Ya wants me to disresemble the place?
Prohibition had several effects on the United States during the 20’s and 30’s. Despite people having significantly less fun and frat boys with nothing to do, alcohol proved to be a boom industry on the black market. Who was in a position to control this lucrative and highly illegal industry? Why, Gangsters, of course! “Scarface” Capone, “Bugsy” Segal, “Lucky” Luciano, and various other thugs named “Legs,” “Matches,” or “The Weasel” took control of the streets and became legends of organized crime. In that list of names, there is one missing . . . yours.
How many times have you watched “The Untouchables” and wished that you could live the life of a mob boss? Thumbing your nose at the police, bribing city officials, blowing up your enemies . . . aaahhh, that’s the life. Or so one might think. Unfortunately, as Gangsters: Organized Crime proves, maintaining a stranglehold on a city involves way too much micro-management. Being a Gangster seems to require more than just a will to bust heads – you also have to be an economist. How much fun is that?
The graphics in Gangsters are top notch. The city of New Temperance is absolutely enormous, with all the hustle and bustle expected from an actual city. As you might expect, this type of detail doesn’t come easily. The initial load time of the city takes awhile, but is happily worth it. The only serious problem lies with the inability to play the game with any success while all the buildings are in place, as often the skyline obscures the action. Upon removing the buildings, you are left with a cityscape more reminiscent of Fallout 2 than of the 1920’s.
The sound is absolutely fabulous. Your thugs make appropriate noises when they’re off taking care of your business. If you are threatening someone, you hear cries of mercy that would warm any Gangster’s heart. All the while, you get the audible delight of the background music. Very rarely is background music acceptable, let alone good. The slick soundtrack in Gangsters is a treat to anyone with a good soundcard.
With both good graphics and superlative sound, it saddens me to turn to the gameplay. At first glance, Gangsters: Organized Crime appears to be a real-time strategy game, but don’t let that fool you. It is, in fact, more of a simulation than anything else. Each week begins with a status window. You have to check your territory, your accountant, your diplomacy, and your lieutenants to see how you did the last week. Most of the game is played from this status window. From here you give your orders, only to watch them being executed during the week.
Once the week begins, you can do little more than sit back and watch. Over the course of the game, you do very little day-to-day operations. Needless to say, this is frustrating. If a business refuses to give you the money you want from them, you cannot react immediately. Instead, you have to wait until the end of the week and command one of your lieutenants to take care of the problem. With tons of small details to keep track of, the average gamer will feel overwhelmed.
This might not have been as bad an issue had the tutorial been better. Not only do you have to run the tutorial through a combination of on-screen actions and directly reading from the manual, but it doesn’t come close to telling you of all the commands in the game. It gives you a very simple overview of how to play, leaving you to fend for yourself on the finer points. The first few times you play will be more frustrating than anything else, and many gamers will be discouraged by the steep learning curve.
For people who majored in Economics or Micro-Management in their college days, Gangsters: Organized Crime is a dream come true. For the rest of us, it is a game that fails to rise to expectations. Personally, I’d rather be responsible for torching an unruly shopkeeper then making sure I audit a business in order to assure I’m collecting the right amount of protection money. Gangsters: Organized Crime does a good job of simulating the life of a mob boss, but it could have sacrificed reality to make it a little more fun.