenty of mistakes when moving, especially when attempting to get into cover. Once in cover the resulting attacks against you don’t seem to pay much attention to the supposed protection you are behind.
Action points are used to attack with either melee or firearms; you can spend an additional AP and aim an attack which increases your chances that it will be successful. Failure at attack missions sees you able to tackle it again, forget permanently losing men like in XCOM. Should you complete a combat scenario with fallen comrades they will only become available once you release them from jail, or if they avoid being locked up they will carry a negative effect against one of their attributes for a set number of turns.
Omerta’s biggest flaw in the combat is that you have to use each character in the order that the game dictates, making tactical plays somewhat limited, you don’t always want to lead with a gang member rocking melee combat! Over time characters do level up rewarding them with new perks and abilities that may be chosen from the gang menu, but like mission time there are no visual indicators of when this might happen.
Whilst there are some great ideas to the combat it isn’t as slick as XCOM, it doesn’t feel fluid especially as each attack is confirmed via a set of rather uninspiring menus, it can feel all too random rather than tactical. The combat feels much like that freemium menu game you secretly enjoy playing! Escaping an area or killing all the enemies will complete a combat mission and it’s back to the world map.
On your rise to power you must make money, both dirty and clean in order to expand your empire. This is done by creating businesses amongst the different districts of Atlantic City, simply rent a building and choose an establishment, each has its own perks but mostly they’re all the same, each able to generate money, gain/reduce police heat or gain/lose respect from the population. It really is as dull as it sounds.
Omerta comes complete with plenty of bugs and annoyances: During the night cycle buildings are so shrouded in darkness that it removes all definition from the game’s environment; Various menus will often close for no reason; Enemy AI can be a little peculiar in the decisions they make – rather than take a cheap shot on your gang or attack the weakest character they take a high risk and put themselves right into the firing line; The jazz music is also glitchy, at times the tracks skip or repeat on a loop – the realism of jumping vinyl tracks really wasn’t necessary! The most annoying bug is that characters can give and receive damage from within a building, ok so bullets can go through walls, but fists?! Some menus require you to use the bumper buttons to navigate their options whilst others use the d-pad, ok so it’s not a bug but it’s pretty annoying.
And that is Omerta, a rather soulless experience, one as rewarding as a freemium game and one that you will eventually come to the same conclusion, what’s the point in playing this! Rather than a turn based combat experience with a hint of micro management, Omerta is more like a sim game with a hint of turn-based combat.
XCOM had consequences to your every action, which country you helped out and which missions you chose to ignore but my actions in Omerta seemed to have little impact on the gaming environment which is a real shame as the sprawling metropolis of Atlantic City could have been a great base to see changes in her landscape and architecture depending on how you played out your gangster duties. Instead of empowering you as a gangster it feels more like you are an onlooker to a rather dull game of football.
The prospect of a stripped down XCOM may appeal to some who found XCOM too overwhelming but XCOM’s success was that you wanted to beat it and revel in the sense of satisfaction at overcoming everything it threw at you, Omerta is too much of a walk in the park. It’s fun to begin with but its novelty wears thin and it becomes a monotonous grind. Perfect for a lazy Sunday or a game to dip in and out of but not fitting of even hiding in XCOM’s shadow.
Review: Omerta: City of Gangsters Results
What we liked:
XCOM (very) lite
Freemium style mafia game
What we disliked:
Turn based combat
Poor story with little consequences to your actions