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Chicago 1930 PC CD-ROM Official Website

Published by Wanadoo
Developed by Spellbound
Released - February 2004 (UK)
Price : £29.99

Despite their brutality and atrocities, there sees to be a never ending attraction for books, films and games based on gangsters and the mafia. Whilst you could probably reel off a long line of successful gangster films the same can not be said for games. Games based on gangsters have produced very mixed results. Without a doubt the best gangster based game to date was Mafia, which was exceptional, but other titles, such as the Gangsters games were at best mediocre affairs and were not anything to get excited about. The latest gangster game to arrive is Chicago 1930 which is due for release in February.

The action, as you can tell from the title, is set in Chicago in the aftermath of prohibition. You get a choice of playing either the mafia (set in 1928) or the police (1930). In total there are 20 missions to be played and you have a choice of three difficulty levels. Playing on the easy difficulty setting is just right for beginners, whilst the hard difficulty setting provides plenty of challenge and is a real test of patience and good timing. Should you choose to play as the mafia you'll be put into the shoes of Jack Beretto who is in the employment of Don Falcone. The mafia campaign begins with Hank O'Neil owning most of the city. Your job is to help Don Falcone take O'Neil's share. To do this you'll have the help of skilled mob members, although initially you'll be on your own as you attempt to take control of the Palace hotel. Should you choose the police campaign you'll control Edward Nash and you'll begin the game in 1930 with Chicago now in the full grasp of Don Falcone. Your task is to remove Falcone and clean up the city.

Chicago 1930 is a strategy game in a similar style to the Commandos games. This is, in my opinion, a great genre for gangster action as it makes for an immersive experience. If there was a criticism of the Gangsters games it was that you never felt in control as it was a case of planning your actions and then simply watching events unfold. Spellbound have already created a game of this nature in the shape of Desperados Wanted Dead or Alive, which was a very good game. Spellbound have added a couple of new aspects to the gameplay with Chicago 1930. You can activate a slow motion mode to help you co-ordinate complicated attacks or sort out a troublesome mess (this isn't unlimited though and an onscreen watch shows how much slow motion time you have left), which is a worthwhile addition.

You'll also find that an RPG flavour has been added to the game with each of your team members having ratings for shooting, close combat, throwing, first aid and charisma. Charisma allows your character to assess the attitude of another character but in addition for a police officer, it allows him to get more info from a witness. Occasionally you'll get the chance to upgrade members of your team by collecting the upgrade objects within a mission. As well as these ratings, the characters will also have an area in which they are especially talented. A character can have a +2 discretion or a +1 for the use of a Tommy gun. This is a nice touch and the game never leaves you in any doubt which member of your team is skilled with a particular weapon. You'll never be prohibited from any team members using certain weapons either, which is often a problem with games of this nature.

At the beginning of the game you'll have access to only a few weapons. You can increase the amount and variety of the weapons on offer by capturing an armoury. In fact there are various types of buildings in Chicago 1930 and capturing them will give you certain advantages. We've just mentioned the armoury, but there is also the police station and the speakeasy which makes it easier to recruit men, the court which will shorten the length of time spent in jail, the newspaper which will increase your popularity (having men killed in a mission decreases popularity) and the sports club which allows you to upgrade your men's skills.

With all these innovations it seems like Chicago 1930 should be the ultimate game of this style. Whilst it is a very enjoyable game though there are a few things that could have been done better. Personally I would have liked the ability to move the camera. Most of the time there are no problems with the fixed isometric view but occasionally you don't get a clear view of what's going on. I've also noticed that it's possible for a character, who you've just knocked out to fall across an open doorway and more often than not it's impossible to interact with them (to tie them up or drag them away etc.). It also seems strange that no enemy view cone has been used in the game but this isn't as big a problem as you would imagine. I would have also liked to see an automatic setup option when it comes to picking a team for a mission (like you have in Hidden & Dangerous) as this would help speed up the process. Chicago 1930 is a single player only game, which is not necessarily a bad thing but it would have been good to have seen a multiplayer mode, even if it was simply an option to play co-operatively. These are not massive issues though and the game is still very enjoyable.

Graphically Chicago 1930 retains the isometric viewpoint that has been used to good effect in games of this style. You can play in either 800x600 or 1024x768 screen resolution but there is not a 1280x1024 option, which is as you know is the native resolution of the increasingly popular 17" TFTs. On the whole the graphics look good and even on a fairly low specification PC it performs very nicely. The blurring and film reel effect used in the slow motion mode looks good and gives the game a distinctive look.

Most of the content in Chicago 1930 is shown in text so there are no real problems for deaf gamers. The occasional comments from the characters are not subtitled but these are not important. You can access your mission objectives and previous text (found in your diary) by pressing the escape key. Chicago 1930 uses a fair amount of icons (placed over the character's head) to tell you the attitude of your enemies. A green smiley face for instance shows you that the character will not attack, a blue face tells you that the character will run if confronted and a red face face means that the character will even pursue you if you're spotted. Other symbols such as the eye icon denote that the character is a witness and can prove invaluable to a police officer. The only improvement for deaf gamers, aside from everything being subtitled, would have been some kind of noise ripple or other visual indication of how much noise your character is making because after all stealth is a key part of the game.

If you're a fan of the Commandos style games it's virtually assured you're going to appreciate what Chicago 1930 has to offer. The lack of a multiplayer element is a shame though as it would have provided more replay value and most games of this nature have a co-operative play option. Still Chicago 1930 is enjoyable and it's certainly one of the better gangster games to date.

Overall Game Rating: 7.9/10
It's an enjoyable single player experience that fans of Commandos style games should appreciate. Shame there aren't any multiplayer options though.

Deaf Gamers comment:
Some of the character comments aren't subtitled but otherwise there are no problems for deaf gamers.