Crime games always take the same approach.You’re a solitary shmuck working your way up to the top (and your sudden, inevitable downfall) or an undercover cop with his allegiances tested. Nobody has ventured into making a full fledged crime sim in the same way as Omertà has, though – but like the Hollywood gangsters this game bases itself on, will its ambition be its downfall?
FRESH OFF THE BOAT
You step into the pointy shoes of a Sicilian immigrant ready to take Prohibition era America for all it’s worth, by building a network of illegal breweries and speakeasies to line your pockets and fund an ever growing criminal empire. Think Tropico with pinstripe suits and the whole awkward ‘Cuban dictator’ thing taken out of the picture.
Omertà covers most of the typical criminal bases you’d expect. You can hire thugs and crooks to help you extort, smuggle, bribe and murder your way to success, and you can go about building your bootlegging empire by winning the support of the people or earning their hatred and fear. All of it comes together in a mission-based storyline which has you working towards specific goals, keeping what could be a rambling, unfocused title tight and focused. You have the ability to take your time and build resources but most of the time you’ll be working towards specific amounts, which can get a little bit constraining – especially when most of the resources you earn for missions vanish and don’t carry over from mission to mission. It’s great fun when things are going well, but it would be even better to build up a persistent headquarters and manage the entire city as a whole rather than in small chunks.
GET YOUR HANDS DIRTY
Jobs like getting information, buying out speakeasies, raiding breweries and establishing fronts is all done by assigning goons to them, which takes up a chunk of their time that day. Imagine it as sending your kids to the shop to buy milk. Except instead of buying milk, they’re stealing beer, and somebody probably dies. Depending on their perks each henchman has talents suited to different tasks, Burglars can steal more loot from raids, Masterminds complete tasks faster, you get the idea. There’s a ton of criminals with different skills and to a limited extent different personalities to choose from, so most of the time you’ll find yourself shuffling them around to suit whatever the game has tasked you with at the time. It all sounds very exciting – stealing beer, dodging cops, er, building soup kitchens, but there really isn’t much of a threat of failure – and that’s where the combat comes in.
Omertà’s turn based combat is satisfying and simple, with a small dose of strategy to keep you on your toes. Even on the easiest difficulty battles can change on a dime so it’s not just a matter of clicking to win – balancing moving your men around so they can do damage but keeping them from getting torn apart by the KKK knight with the machine gun when his turn rolls around is challenging and you’ll get torn apart if you try and charge in head on. As your combat team grows and you find combinations that work for you it really comes into its own, encounters escalate but stay terse and tactical. You and your goons can sustain persistent injuries like cracked ribs and broken legs that carry throughout the mission so there’s a significant incentive to play it smart.
That being said, it’s always a pleasure to watch an enemy mobster run around a corner to avoid getting shot to pieces by the two gunmen you’ve ensconced behind cover only to run into your knife-wielding mob boss. Straight-forward and endlessly rewarding – much like the rest of the game.
AN OFFER YOU MIGHT REFUSE
Omertà is a great sim game, albeit one with a somewhat clunky lick of 20’s mafioso paint. The assortment of thugs available to hire and develop do indeed have their own back stories you can read, but this is about as compelling and necessary as reading the back of a shampoo bottle because you forgot to bring your smartphone to the toilet with you. Pair that with the fact that all the male voices sound like they’ve been done by sticking one guy with a half Italian second cousin twice removed in a cupboard with a script and you have some very, very minor criticisms of an otherwise deep and enjoyable game. The visuals aren’t exactly as immersive as they could be but the soundtrack goes a long way towards covering up that flaw, and though the game’s cheesy approach to its subject makes any motions towards storytelling seem pointless, gameplay is engaging enough to keep you playing til the storyline concludes.
If you’re not looking for a gritty, realistic struggle to the top of the criminal ladder, then Omertà will easily provide hours of crime sim fun – but those looking for something a little more hard nosed will be left wanting. Not quite an offer you can’t refuse, but one you’ll certainly want to consider.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.