Going into Omerta: City of Gangsters, I was genuinely excited to see how the Mafioso mentality could be applied to a sim-style game. The idea of managing all of my business and shakedowns from a birds-eye view is a fantastic idea, and one that seems relatively simple in concept. Alas, Kalypso’s latest strategy/sim title comes up short in several areas, keeping the promise of the concept from being realized.
The game begins innocently enough with the choices of face, persona and various stats to define your gangster. I chose the one that appeared to be a cross between Christopher Walken and Joaquin Phoenix, I called him Walkn Phenix (due to character limitations, which I had hoped we had done away with). Then the game asks a variety of questions that will determine your stats. These felt irrelevant once the game was underway, especially the “guts” category, which I never did come to understand.
As the journey begins, things are good. The game is set in the 1920s, with you in the role of an up-and-coming gangster, just getting your feet wet. You will start off running small jobs, stealing and selling liquor. The quote on the front of the box calling it “Sim City” is a bit misleading, as the city is already established. You can purchase buildings to open up places to set up and distribute alcohol, but it never feels like a construction game.
These issues are not even my biggest problem with Omerta. What I find most frustrating is how bare bones the game really is. While turn-based strategy and economic management haven’t been on the forefront of gaming lately, there are standards. For example, Kalypso’s other sim title, Tropico, is immensely deep and satisfying. With regards to combat, XCOM nailed that not even six months ago. While Omerta contains both of these game types, neither one feels even remotely fleshed out or refined.
Let’s start with economics and resource management. What should be an intricate balancing act ends up more like a glorified spreadsheet of boredom. I spent so much time waiting on income to flow in, and business to “warm” up to me, that it became more a game of patience. There is also very little conflict. There are no rival gangs with which to wage war, and even when the wanted meter rises, only a minimal fee is required to pin the crime on someone else. There is practically no challenge.
Then we come to the combat, which feels like a generic interpretation of something like XCOM. Characters have a range of movement and attacks that can be performed each turn. We all know these types of games use a dice-roll system for their moves. Omerta’s is flat out broken. I found myself missing enemies within two steps, and characters sometimes did not even go into cover when they were clearly in line for it. It is painful and frustrating. Thankfully, you can toss the game on easy and hope for the best, as combat rarely involves skill. I also always chose to bribe my way out of a fight when given the option. The combat is simply that abysmal.
I am not a fan of what is on display in the visual department. The camera feels awkward, and the level of detail is not impressive. Characters look generic and buildings all feel the same. It is also worth noting that the text really needs to be blown up on an HD TV. This is a common problem when PC games get ported to consoles, but Omerta is guilty of some of the worst in recent memory.
Omerta: City of Gangsters also has an online mode that is sadly just as feature-deprived as the main game. There are four scenarios to play through: two co-op and two competitive. None of them are all that exciting. They are limited to combat, so running the city with, or against, your buddies, is not an option.
Omerta is the kind of game I came into wanting to love. Unfortunately, Omerta falls short in every category that counts, and even the parts it manages to get right fall flat long before they become interesting. I really wanted Omerta to be a better game; I really wanted it to be the mob simulation we have all wanted, even if we didn’t know we did. Instead, we got a disappointing shell of what might have been.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.