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Gangland Review

GAME INFO
publisher: Whiptail Interactive
developer: Media Mobsters
genre: Strategy

MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS
PIII 550, 128MB RAM, 32MB Video Card
ESRB rating: M
homepage:
www.mediamobsters.com/

release date: Mar 04, 04
» All About Gangland on ActionTrip


Crime does pay...

Well, it definitely does pay for those who wish to become, let us say, respectable "family men." Gangland, as you probably already guessed, attempts to bring players deep into the world of organized crime. Most of us have been keen to check this one out ever since we took the preview build for a spin. The game's premise certainly showed potential and it seemed reasonable to expect a dignified adaptation of the ever-popular Godfather-style plot. Anyhow, after receiving a copy of the full version, we were just itching to try it out and without much further ado, we slowly started climbing up the crime ladder.

We noticed the first problem with the game right off the bat. Gangland is almost as easy to install as inserting a Hasidic Jewish Rabbi into the Gambino Crime Family as a mole for the FBI. Seriously, I had less scrutiny at my last prostate exam. The game does a CD check, requires a Disk Key and, to top it all off, it prompts you for a Serial Key as well. Once the copy protection has screened your blood and tissue sample to ensure you were indeed the one who purchased the game, it takes you to a screen where you can select the single-player missions or multiplayer.

As pointed out earlier, the game has a relatively simple, but quite catchy premise, conveyed through a solid storyline. It places you right smack in the middle of a conflict between five brothers. At your grandfather's wishes, you set out to seek your three treacherous brothers in the hope of bringing them to justice. However, before you do that, you have to make an effort to seize as much of the local enterprises as you can and force them to operate under your control. You start out as a small-time criminal, gradually expanding the chain of illegal businesses across town (and even across the world later on). As you probably already gathered, your tasks will consist of numerous illegal activities until you've established a perfectly functional underground society, run by the kings of organizes crime.

All single-player missions, basically, help the player get used to the controls and the various aspects of the game. You learn how to extort store owners to grow your bank roll, how to take over buildings and businesses to fortify your base of operations and get better equipment, and how to recruit thugs (these are the units you will use to battle other gangs). The single-player missions are very linear, though the details will change slightly if you replay the missions. In addition, you can replay the missions until you get the hang of the gameplay. Each mission must be completed before you can progress to the next level. There is no save option available so I had to replay several missions repeatedly due to a slight error. This amounted up to one of the most frustrating aspects of the game. Recently, however, we were informed that the development team plans to issue a patch, addressing the save game mishap. Sadly, until that happens, you're left to struggle with the game as it is.

As the leader of the gang hands out tasks, you get a small amount of cash to complete them. It could be 20,000 to go take over a local gun shop or 40,000 to recruit new thugs needed to take out a rival leader. (I'd like that small amount wired to my bank account please. - 2Lions) While it sounds like a lot of money, thugs are not cheap to hire and owners of businesses usually take at least 10,000 before they roll over. Also, some missions have time limits so you must move quickly. Taking over a gun shop provides you with money and supplies you with 3 types of ammo that your thugs can use: normal bullets, Dum-dums (which have high damage against soft targets) and explosive rounds. Switching rounds in the middle of a fight can mean the difference between success or failure. As the better ammo is doled out in smaller amounts, it is important to ration its use.

You also have the ability to crouch and take cover behind objects during fights to make you harder to hit. If you do happen to take damage during a gun fight, you can use first aid kits to heal you and your thugs.

The game looks pleasing. Detailed and well-animated models populate the town, which is decked out in typical Little Italy style, with streamers of Italian flags hanging between buildings. You can rotate and scale the scene so you can catch the action from any angle and get up close and personal when you engage in combat. Most times the sounds appear passable, but frankly the backdrop audio seem way too poor. Voiceovers, on the other hand, are a bit better. Thugs make several comments as they run around with you and store owners cower and cry for help when being shaken down. Rival gangsters curse and make threats. Everyone sounds as though they are straight out of a B grade gangster film. I am sure some anti-defamation group will register some complaints about the stereotyping of all Italians as mobsters, but it's only a game - who cares? It's actually kind of funny, and adds atmosphere to the game. Hell, I'm Italian and I thought it was funny (don't believe me? I have the meatballs to prove it. ).

So, what are the main drawbacks in Gangland? For starters, the single-player missions require you to complete several tasks in order to complete the mission and move on to the next. Since you cannot save in mission, if you screw up near the end, you have to replay the whole damn thing. It's safe to say this aspect drastically lowered our overall impression of the game. Next to that, the game appears to wait too long until it exposes you to new units and features. This is so the new player will not get overwhelmed. Frankly, I must say I've grown too impatient for this style of gameplay now. Furthermore, for some reason the designers and programmers refused to fit in any car models in the street background. Don't take this the wrong way though, vehicles are available in the game and can be driven by both you and members of the rival families. It seems kind of weird why the development team simply omitted cars, trucks, and buses, for a game that simulates vibrant and busy city streets. Speaking of vehicles, the physics have struck me as rather restricted, seeing as I was only allowed to drive through streets - every time I wanted to drive across the sidewalk, I was stopped by an invisible barrier (extremely annoying).

The multiplayer side of the whole experience improves things a bit, as it allows you to go out and conquer territory and grow your empire right from the start. While this does ramp up the learning curve, I did not feel so boxed in having to perform the tasks that the Don handed out to me. To cut a long story short, I prefer the multiplayer side of the game to the single-player missions and the specific tasks you are required to perform.

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ACTIONTRIP SCORE
5.9   Okay


HIGHS
Decent graphics and voiceovers, fun multiplayer, no major technical flaws;

LOWS
Tiring copy protection scheme, slow opening, generally linear gameplay, no save option, incomplete vehicle physics, extremely low replayability.

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