I could be Jimmy 'The Lips' Chinzero, or Alfonso 'The Cheeks' Ianucci, even Joey 'The Fingers' Alerio. How excited was I when a copy of Omerta: City of Gangsters was smuggled onto my steam account like a toilet-strapped "piece" in a Godfather movie? Answer: very.
Like Michael Corleone, I was a bag of nerves, puffing out my cheeks a little, trying to ignore the rattling train overhead as I thumbed at the mouse trying to hit "play". Of course none of these things were actually happening: I was a chubby man sat in underwear on a tired desk chair - but I was excited by the prospect of getting cosy with the Cosa Nostra.
...is that a wizard?
And then I booted Omerta up, and as quickly as my excitement came, it disappeared: gunned down in the street like a wheezing Mafia don.
As "Little Joey" I am a Sicilian immigrant, living and scheming in Atlantic City in the 1930s. Strangely, while you may expect me to retain a certain amount of accent from the Old World, I talk very much like a Chicago gangster: is this strange? No, it's just the sort of thing you come to expect after playing 15 minutes of Omerta: City of Gangsters.
Hopping off the boat bound for the Banana Republic, and heading to Prohibition era USA, Haemimont Games have traded in politics for crime, and it isn't a smooth transition of power. Omerta tries to combine both base building and XCOM-style turn-based combat: ultimately managing to "whack" itself in the process.
While the premise is sound, and the idea of a strategy-tinted mobster game something we haven't seen since Gangsters: Life of Crime, Omerta itself is a lazy punt by its creators. The narrative is lacklustre, the micromanagement hackneyed, and the combat inexcusable.
And yet it should be a rip-roaring tale of contraband and illegal activity. Initially, you create a character, rolling stats by way of answering a number of "what would you do?" type questions. Once fully equipped with +4 cunning, and a particular modus operandi, you are thrown onto the Atlantic City Boardwalk to make your bones.
The strategy element of the game boils down to a few meagre ties with stale and uninteresting mobster operations. Your main hub of control is the safe house, which can be upgraded like a C&C command centre, and also lovingly decorated - finally pulling together the Mafia's famous love for Handy Andy DIY and RTS enhancements.
Other mobster-owned buildings are pizzerias, ponzi schemes, and speakeasies, just to name a few. While initially this element of the game feels fresh and gangsterific, spreading out across a section of the city has all of the feeling of a crime wave as a poorly made Facebook game called "Gangsterville".
The problem seems to be that there is no real sense of spectacle to be found. Speakeasies nestle high above in stoic apartment buildings, while a brewery sits motionless in an a vacated factory block. When the action does occur in the form of illicit raids on enemy criminals, the only change is a pinstripe suited man running to whichever contextual building.
Omerta doesn't have Tropico-style looks to flaunt.
So while you feel like you should be stroking a white cat, slamming desks, and asking the nearest person if you are "funny like what? Like a clown? Do I amuse you?" instead you are very much bored, head sunk into palm, and feeling very mundane.
And this, pardon the pun, is criminal for a game with "gangster" in the title. There's such a lacklustre nature to the entire ensemble that you can mistake it for a particularly lazy browser-game. Sure, you can trade alcohol, buy off the police, bribe officials, and extort celebrities - but when the only action comes in poorly executed text scrolls: what's the point?
But this tepid, half-warmed through strategy meal of Omerta is, astonishingly, the only bit worth bothering tucking in to. So turgid and antiquated is the combat system within the game that it only serves to annoy whenever a particular scenario is thrown up. And when I say thrown up, the battle set-pieces feel like a frothy patch of bile, spewed somewhere from the deepest darkest belly of a lost mid '90s developer.
Post XCOM Enemy Unknown, it's difficult to pull off turn-based combat in the way we knew it. What the aforementioned managed to do was reinvent its own brand of violence by adding tension, pitching in a dozen or so fancy mechanics, and stirring it all up with a sense of the cinematic - Omerta does none of this.
Heading into a "shooty" area of the game feels like closing your eyes, and bludgeoning your head with a brick labelled "1994". The graphics have a look 2.5D primitiveness, and the action can be scarcely branded as such. Try static, frustrated, clicking. Stratustratedicking.
As you progress through the game, the roster of mobsters will increase, each coming with their own specific weapon, and preference for violence. While this does vary the action, the whole thing becomes dangerously unbalanced; melee becoming a very distant second to anybody with a gun.
Each character is given a certain amount of action and movement points, allowing them to run into cover - that rarely works as advertised - or shoot enemies point black in the face multiple times until the turn is over. It's hard to completely describe just how turgid this system is, and would be easier to describe the type of things I'd rather be doing: for example picking scabs off of a diseased badger.
After a few minutes of Omerta, it becomes plainly obvious that this isn't worth your time, money, and its own concept. Hurtling out of the minds of the team behind Tropico 4, it's a startling disappointment, holding none of the charm or promise of the Coup d'état simulator.
You say you a gangster...
And as if to throw misery on top of utter frustration with Omerta, the game has a habit of odd crashes, and sporadic fits of stubbornness. Throughout my time with the title, I had to revalidate the software four times, as my saved games became corrupted and unplayable.
So what started with excitement, ended in the sombre march of disappointment. Omerta: City of Gangsters has the potential, in concept, to be deliver a remarkable amusche-bouche of strategy entertainment - instead it crawls on to your desktop, blearily eyed, and tired, complaining of a terrible night's sleep.
OMERTA: CITY OF GANGSTERS VERDICT
Bland, boring, and turgid to the last - look to Tropico 4 for a fine example of micromanagement, or instead XCOM Enemy Unknown for turn-based kicks: Omerta: City of Gangsters deserves to be thrown in a trunk and taken “someplace up state.”