Omerta: City of Gangsters Review

Ah 1920s Atlantic City - complete with the Absecon Lighthouse

  • Developer: Haemimont Games
  • Publisher: Kalypso Media
  • Release Date:1 February 2013

I really enjoyed what Haemimont Games did with Tropico 3 and later on Tropico 4 (which is basically a Tropico 3.5 to be fair). These guys modernised a classic formula in a more or less dignified manner creating a game that was humourous and heaps of fun to play. So when it was announced (quite suddenly to me at least) that they were creating another strategy game where you run the Mafia and you even get turn-based combat to boot, I thought the game sounded like it had lots of promise. Was this to be Tropico with gangsters? Or was that too good to be true?

Plot (4/5)
Although I've never watched it, Omerta: City of Gangsters shares an identical setting with Boardwalk Empire – a TV series also set in 1920s Atlantic City. In the game, you play a Sicilian man who has come to America to look for a better life and after performing several missions (where illegal activities are involved) you work your way up to be a mafia boss of some repute.

It's your typical rags-to-riches mafia story with a few twists and betrayals along the way. So while it isn't the world's greatest or original narrative it's still good fun.

Gameplay (2/5)
There are two modes or layers to this game that you can play with: the real-time business management mode which is similar to Tropico and the turn-based combat mode.

The business management mode is where you manage your mob empire. From this screen you're able to recruit new gangsters and then send them on various tasks, such as opening new speakeasys, bribing cops or performing drive-bys on enemies. While the game feels a bit similar to Tropico in this mode it is by no means as fulfilling, feeling like a "Tropico-lite" since you can't build structures anywhere – i.e. the city builder aspect of Tropico is not present. Instead you occupy buildings with your own businesses which in turn generates profits in either "dirty money" or "clean money" (i.e. whether the money was generated through illegal or legal means). Meanwhile you have to be wary of not raising too much heat from your illegal activities unless you want the police to hold an investigation.

Fighting with your fists is surprisingly quite effective in this game.

The game's combat mode is a surprisingly old-fashioned affair, even RPG-like since a character's Initiative attribute is important in determining whose turn is first in each round – i.e. unlike other turn-based tactics games where teams take turns, individuals take turns in Omerta, a bit like a game of Worms actually. It might take some getting used to but it works relatively well once you know how. However, cover is atrocious and the percentage chance of hitting enemies means jack-squat; they even have (easily attainable) achievements for ridiculous shots! Not to mention it's hard to tell at times what your line of sight actually is and maps often have very little cover at all. More variety in the guns would've been nice too – maybe even actual weapons of the era (similar to how the Jagged Alliance series uses real weapons).

Sound (4/5)
There's some hilarious voice acting in this game – and it plays on racial stereotypes to a degree. But then again, I suppose Tropico 4 did that to some degree too, so it's not entirely surprising. NPCs in combat tend to make strange noises when performing certain actions too ("Hu-uuuuuh" when employing a Defensive Stance for example – I mean who does that?) – but it's probably no different to Jagged Alliance 2 in that regard.

Music (5/5)
The game has a surprisingly good soundtrack with music reminiscent of the era. i.e. a lot of early era Jazz and even country music (whaaat???) – I like this track in particular:

Graphics (3/5)
The city screen is quite detailed with day and night cycles. There are even pretty accurate renditions of classic buildings in Atlantic City like the Traymore Hotel and Absecon Lighthouse. The game uses black and white stills for the game's cut-scenes but they are drawn well and so are the character portraits. The graphics during the combat sequences aren't anything special but they do the job.

Replay (3/5)
I might be tempted to play again to get more achievements but once you've finished the game the only real reason to go back is to either play a Sandbox game (which has limited appeal) or multiplayer (which is limited to just the combat mode). I'm disappointed that co-operative play wasn't included in the campaign or at least the ability to fight over a city with friends i.e. a combination of sandbox mode and the combat-focused multiplayer modes. I think Haemimont Games and Kalypso Media missed out on an opportunity here.

Polish (5/5)
The game seems to be fairly well polished and there have even been some updates recently to the gameplay and UI over the first version. For example, you're now able to check an Economic Overview screen to see how much money and goods your buildings are producing at a glance (it's not terribly helpful but it's better than nothing). You're also now able to steal and use cars which makes a lot more sense if you're a Don of the Mafia...

Score – 7/10

Omerta: City of Gangsters's gameplay can become somewhat repetitive and the sandbox and multiplayer options on offer will only entice a limited number of replays. However, this unpretentious mafia strategy game has an entertaining (yet somewhat predictable) story with a great 20s era soundtrack to boot. I thoroughly enjoyed the single-player campaign and if you enjoyed the campaigns in Tropico 3 and 4, set your sights on Omerta: City of Gangsters.

If you want to get the game, you can get it on Steam or DRM-free on GOG.

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