Whiptail Interactive’s Gangland combines aspects of simulation, RPG and RTS. Stores are full of “mobster/crime” style games, so, clearly, it is essential to create a unique and fun experience if you want to topple GTA, Hitman or any of the other titles dominating this genre. Does Gangland present enough of a new experience to secure its place in your rotation? Read on and decide for yourself.StoryWelcome to Gangland. You play Mario, one of 5 Sicilian brothers. Your uncle, Vincenzo, lives in Paradise City, America. Coincidentally, three of your bothers, Romano, Angelo and Sonny, also live in the land of opportunity, each having fled Sicily shortly after their brother Chico was found shot to death.Initially you are in the employ of Uncle Vincenzo, carrying out various tasks to show your loyalty to the family. As you progress, it becomes apparent that someone in the family is a traitor, and you want to eliminate that person from the gene pool. After a short stint in the employ of your uncle, you venture out on your own and establish a firm foothold in Paradise City. Will you find out who killed your brother?GameplayThe gameplay in Gangland is very easy to understand. You have the option of three difficulty levels, easy, normal and hard, as you begin with Mario and one or two mercenaries in each mission. RTS fans should feel at home with the interface. Click and drag a box to select multiple units or click on one individual unit. Groups may be a*igned with a “cntrl-#” combination and units can belong to multiple groups. In later missions, you can earn or purchase a variety of vehicles to use for speedier transport around the city.Gangland features a story-driven single player mode and two multiplayer modes. Each single player level in Gangland contains specific objectives, generally requiring you to kill particular individuals, sometimes within a set time. Although you have some freedom as to how you will accomplish this task, you must complete major objectives in order. Most levels have multiple objectives embedded in the mission.Multiplayer games are either conquest or shootout. Conquest is similar to the single player missions, except the goal is to take over the town before another player does. This is where the RTS aspect of the game really shows itself. Although I often find RTS games online to be somewhat stale and unbalanced, Gangland is not. I am not sure that I will be playing this in multiplayer for very long, but, at this point, it really is fun.Gangland’s single player campaign features 16 Conquest missions and 12 Challenges. Conquests make up the main story line while Challenges serve to unlock one new mercenary, specific to that challenge. Conquest missions last from about 30 minutes to several hours depending on how goal oriented you are. Once you set out on your own, you have the option of trying to dominate maps by taking over businesses and killing enemies. If you hold off on pursuing your main objective, usually a specific hit, you will continue to accrue resources and that will make your final objective easier to complete. The only time this strategy will not work is if you have a time limit for completing your objective.In addition to killing, Mario can, and in some missions is required to, marry and have children. Once he has a safehouse, which can be taken from another boss or may be given at the start of a mission, Mario simply needs to find a suitable woman to marry, go to the church, and then return home. Shortly thereafter, junior will be born. This “sim” aspect of the game is limited, but adds some freshness to a potentially one-dimensional game.Challenge missions are very straightforward. You have a small group of mercenaries and limited ammunition. Ammunition and health packs are scattered around each map and your goals are clearly indicated. Unfortunately, there are usually many people trying to force you to fail. You also have a very limited amount of time to complete your goal. I was usually left with 2 minutes or less in my challenges. The result of the challenge is a new type of mercenary, some of which are very useful in campaign mode.Level DesignThe levels in Gangland are generic looking with repetitive textures and cookie-cutter buildings. Every ammunition shop looks the same and every bistro is like all the others. Except for a colored highlight on the map indicating who “owns” a specific building or business, there is no way to distinguish one area from another. This is not only disappointing, it can become very confusing if you are trying to revisit a specific location and you are not quite sure where it was.The AI in Gangland is one-dimensional. Each character acts based on what they look like. For example, all large men are bouncers and each shop owner is a short, cowardly, bald man. The streets are populated with unusually violent inhabitants, many of whom will fire upon you for no apparent reason and often when time is not on your side. Although this adds to the adrenaline factor of the game, I felt it was too intense and frustrating in the end, diminishing the “fun.”Multiplayer is available and this game is well suited to it. Since you do not have the ability to pause for strategy, Gangland actually has its deathmatch-type moments. Up to 8 players can compete via the internet or on LAN. Games were hard to find, but I a*ume that is because the game has not been available for very long. Considering the number of hours the single player campaign takes, I think it may be a while before there is a large multiplayer population.ControlAs stated previously, controlling characters in Gangland is similar to most RTS games. Select a unit or units and right click where you want them to move. Subsequently, selecting an enemy unit will result in an attack. Select a vehicle and you will enter. Driving vehicles is achieved with the WASD keys and is very straightforward. Unfortunately, there is a “force field” along each curb, so you may spend a lot of time scraping the side of your car on an invisible wall.Each character has specific weapon abilities. Better weapons can be purchased at ammunition shops owned by the player. Three basic bullet types are available and selecting different types is a mouse click away. Medical packs can be consumed to heal bullet wounds, although healing is not instantaneous.Mario, or any other player-controlled boss, can execute business decisions if he is seated in his chair in the safehouse. Enough side requests can be made to keep you busy for hours if you so desire. Bosses are also the only character that can actively take over a business.TechnicalThe graphics in Gangland are good, but nothing more. Textures are repetitive; I think more of an effort could have been made to provide a different look to sections of the town. Each unit is animated identically, so, at times, each person on the screen may appear to be in perfect synchronization with similar units. The graphics are clean. The only problems I experienced were while driving vehicles. When my car moved down the street, the scenery animation was jerky. Fortunately, this was infrequent.The sound in Gangland is mediocre. The music is appropriate to the title and ambient sounds are present. There is so much gunfire throughout the game, however, that sound quality is not an aspect that one will have much time to focus on.The biggest problem I had in the game was the inability to save in the middle of campaigns. This is supposed to be fixed in a future patch, but, as it stands now, it is a frustrating limitation. Given that I experienced three crashes (not a terrible number) while playing the game and had to restart missions I had spent at least 30 minutes on, I feel that a complaint is warranted.Final WordGangland is a good title in a very popular genre. If you have had your fill of GTA, Hitman and Mafia, you may wish to give this one a try. Although it does not shine in any area, it is a solid title with a lot of playtime built in. A competent story, challenging gameplay and a good blend of several genres make it a game that should please the crime-game fan. If you enjoy the multiplayer aspect, it may have the potential to be in your “now playing” rotation for some time.
Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.