Crime-themed games, which let you embrace your inner thug, are all the rage on PCs and consoles, but they rarely make it to the Mac. Perhaps that’s just as well, if Virtual Programming’s tepid Gangland is any indication of what we can expect from such games.
On the surface, Gangland sounds as though it should be fun—assuming your tastes run towards sociopathy. The game follows the story of a newly arrived Mafioso from Sicily, who has been sent to apprentice under his uncle Vincenzo. As an up and coming hood in Paradise City (where the grass is green and the girls are pretty, or so Axl Rose tells me), you’re allowed to extort, vandalize, terrorize, and generally act like a cretin as you try to make the family money. Uncle Vincenzo gives you orders, at least in the early stages of the game. These range from extorting ammo from a gun dealer, to shaking down a business owner, to shutting up the stool pigeon. If this plot sounds like a bad imitation of a Mario Puzo novel, you’re right on target.
The game is a mix of role playing, real-time strategy, and third-person action. Unfortunately, the game is extremely linear; there’s not much variation to the missions you’re given. The real-time strategy element comes in play as you manage resources such as personnel—a.k.a. henchmen—to help with your dirty work. To do that, you’ll need to take over restaurants in the area. The more restaurants you control, the more people you have at your disposal. Want guns and ammo? Strong-arm the guys who run the gun shops. Paradise City encourages entrepreneurially minded goombahs to put their best wingtip forward in this brave new world of opportunity.
Sadly, the AI that controls your henchmen is ridiculously underdeveloped. My hired guns waded right into the middle of a gunfight as if nothing was happening, took as much damage as they could manage, and then keeled over dead. Yeah, real helpful.
The game’s 3-D environment comes in handy during gunfights; you can crouch and hide behind furniture, walls, vehicles and other obstructions. But be warned—it’s easy to tick off the regular civilians of Paradise City. More than once, I found myself getting into gunfights with regular Joes and Janes just walking down the street.
The game’s 3-D graphics look okay. You can tweak a variety of graphics options—including resolution, levels of details, and more—to improve performance on your machine (the game requires an 800MHz G3 or faster). The game also offers a multiplayer component. However, I couldn’t find a single player online.
All of this low-rent Godfather tomfoolery might be tolerable—even enjoyable—if there was a reasonable hint of humor or irony attached to it. But this game too often tips over into the macabre or comes across as just plain stupid. For example, one victim looks down and wonders out loud if this is his blood pooling at his feet. To make matters worse, the voice acting that accompanies the game is laughably bad, if not outright offensive to Italian Americans.
Virtual Programming is a UK-based game publisher. If you’re interested in the game, you can purchase and download it directly from Virtual Programming’s site. This means you won’t have to wait weeks for a box to arrive from England.
The bottom line
Gangland is a competent port of a mediocre, if not downright bad game.
PROS: Interesting combination of genres.
CONS: A dearth of online players; ridiculous dialogue; bad AI.
PRICE: £30 ($53 at press time)
OS X COMPATIBILITY: 10.2, 10.3, 10.4
COMPANY: Virtual Programming