Review by Chocobahn

"Ever want run an criminal empire? Here is your chance."

Ever wonder what's it like to lead a family? No, not those kind of family, with wife and kids and a mortgage. I am talking about the Godfather kind of family, with thugs and mobs and guns and all. In Gangsters, you are the head of a criminal family that exists in the 1920's Chicago-style city. There are other families just like yours who want to take control of the city. Your objective is to lead your pack of gangsters to the top of the food chain and crush anyone who gets in your way.

Gameplay

Gangsters provides quite a deep gameplay, despite it being a turn based game. Basically, at the start of each week or each turn, if you like, you issue commands to your underlings, from collecting protection money, recruiting more hoods to something more sinister like extortion or even murder. You do all that on a 2D map of the city.

Once the command has been issued, your hoods will diligently carry out your orders during the week. You can see how the hoods are doing in separate 3D isometric views and to some degree, adjust the orders based on the situation.

At the end of the week, you are given a report of the outcome and plan your next week.

Even though each game is different, you will follow a similar strategy. In the beginning, resource gathering is of utmost important, be it new hoods or money. Without both, your livelihood as a gang is at stake. Hoods you can get from the local hangouts like the gym or pool halls. You do not really have much choice in being choosy. You basically have to recruit anyone that you can find. The easiest way to get money is to collect protection money. To do that will expand your territory.

As you expand your area of influence, you will inevitably stumble across those businesses that are already paying protection money to a rival gang, and are much less than willing to pay you. And it is here that the game gets interesting. You can try to 'persuade' the business owner to join you. If that fails, you can intimidate, extort or even just kill them.

But keep in mind that none of these options have a 100% guarantee success. There are cops patrolling the city, FBI that wants to put your ass in jail, not to mention rival gang who would love to see your demise.

Now is the time to mix and match your hoodlums. Each hood has his own attribute that he is good at. Some might be good at persuasion, some are good at running business while some are good at using firearms. You should now assign tasks that suit your mobsters. Give everyone good at firearms a gun, a car and send them out to kill rival gang members, or set up a business (legit or otherwise) and assign it to someone who knows what he's doing, and you will reap some great financial rewards.

There are many other things that you can do in Gangsters. Put cops on payroll, and they might look the other way when you collect protection money. But don't expect them to just let you be should you commit major crimes, like blowing up buildings. FBI and rival gangs alike will be on your ass all day, everyday. So you have to keep your headquarters secure.

As the game lingers on, you will want to rely less on protection money, and more on your own business. Setting up shop fronts is a great way to hide whatever illegal businesses you have at the back, be it underground casinos or moonshines.

You are just as likely to take over your rival's territory as they are taking yours. So it is not just about expanding your territory, but also patrolling it and protecting it. Inevitably, it is not a matter of 'if', but 'when' you will end up in a gang war, possibly against all of them at once. And then the city will turn into chaos, as each gang jostles for power. You will use whichever violent means you have at your disposal to eliminate your enemies off the map, literally. Predictably, some of your hoods will get arrested or otherwise incapacitated. So you will have to constantly find new recruits.

For the most of the game, you will be busy assigning tasks to gangsters, checking out on things that didn't get done over the past week because your underlings ran out of time, or figuring out a way to expand your boundary of influence. It has a deep gameplay, but unfortunately, it is not supported by the interface.

And it is here that Gangsters falls. The interface is convoluted with controls. There is no easy ways to find something quickly, and the tutorial only covers the basics. It is up to you, the player, to discover most of its deeper functions. The controls can be overwhelming for beginners, but once you understand the interface and the underlying mechanics, you will find a deep, functional game that has a lot to offer.

Graphics

Gangsters has some of the better graphics on the PC. The city is filled with detailed buildings, as well as cars running on the roads, and people walking along the side walks. The people are dressed appropriately. So are the cars designed to reflect the era.

The overhead map, on the other hand, is filled with blocks of land covered with standardised rooftops that signify the type of buildings such as businesses and factories. The map is overlayed with icons that provide useful information. Unfortunately, this is where you will spend most of your time, plotting your next evil plan.

The action is smooth and the explosion is quite a sight to behold.

Sound

The game unfortunately lacks music, which would have added a lot of value to it. Sound effects are decent. You can hear the cars, and gangsters killing each other, and building getting demolished forcefully. There is nothing to get excited about the sound.

Replay value

Despite the deep gameplay, it is actually hard to justify replaying the game within a short period of time. To finish a game takes patience and careful planning. Unfortunately, each game follows more or less the same strategy. Recruit hoods, expand territory, setup business, run some illegal activates, kill some cops, blow some buildings up, kill off rival gangs, etc. The premises of the game remain the same each and every time.

It already takes long enough to finish one game. It is best to leave the game and play something else for a while before engaging it the second time. Otherwise, it will feel repetitive.

Overall

Gangsters is a fun strategy game that allows players with the freedom to do many things that they would not think of doing in the real world. It might be many years now since its release, but it hasn't lost its charm. Grand Theft Auto might be the best game around in regards to the subject matter, but there is no other game that allows you to run an entire criminal empire.

There are issues with the interface, but generally speaking, Gangsters runs smoothly, the gameplay is engaging, though somewhat repetitive, and the graphics is great considering its age. It is a good game, and one that you would want to play once in a while.

Good:

* Good graphics
* Engaging gameplay

Bad:

* Lack of sound / music
* Interface problems

Score (out of 10)

Gameplay: 7
Graphics: 8
Sound: 3
Replay: 6

Overall: 7


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 03/25/09

Game Release: Gangsters (US, 11/30/98)


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