Review By: Gabriel Strange | Posted: 28/02/2004
The Final Word
A good Idea Impliemented badly
When I first read about this game I was looking forward to reviewing it, I begged and begged to get the review copy from GX. I remember the previous games Desperados and Robin Hood with a warm feeling. The addiction of Desperados kept me entrained for weeks, so much so I played the game three times in a row. So as you can imagine when I heard about this game coming out from the same studio I was expecting a master piece. I will remember next time I review a game, don't expect anything from it, as usually your best hopes are dashed and your worse fears confirmed.
Similar in game play to the previous games, however lacking many of the unique features of Desperados and Robin Hood. Chicago 1930, seems to have lost a lot of what made playing these games fun. It gained many bad points, like the glitchy system that on many occasions won't register the mouse click. Even more so when trying to flee for perusing enemies, you need to double click to run, and when it only registers one of the clicks, your men seem to just wander away form hordes with guns.
Other aspects aren't implemented as well in Chicago 1930, the hiding in shadows is not as functional as in Desperados. When shooting an enemy with a pistol at point blank, with your skill maxed, you should kill them, not waste six bullets missing. This is a double whammy of disappointment when the enemy can kill you at range in one shot.
On the subject of shooting, one of the features so useful that made Desperados a good strategy game was the ability to position men so that while your not directly controlling them they will still shoot any enemy they see. This is either missing or not well documented. The pain in the arse of it is, that if you leave one man in hiding and the enemy spots him, the first sign you get that he has been spotted is when his death.
Another feature the developers chose to put in to he game, was the AI (Artificial Idiocy), a feature where by your own men have a tendency to shoot their team mates in the back of the head. This is most infuriating, because of the unbalanced combat you have to walk around in a group to survive; your own men become your worst enemy.
Another pet hate rapidly came to the surface, the opening of doors, you have a gun in hand and you suspect there's men waiting for you on the other side, so you would naturally kick open the door and keep your gun in hand. Not in Chicago 1930, nope, your men have a habit of putting their guns away opening the door and then having to draw them again. Well that's what the sprites seem to be doing.
The slow-mo mode can be useful also it can be really irritating, designed to make combat a little more playable, it only helps because you cannot click fast enough to react. However it can be tedious and annoying at times when you have to wait long times for your character to actually do something. The default shortcut key for slow-mo is [SPACE] you end up hitting it on and off constantly so you don't have to wait for the character to react, remember when in combat only use slow-mo to give new orders to your men.
The path finding leaves something to be desired, it great over long distances but on occasions over short distances you tend to get stuck on objects. Plus one of the good points of the previous games was the mini map, a sad departure of this feature leaves you rampantly clicking and hoping you can get you man away in time. The only in game map is on the Escape menu, which is no use in the heat of battle.
If the strategy and game play were improved drastically, then this game would be a lot more enjoyable. I kept finding my self shouting at the computer and screaming every time my men would walk away form battle rather than run, or it took me twelve shots to kill a man at close range, when they kill me in one shot. All I could think of was while playing was I might dig out Desperados and play that again.
The game graphics are up to the usual standard for this type of game, though using a 2D standard of graphics, may seem old in this day and age, what with 3D everything. It helps with this strategy game, if it was made 3D then it would probably like Splinter Cell or the many 3D shooters out their. It's good to be different, and strategy games tend to work quite will with the 2D format.
I think the only problem with the graphics I found was that overall many of the levels were just too cluttered and to dark. This made finding object and moving around the level a pain, as you could not see where you are going and who you are shooting at. At least in Desperados there's the ability to highlight the enemy when your cursor was over it. This made things a little better. But it's a sadly missed feature in Chicago 1930.
Before you even get in to the game turn the music off, not just quiet, off completely. The tune it plays all the way through the game is enough to drive you insane. The same four bars of music, which all sound similar, repeated over an over again. It just drives you nuts.
One other thing that annoyed the hell out of me was much of the dialogue was just text, at least they could have gotten someone to do a half decent voice over. But nope all you get is text, which tends to be a bit jarring and you cannot get immersed in the game. As it goes from dark and moody to bright greens, at least if they needed text dialogue they could have put it in a smaller window or made the colours less jarring. Or better still paid some guy a few hundred bucks to do the dialogue.
What has gone before?
Desperados, was to me a game that everyone who liked a good character driven strategy game should own. The characterisation, plot and depth of the game just pulled you in. Though the game was fairly linear, you still had complete control within the level. Everything about Desperados screamed a good game with a lot of planning and forethought.
When it came to Chicago 1930, they seem to have dropped all the characterisation and most of the in depth plot. So now you really don't care if your men die or your character gets shot. You cannot even get the feeling that the character is anything but a bunch of pixels floating on the screen. To me it seems that each level was constructed with its own little plot, but the not as part of the overall plot. So the levels never really tie together, and there is not drive or urge to continue like in Desperados.
Robin Hood: The Legend of Sherwood, held many of the aspects of Desperados and expanded on the strategy element, by being able to improve your teams stats and gain the use of henchmen. It also kept much of the characterisation, which was also prevalent in Desperados. Robin Hood, seemed to merge most of the good parts of Desperados with new elements to make a fun and enjoyable game.
What were then thinking then with Chicago 1930, no good characterisation, even cutting down the strategy of Robin Hood. If they had spent another 6-12 months on this game they could have made a game to compare with the other gangster games on the market, like Mafia.
Disappointment all around with this game, many good ideas just badly implemented, with nothing to actually draw you in to the plot, you don't really care if you get to the next level. In my eye a game is like a good novel, it needs to treat each level like a chapter, and each chapter has to be part of the whole but needs to keep you playing. Good characters an in-depth plot and many links between the chapters helps. Be sadly Chicago 1930 fails on all these counts. This coupled with the appalling and unbalanced game play makes this a bum deal.
We can only hope that they do a patch which at least balances out the game play and removes some of the glitches. Still though buying a game and having to get a patch to make it fun is not way to run a games studio. The only thing I can say is 'was this game beta tested' and if it was, 'did they actually listen to the testers.'
I'll give this game a slightly higher rating that it deserves because some of the problems can be sorted out in a patch.