First Look: Omerta – City of Gangsters

By RPS on October 31st, 2012 at 5:00 pm.


We sent Rich Stanton in undercover to find out where all those valuable gangster cliches were coming from. This is his report.

What do you think is the most memorable line in gangster movies? Gabriel Dobrev is the CEO of developer Haemimont Games, and giving us a brief spiel before we get a shot on Omerta: City of Gangsters – he plumps for the the opening of Goodfellas. “As far back as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a gangster.”

It’s a safe bet, I’d say, even a conservative one. And as Omerta shows, that kind of ambition doesn’t get you everything. The screens may make this look like something of an open world, but Omerta’s a more enclosed experience. An overworld of residential and business joints, where you balance the books and expand operations, is mixed with small-scale turn-based combat missions. It’s an unusual combination, but probably a bit too close to the superlative XCOM for comfort.

The overworld’s take on a gangster’s financial life has a couple of smart ideas, the best of which is splitting your cash into two piles – ‘dirty’ and ‘clean’ money. Being a gangster, a lot of your activities bring in the former, so having a backroom operation that can effectively launder cash is key to expanding a somewhat front behind businesses bought legitimately.


The other resources are beer, liquor and firearms, each of which unlock certain strategic options over other properties. Five firearms will let you do a drive-by on a competitor’s business, for example, or ten liquors might be enough to get some information from a loose-tongued informant. Businesses produce these resources, as well as impacting on one another’s effectiveness, so you’re always annoying or pleasing somebody with any actions.

This side of Omerta quickly runs out of steam. Your actions within the overworld are limited by the amount of gangsters you have (starting with one up to a maximum of six) and, even in the brief couple of hours I spent with the game, too much of it felt like waiting – making decisions then just waiting for cooldowns, tapping your fingers, watching the clock. And this kind of thing is what gets you itching to start a fight.

The link between the overworld and the combat is your gangsters, who are carrying out the overworld actions and levelling up through them. In fights you take in up to four of your mobsters, all of whom will have a different weapon and (on levelling) several abilities. The best thing about Omerta is its weapons, even though they’re rather weedy in the effects department. Each has such pronounced differences their wielders are locked into roles, and staggeringly effective in the right scenario. To put it another way, if you’re going indoors take a couple of shotguns.


Characters themselves specialise in certain weapons, and there’s even a melee class that comes complete with a ‘kick to the balls’ special move. This weakens the recipient’s next attack, and become my go-to opener in all battles. Pistols can be used to gutshot foes for five turns of bleeding, dual revolvers can make enemies ‘dance’ and lose moves, or Tommy Guns can spray whole areas and scare the other side.

It’s usually pretty obvious what you’d ideally be doing in any situation, but Omerta’s final little twist is in the order characters move. Each has a stat determining how often they wait between turns, and the overall order’s shown at the top of the screen. It basically means that the Big Man (actual name) might be able to walk into a corridor and blast everyone away in one move, but he’ll also be stuck there for a good long time.

What’s around the weapons and turn-orders are strategy staples, implemented effectively with little fuss; a semi-destructible cover system, hit percentages with too-small number text, movement and action points, familiar stuff. The guns are what makes it feel different, and change-up similar scenarios into new types of battle. One street shootout was a distance affair, won with potshots over multiple turns. Another identical setup had two gangs charging at each other, over more or less instantly.


Despite this solid foundation, however, Omerta doesn’t quite hit the heights. The small team sizes make for relatively fast-paced battles, but shonky camera angles and the basic visual effects can also make them drag. It also feels odd that gangsters don’t die, instead getting wounded or jailed and sitting out for a while. Feels like quite a low-risk occupation.

The game will also ship with a multiplayer mode, not available in this build, which sounds like it’ll be similar to XCOM in operation – building a squad of tweaked presets with limited cash, rather than linking to the singleplayer. There’s no point in bludgeoning Omerta with the comparison in other regards, but it does veer uncomfortably close in several.

The biggest problem, however, isn’t its competition so much as its inspiration. Omerta at the minute has an unspectacular combat system with good ideas, and an overworld that flatters to deceive. A well-crafted aesthetic could give these two elements a little more life and, looking at a February release, the 1920s American gangster scene feels unconvincing.


Gangsters are about business fronts and shootouts, but there’s also a rich foundation to the best mob stories – the personalities and relationships that make everything, then ruin it. My favourite line from Goodfellas is Henry Hill talking over that bucolic jail cell the wiseguys share. “Paulie was doing a year for contempt and had a wonderful system for garlic. He used a razor and sliced it so thin it would liquefy in the pan with a little oil. It’s a very good system.”

This is the kind of dialogue you get in Omerta’s overworld: “The community is starting to open up to you. Still there’s a long way to go before winning the people’s trust. Continue being their benefactor and increase your Liked rating to 40. Only then will we consider you as one of us.” The comparison’s a little unfair, but the point is: who talks to a mob boss like that? Omerta does have its good sides, grant in terms of its theme, and especially if you always wanted to be a gangster, don’t expect Goodfellas.

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36 Comments »

  1. wodin says:

    I’ve been looking forward to how this turns out..but I was worried about the length of the single player game.

  2. Chris D says:

    Shame it seems a bit underwhelming. It’s unusual for games to fix major issues this close to release but here’s hoping they can be one of the exceptions.

  3. Bostec says:

    I had high hopes for this, haven’t had a decent mafia game since Gangsters: Organized Crime and that was what? 10 years ago? I would be happy with the game if it was 90% management , 10% combat, infact have the combat off screen somewhere.

    If someone would make Gangsters: Organized Crime but make it into the mound of say Liberal Crime Squad I would be a happy duckling.

    • CalleX says:

      A new game like Gangsters: Organized Crime need to happen, with ATLEAST the same amount of depth and diversity. This game, and this article focuses on the combat which in my book isnt even half as important as the business and management side(which in this game seems shallow as f**k). I also had high hopes for this game but I´ll pass.

  4. S Jay says:

    One more flop. Will there ever be a good mafia/gangster game?

    • SkittleDiddler says:

      If you’re actually referring to “Mafia Simulation” games, then, no, there will never be a good one and there never has been a good one. However, Mafia II is fan-fucking-tastic, and so is the first Mafia from what I hear.

      • doma says:

        The first Mafia is TONS better compared to M2.

        The realistic cars and weapons made M1 to a rich and immersing exeprience.

        M2 felt like GTA with a Mafia skin.

        Oh and the best simulation game in the mobster genre is this:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gangsters:_Organized_Crime

        Outdated now though. But god damn it was good when it came out.

        • SkittleDiddler says:

          So Mafia II doesn’t have realistic cars and weapons? I must have missed the sections where they forced the player to use laser guns and pilot flying DeLoreans.

          From what I’ve seen, Mafia II is just as immersive as the first one, if not more so. It’s a great game that got a bad rap because it didn’t play exactly like GTA IV. The only similarity between Mafia II and GTA IV is that they’re both third-person city-crawlers.

          • rockman29 says:

            Mafia 1 is still way better than Mafia 2, regardless.

            And yes, Mafia 1 was definitely more hardcore/realistic. No regenerating health, and much more realistic and difficult (if not advanced) driving physics.

          • paddymaxson says:

            It felt a lot like Mafia 2 played worse in terms of gameplay (it was forever forcing be into boring situations where I was forever hiding from about 25 guys). I think that realistically it just felt a bit archaic as a shooter and was no worse than the first game, but the first game wan’t archaic due to having come out quite a long time ago!

            Also; Mafia 2 had a lot of bugs, some of them gamebreaking (My current save is near the end of the game but I can’t be bothered redoing the whole chapter as Joe won’t follow me down the fucking building site, which breaks the game)

            I also preferred Tommy Angelo to Vito Scaletta though.

      • Jimbo says:

        Mafia 2 is good. Mafia 1 is much, much better.

        • SkittleDiddler says:

          I’d like to prove all of you wrong just to be an ass, but apparently Mafia’s publishers have pulled all digital copies from distribution. I should have picked it up when I had a chance. I’ll continue to play Mafia II and pretend it’s a better game.

          • Vercinger says:

            Why the hell are you trying to compare the 2 games when you’ve only played one of them? That doesn’t make any sense.

  5. doma says:

    I was hoping for a remake/sequel to Gangsters: Organized Crime.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gangsters:_Organized_Crime

    That game was a fantastic single player sandbox.

    This seems not to be like that.

    Oh well..

    • Om says:

      I think that Gangsters only looks good in hindsight. At the time it was considered a fairly ho-hum strategy title

      • doma says:

        really?

        I loved it when it came out.

        And it looks kinda clunky now tbh..

        Anyway, a game like that updated to todays standards would be great.

        • belgand says:

          Yeah, I recall the PC Gamer review was very “meh”. That it had some good ideas, but the delivery ended up being sort of tedious and underwhelming.

    • Jimbo says:

      There’s a Gangsters 2, which is available on the Square Enix online store. I only found out it existed the other day, but have played a fair bit of it now – it’s a little different to Gangsters 1, but it’s a better game imo.

      • doma says:

        time-limit missionbased structure is not what I consider better than a open mafia sandbox.

        but different taste I guess :)

        Lets hope we see a G3 some day

  6. Om says:

    Any idea how moddable the game will be?

  7. DarkMalice says:

    As much as it sounds underwhelming, I hope it does well enough to warrant an improved sequel.

  8. The Random One says:

    The XCom comparisons seem warranted, but the game I keep being reminded of is Constructor.

  9. deadly.by.design says:

    Thank you, urbandictionary, for explaining what the term ‘shonky’ meant.

  10. Fumarole says:

    Leave the gun, take the cannoli.

  11. Dimonte says:

    Does anyone else see a Boardwalk Empire in the first screenie? The first actual screenie that is, not the header image.

    • yurusei says:

      This whole game gives me the Boardwalk Empire vibe.

    • Rawrian says:

      Apparently developers watched it, hence Ku Klux Klan.

      • stupid_mcgee says:

        Or because it’s a fact that the Klan had a lot of sway and prevalence back then. People think that the Klan was mainly a post-Civil War thing. The Klan gained later prominence in the 1915′s and was referred to as the Second Klan. There also was another resurgence in the 70′s and early 80′s that was lead by David Duke, which coined the mocking term, “the kindlier, gentler KKK.”

        My Dad has told me about people in his city that everyone openly knew were in the Klan. Those who disagreed with the Klan, often did so in silence. It’s not merely that the Klan was a constant source of intimidation (which they were no longer as easily able to get away with against whites), but that there were very important and prominent people in the Klan. Openly speaking against them and opposing them could mean that you would have a nearly impossible time finding employment.

  12. Slinkyboy says:

    I already knew this game wasn’t going to appeal to me. Thanks for showing us though. Good read.

  13. Rawrian says:

    So eh, is the city actually called Omerta?

  14. Bhazor says:

    I was excited when I first heard about it. A sandbox management sim where you operate inside a city expanding your business and managing the uneasy diplomacy of a Mafia family? Smashing.

    Then I saw the second screenshot. I never asked for this.

    The combat at least sounds interesting but the business/family aspects sound vestigial.

    • stupid_mcgee says:

      Agreed. Seems like a series of hit and misses. The combat sounds interesting, but it all seems very limited in scope. Especially the business/sim aspect, which would be my main draw.

      Actually, if they had just reskinned Tropico4 and changed the perks around, I would have gladly bought that.

      I still would love to one day do a drug kingpin sim where you start small and grow to cartel size. Do you wanna grow marijuana, cook meth, run a crew of stickup men, cut cocaine into crack or just sell the coke? Run fronts, rent houses for your crews and drug production operations, etc. I have it planned out, actually, but I doubt I’ll ever get around to trying to make it, let alone actually ever complete it. :(

  15. Vercinger says:

    I just hope the overworld part of the game gets polished before release. If it can keep me interested, I wouldn’t mind auto-resolving the battles, and would probably forgive any lack of detailed personalities and relationships.