Last year's XCOM: Enemy Unknown brought action turn-based strategy to console gamers with style, polish and commercial success. Omerta tries the same fusion of top-level strategic oversight, with individual skirmishes resolved in a turn-based game of battle chess. Sadly, the style and polish here are noticeable only by the buttock imprints on the chairs where they're no longer sitting.
Omerta's levels are self-contained mini-stories on ugly, unchanging maps. As your empire grows, all that changes is the icon above the buildings. Warehouses can be raided, shops supplied or shut down, and there's a range of venues designed to convert one thing into another: breweries create beer; speakeasies convert beer into money; pharmacies convert spirits into clean money.
We're used to a little smoke and mirrors with our resource management, but this feels too much like a heavily illustrated Excel spreadsheet. And how exactly does a pizza parlour make people afraid of you? What the hell is on those pizzas?
New locations are opened up by bribing informants, but the mini-map's light on info, forcing you to scour the streets with your camera, hunting for points of interest. The majority of time here is spent waiting: for money to accumulate, jobs to finish, life to end.
The turn-based skirmish sequences aren't on an obvious grid like XCOM, which might sound more realistic, but it's executed so fluffily that it comes off as fussy and imprecise. Trying to take cover requires fully zoomed-in pinpoint precision, and an accidental tap of LB could end your turn suicidally. The selection of attacks is underwhelming, and while it's possible to unlock extra moves for each character, the process is so over-long and illogical we could barely be bothered to try.
The paper-thin strategy, piss-weak story, and miserable appearance are compounded by an insulting lack of polish. After an hour's play, the audio regularly starts skipping, and menus mysteriously deselect themselves. Night maps are far too dark, and high buildings block your view. Simple problems haven't been fixed, suggesting real issues with QA.
It's a shock that this game was made by the creators of the far superior Tropico series. The inclusion of an "it's-a me, Mario!" joke is just the killing blow.
Tonight, Mafia, I'm going to be pretty rubbish
- It occupies a great genre
- Ugly to see with eyes
- Broken music loops
- Redundant sandbox mode
- Nonsensical storylines