Written by  :  Jim Newland (56)
Written on  :  Jan 11, 2002
Rating  :  3.17 Stars3.17 Stars3.17 Stars3.17 Stars3.17 Stars

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A dumbed down Gangsters.

The Good

Contrary to the advertising on the box, Gangsters 2 is not a sim. It is a game. Gone is the freeform approach of the original. In its place are a series of scripted scenarios played on predrawn, prearranged maps, with hardcoded victory conditions and not a whole lot of room for strategy. Depending on your point of view, this may be a good thing or a bad thing.

In the original Gangsters, gameplay was divided into two sections. There was a planning phase and then a realtime execution phase in which you got to watch your orders being carried out. In Gangsters 2, the planning phase has been eliminated. All orders are given and executed in realtime. What this does, besides "streamlining" gameplay (which is what I imagine the developers were looking to do), is severely limit the number of activities the player can reasonably be expected to oversee and execute. Consequently, the focus is shifted almost completely to your lieutenants, who can each have a maximum of four "cookie cutter"-type sidekicks accompanying him. Send one lieutenant with his four guys to do this, send another lieutenant with his four guys to do that...you get the picture. This is far different from the original game, in which you could pretty much send anyone to do anything. There is an upside, however, in that it's pretty easy with this system to shift a group's activities on a dime, and modify one's plans to fit the moment. The problem is, since the game is scripted and scenario-driven, there are rarely any surprises that you need to modify your plans for. Mostly, such seat-of-the-pants gameplay will involve dealing with (i.e. running from) the cops and interdicting rival gangsters in your territory. This is fun enough as far as it goes, but not nearly as engaging as it should be.

This is supposed to be the section in which I list what I liked about the game, so let me say that the graphics and sound are for the most part quite good, and give a good sense of being immersed in a somewhat too clean northeastern city of the Prohibition era. (That's right. We're not in Chicago anymore, Toto.) Also, the maps are nicer looking and easier to interpret than in the original game, and the interface is necessarily much, much simpler.

The Bad

Gangsters 2 suffers, in my view, from being stripped of everything that made the original interesting. In an attempt to turn it into an action game that will appeal to a less serious crowd, most of the heart of the game has been ripped out and left for dead. In particular, the whole foundation and reason d'etre of organized crime--illegal businesses and illegal profits--has been basically ignored in this game. What's left of it is so rudimentary and braindead in the execution as to be almost insulting. In fact, one gets the distinct impression that the developers were confused in this regard, and wanted to do more, but just quite couldn't figure out how to make it all work within the design parameters they had set for themselves. (There are several screens full of information about businesses that could have easily been omitted from the game, since they're not really used. So why are they there?)

In addition, the oversimplified gang organization, or more specifically the lack of any ability to organize your gang as you see fit, also grates. You get up to eight teams of five goons each and that's it. Similarly, the number of actions your groups are able to perform is extremely limited and dictated by the scenario designer. You're basically told which actions any particular lieutenant can perform in the scenario by the presence or absence of a corresponding button on the screen. If one has a "bomb" button, for instance, then he can bomb. If he doesn't, he can't. Moreover, since the game utilizes scripted scenarios and prerolled characters, a guy with the bombing ability will generally only show up when the scenario calls for something to be bombed. This turns Gangsters 2 into even more of a "what did the scenario designer want me to do" puzzle-solving exercise than it might have otherwise been.

Lastly, the inclusion of "specialty" characters to run your businesses and whatnot leaves me scratching my head. The execution of this aspect of the game is so simplistic that I wonder why it was even included at all.

The Bottom Line

Gangsters 2 is far more a Grand Theft Auto wannabe than a simulation of mob life. For the crowd that likes that sort of thing, then there's some fun to be had, as it is undeniably thrilling to carry out vicarious drive-by shootings, bombings, torchings, etc. However, for those who are looking for more of what they got in the original Gangsters simulation, this is not the place to look.