Genre: Real-Time Strategy
Gangland, the long anticipated RTS from Whiptail Interactive, is finally seeing release. The game promised a huge, open-ended game universe, action-oriented RTS gameplay and the ability to control many aspects of the Mafioso universe. However, the game falls short of the mark and many flaws prevent the game from living up to its potential. The game’s take on the “gangster game” subgenre is appreciated, although there are better offerings (as well as better RTS games).
Gangland puts you in the shoes of Mario Mangano, an immigrant from Sicily on a mission of revenge. It seems that three of your brothers murdered a fourth and then fled to Paradise City to make their mark on the crime underworld. You come to Paradise City to work under your uncle Vincenzo, find and kill your murderous brothers and build up your own criminal empire.
The first missions in the game are pretty standard RTS fare. In the first mission, you gain control of Mario and another henchman as you go around and collect extortion money from nearby businesses. These missions are randomly eventful, as sometimes you can complete these without a hitch and other times the thugs at the businesses will open fire on you, forcing you to kill them off. As the game progresses, you gain the ability to hire more and more henchmen, thus giving you a source of troops to complete the more intense missions in the game (as in when you have to kill off other mob bosses and so forth). The missions get harder and more complex as the game moves along, often requiring you to use resources like cars in order to complete them. Eventually, as you begin to gain control of the mob and its resources, the game will take more of a shift to the simulation aspects, requiring you to run your mob as you would any business, by taking over other businesses. In another strange gameplay twist, you can get a wife and have children (who can then go on to work in your business as they grow up).
In theory, Gangland’s blend of RTS, action and simulation should make for a pretty compelling game. However, there are too many issues to be overlooked. The difficulty level is far too unbalanced, thrusting you into mob boss fights and very tough missions a bit too early in the game. All of the different game elements aren’t very balanced and things (like setting up your own mob family, taking on a wife, etc.) become more of nuisance then a real help to your situation.
The combat system is also a bit of a pain. The firefights are fast and frantic, but can also be a little frustrating since you often cannot move your henchmen to proper coverage to keep them out of the line of fire fast enough. The police AI is also pretty erratic, sometimes attacking you for no reason and other times letting you be, making it a very annoying element of the gun battles. Another problem is the lack of a save feature within the missions. While a patch is in the works to address this issue, as it stands at the moment, you can only save the game between missions.
The graphics in Gangland are pretty impressive, and contain the level of detail and polish that the gameplay really needed to shine. Paradise City is a huge place, and the level of detail in the city is excellent. The characters are well animated, and although not terribly detailed are still comparable to similar titles in the genre like WarCraft III.
The sound in Gangland is a bit of a hit and miss. There is some limited voice acting, which is well done for the most part. The music however is a strange blend of rock and techno and seems out of place in a mobster game.
Gangland had a lot going for it. However, the end product fell short of expectations and ended up having too many glaring flaws to be a truly great game. If you are looking for a great mafia game on the PC, well, get Mafia. However, if you’ve already played through Mafia and would like to try an RTS/action/sim hybrid set in a huge mafia universe, then Gangland is your safest (and only) bet.
System: 600MHz P3 or Athlon or equivalent
RAM: 128 MB
Video Memory: 32 MB
Hard Drive Space: 1000 MB
Other: 56K modem for online