The videogame market is rife with copycats, and always has been. It would be impossible to count the number of Pac-Man clones released in the Atari era, or games that looked and smelt like Space Invaders. EA acquired the Godfather license; Vivendi went and got Scarface. THQ followed suit, bringing home The Sopranos. But should you really settle for the third pick of the mafia licenses?
The only thing we knew about this game before slipping it into our PlayStation 2 was that it had been developed by 7 Studios, who last worked on the scurvy-ridden Pirates of the Caribbean game for Ubisoft and Activision’s not-very-fantastic Fantastic Four game before that. So our expectations were low to begin with, but in all fairness this isn’t an awful game. It looks okay – if a little low resolution and blurry – and it sports a licensed soundtrack used in wise moderation. The problem is that it’s as linear as a thirty centimetre ruler, and can be finished in around four hours.
The plot is set between the fifth and sixth seasons of the TV series, and involves Joey LaRocca, a petty handbag thief new to the Italian American mafia community. The cut-scenes are full of witty one-liners and the voice acting is superb, which is no surprise given that majority of the show’s cast was involved. And that’s certainly a good thing, as most of the game is made up of cut-scenes.
The rest goes a bit like this: you talk to someone, they tell you to go and talk to someone else, then they tell you to find some guy and give him a beating. Then you’re taken back to the Bada Bing lap dance club to do it all over again. Or take a break and play a bit of poker, if you fancy.
Nobody is safe from Joey’s fists – drunks, pimps, tramps, old men, bodybuilders – everybody gets whacked if needs be. Often we were left wondering why on Earth we had to exchange punches with some guy who hadn’t done anything wrong. Which is probably why we aren’t in the mafia.
You can grapple and perform special moves – such as twisting your victim’s crown jewels by rotating the analogue stick – and there are context sensitive attacks, like sticking a head inside a washing machine then kicking the door. Weapons can be picked up, but they all have pretty much the same effect whether it’s a dumbbell or a vacuum cleaner.
It’s all held together with a paper-thin respect system. During certain conversations you’re able to choose to reply in tough, negative or smooth tones. If you’re being called a “fuckin’ ass wipe” and given hassle then obviously acting tough is the right thing to do. If you’re just being offered you a nice easy job, then it’s best to act all smooth and grateful. It’s common sense, really. The easiest way to loose respect is to use guns in public places, but you can always buy respect back by ‘donating’ money to the Soprano family, via envelopes dotted around the lap dance bar.
If you’re a fan of the show then you’ll probably want to finish it at least once just to enjoy the storyline, vocal talent and liberal use of the f-word. Otherwise buy one of the Sopranos DVD box sets, which are both cheaper and longer lasting.