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Review by: Keith Durocher
Published: March 29, 2004
“As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster.” – Henry Hill, Goodfellas
There’s an inexplicable allure to the myth of the mafia family. Perhaps it has something to do with the bonds of brotherhood and community; perhaps it’s connected to the strong sense of honor and respect that seems so lacking in society these days. Whichever the case, people seem to love the mob. A small crew from Copenhagen calling themselves MediaMobsters decided to take that love affair and work it into a PC game. The end result of that idea is the action simulation, Gangland, a high-caliber tale of intrigue and revenge.
Gangland is a convoluted tale of revenge. One hot summer night many years ago, Chico Mangano was shot and killed in cold blood by three of his brothers. They escaped the law, and it seemed as though they’d gotten away with murder. Two years later, the patriarch of the family received a phone call from his eldest son, Vincenzo, telling him the three killers had been spotted in Paradise City. Grandpa Mangano decides to send Mario Mangano, his youngest, to track down the renegades. Gangland starts when Mario first meets Uncle Vincenzo and picks up some work as a minor underboss. The events of Gangland take place throughout the various ethnic strongholds of the mythical Paradise City, a pastiche of all major metropolitan areas in North America. Starting out in Little Italy, players will find themselves stomping around the docks, Chinatown and so on. This is a place of seemingly endless corruption; organized crime syndicates seem to own and operate every possible business. Those few that are free of shady control come stocked to the teeth with armed protection. As they say, “When in Rome, do as the Romans,” and that’s really what Gangland is all about. In a city of the corrupt, only the ruthless survive. To be perfectly clear, there are no good guys in Gangland; the closest you’ll come are made men who are out of ammunition. Everyone is innocent when they’re out of bullets.
Broken down to its essentials, Gangland is a fusion of several genres. There’s a strong focus on real-time strategy gameplay with heavy action elements, a few dashes of role-playing, and some ideas borrowed from The Sims. It’s a fully realized 3D world with an isometric viewing perspective. You play as Mario, starting as a thug for hire and working your way up to underboss for Vincenzo and eventually to full boss of your own family. It starts out as one long firefight in the streets, but the higher up the chain of command Mario gets, the greater the number of responsibilities heaped upon him and the more time he spends away from the direct heat. By the time full command is bestowed, you’ll rarely get to even leave the desk of your safehouse. It’s a lonely life, but at least the chair is comfy.
When Mario starts out, though, he doesn’t have much in the way of resources. Vincenzo gives him money to complete the tasks set out, but if spent frivolously, he tends to get angry. So it’s up to you to muscle onto the scene with chutzpah, and you can’t do it alone. You start out with a low leadership score and only two slots for hired goons. As you prove your worth on the street, you develop experience. This eventually leads to a reputation to which the criminal element will flock, allowing you to buy the allegiance of more thugs. The underlings you can purchase range from street walkers in fishnets to muscle-bound bruisers with a penchant for baseball bat therapy to gun-toting wise guys. However, for every couple of missions, you’ll get to try a challenge map. These are time-based objectives that the heads of international crime syndicates give to you. They’re usually designed in such a way as to make use of special units, and if you successfully complete them, then you’ll have access to the units in the regular campaign.
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