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Omerta: City of Gangsters

Omerta: City of Gangsters welcomes you to the prohibition era of Atlantic City, New Jersey. Gun running, liquor distilling and beer swindling are only a few of the options available to you to build your criminal empire. And yet, even after you’ve fire bombed casinos, sent your gangsters off to drive-by protection rackets, it doesn’t take long before the simulation’s simplicity takes away the potential feeling of being a crime boss. And when you take your boots to the floor and confront your enemies head-on, you’ll find the best thing about combat situations is the ability to auto-resolve.

The main campaign tells the story of your fairly unique Sicilian, freshly arrived into America. The character creation makes for a promising introduction to the game; the stats of your crime boss change depending on the choices you make for your backstory. Progress is made by completing mission requirements in individual scenarios, each one telling a part of the narrative of your rising criminal empire. Half of the game is spent looking at the city map, directing your operations.

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Now steel yourself for the most complicated part of the game: crime management. It all begins with dirty money. Dirty money allows you to rent and establish businesses, purchase items to trade and pay your gangsters’ salaries. With independent businesses scattered along the map, along with a constant list of jobs posted by recurring clients, there are plenty of possibilities for trade. Although it’s as simple as buying 15 cases of beer for $300 and selling it for $600.

“Crime business is so simplistic”Independent businesses change from one scenario to the next, and your clientele won’t always be needing to buy or sell. Clients have their own quirks that you’ll just have to know. Expect to buy some beer from Charlie Luciano and there’s a chance he might demand you buy some more. Mike Hedges, the military boy, will quite likely try to sell you guns with your purchase. Pay attention to your clients’ quirks and you’ll be able to decide who’s worth doing business with.

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Then there’s clean money. Clean money can pay for anything, including the more legitimate businesses that dirty money isn’t good for. It can even be a trade item itself, allowing you to launder small amounts of clean money for large amounts of dirty. On the occasions that your time is limited it can be tricky amassing a fortune while dodging the police and still being able to complete your objectives.

And while the money management simulation is complicated enough, the actual establishment of your crime business is so simplistic it’s comparable to a social game. You can establish a “joint” or “premises” only where the game lets you. It’s a tactical decision based on the fact that there are only so many different types of establishments you can build.

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Some of them make you money, some get the community to like you, others get the people to fear you. Similar to your supply of cash, being liked or feared is merely another set of numbers to affect your accumulation of riches. Want people to like you? Build a soup kitchen. Build a pizzeria if you want to be feared. The people grow quite suspicious of pizzerias.

As you do things the police are always working to bring down your criminal empire. You know this because of the Grand Theft Auto-esque star rating. After five stars the police sirens go off and it’s up to you to deal with them by bribery, favor calling or combat. It’s always in your best interest to avoid combat.

“A dysfunctional mess”And for the most part you can. You can bribe the police. You can auto-resolve some combat scenarios. But eventually, like it or not, you will have to participate in various story related battles. Shootouts make up the other half of the game and are played out in a generic variation of XCOM. The objectives in combat are usually either kill everyone or escape, and when you’re required to do the latter the former works just as well there too.

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Combat is a dysfunctional mess. There’s a cover system that barely works, allowing you to take cover behind certain objects, but not on each side. Even basic functions, like being able to take cover against the edge of a wall, are not available. Both ranged and melee combat are available to you, but the only advantage to using guns is being able to hit enemies at a distance. Bullets in this game do about as much damage as fists, although I suppose if a pizzeria is meant to generate fear, than anything else is believable.

Aside from the campaign mode, there is a lackluster sandbox involving the building of a criminal empire without objectives or opposition. Go online and you can take the terrible combat system and enjoy it with friends, or against them, if you wish. But you won’t feel like a gangster, but rather an accountant with a penchant for real estate.

4 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in July 2011.

Gentle persuasion

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