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Review by: Chad Eby
Published: September 24, 1999
From dime novels to radio dramas, advertising and motion pictures, the gangster has remained a strong presence in the mythology of American popular culture, so it’s not too surprising to see him muscling in on digital turf as well. The appeal is understandable; the romanticized cluster of associations that surround the mobster makes for some great storytelling. There are the perennial favorites of brutality, greed, treachery and control of course, but interwoven with these are themes of honor, loyalty and piety, with the whole package permeated by a kind of seedy grandeur.
Naturally, with all that territory, different games have chosen to emphasize particular facets of the gangster aura. Some organized crime offerings have focused primarily on crime, like the ultraviolent Kingpin, while others like Gangsters put the stress on organization. Studio 3′s Mob Rule steers a course closer to the latter, but unlike either previous title, it is not afraid to go for the laughs.
MR provides a tongue-in-cheek look at the internal and external struggles of the depression-era American Cosa Nostra through the lens of a hybrid real time strategy and city simulation. Construction and resource management are vital to success, but so is kidnapping, arson, prostitution and murder. You play the role of a petty crook asked to take care of some business under the watchful eye of the godfather. Initially, you’re asked to set up shop in the pristine one-horse town of Hicksville, but brighter lights and bigger cities await your success. And if you fail? Well, let’s just say that the godfather always keeps an extra pair of concrete galoshes handy.
The outcome of the game hinges on your ability to get things done through the direct manipulation of workers, tenants, fixers and gangsters, as well as associating with other even less socially acceptable types. Beyond any of the godfather’s specific goals, you must also keep your staff beefed-up, stay solvent, pay your taxes and keep the police paid off; it ain’t easy being crooked, but at least you have help.
Your workers are the real grunts; they create raw materials, build structures and manufacture gadgets for your fledgling underground empire. They can also perform routine duties like remove corpses and place the burning barrels that mark the extent of your territory. Workers can engage in combat with their pneumatic nail guns, but enforcers they’re not. Workers can always be exchanged, at a pretty unfavorable rate, for more sophisticated underlings. Various levels of tenants occupy your properties and concern themselves either with making money for you or with breeding your next generation of workers or tenants. They also complain a lot when things don’t suit them, like when they can’t see through the smoke because their house burning down. If you get tired of their nagging, just ask them to step outside, put a bullet in them, and offer the property to a new tenant-no muss, no fuss.
Fixers are versatile fellows who can perform regular maintenance on your properties, take over a rival family’s establishment, move bombs, and let some sunlight into your enemies via the heat they pack. It’s your gangsters, though, that handle the bulk of the rough stuff. Armed at first with only knives, as they gain experience you can purchase them new toys, including pistols and shotguns. Not only do they do hits and tear up other gangs’ property at your bidding, gangsters can also cold-cock wandering wasters and carry them to one of your fine establishments where they’ll wake up and spend their money.
Besides these meat and potatoes characters that you control directly are the more exotic “undesirables,” including thugs, saboteurs, hookers, psychotics, and crooked priests over which you can also exert influence. These characters are spawned simply by building their preferred dwellings. After they move in, you can call in a limited number of favors like arson, bombing, kidnapping, haunting or even a police-distracting striptease.
At first, you can only build a few building types, including a soup kitchen, a drinking den, a cement factory and a gadget factory. This last type is very important because internal and external gadgets help keep tenants happy, rival gangs at bay, and provide one of the keys to upgrading an existing structure to a more valuable and profitable one. If you have an operating soup kitchen that you want to upgrade to a diner for instance, it will require not only concrete, cash and workers, but also an oven from the gadget factory. Other gadgets run the gamut from deluxe beds to increase your tenants’ fertility to subway stops, burglar alarms and even trees to screen illicit activity from police notice. Crank out some buildings, outfit them with appropriate gadgets, and with luck and tenacity you’ll be on your way to becoming a Don.
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