Tactical games have had something of a renaissance following the huge success of X-Com: Enemy Unknown and don’t get us wrong, X-Com meets gangsters is certainly an appealing prospect, but Omerta: City Of Gangsters never manages to even skim those lofty heights.
Set in the prohibition era of the 1920’s, Omerta lets you slip into your sharpest suit as a Sicilian immigrant fresh off the boat in Atlantic City. Omerta waste’s no time in letting you take in the sights mind, the game throws you straight into the acquisitifon and management of illegally brewed moonshine to start your rise to drunken power.
Omerta’s a game of two halves; part inventory management and part turn-based combat – though it doesn’t make an inspired effort to make either part particularly compelling. The management aspect steals the majority of your time, as you look over the city from an eye-in-the-sky perspective ordering your gang to raid breweries for merchandise, shaking down informants, and generally seizing parts of the city for expansion. And once you’ve brought in enough merchandise (larger, liquor and firearms) you can then ship it across the city. It sounds great as a concept, but in execution it’s a disappointingly hands-off experience. The whole process is controlled through a series of obtuse menu screens, and to be it frank, managing the books quickly moves from being interesting to unbearably mundane.
Omerta also forces you to wait for both resources to accumulate and for business to become raidable again, long periods of time will be spent simply wasting away the time. The life of a gangster has never been so dull.
The game doesn’t pick up much steam once the bullets starts flying either. The gunfights are turn-based, staged across an isometric map. Each turn you’re granted action and movement points which determine the choices available to you. You’ll need to handpick and equip your gang accordingly for each situation; with shotguns, rifles and switchblades at your disposal.
The fights ask for a degree of risk versus reward, with cover usually acting as a natural barrier to your success, moving your mobsters out into the open to line up a shot could lead to a quick and bloody death when enemies slink in from out of sight. The combat offers a welcome distraction from the admin side of Omerta, but it never offers enough depth to become fully engaging.
Omerta will certainly keep you occupied for long periods of time, but only if you’re punishing your attention span. The world itself is quick to drop you into the 1920’s experience, but never amounts to anything more than a lifeless shell. Factor in some embarrassing voice acting, painful writing and a reluctance for Omerta to ever truly let itself go wild with its concepts, and all you’ll left with is a hollow time consuming experience.