Leave the game, take the cannoli

PS2 mafia game ‘Made Man’ takes the fun outta crime as players shoot for the Don

by Matt Graham

It’s gettin’ friggin’ tough to be a gangster. Back in the old days, we ran things – shipping, unions, gambling, you name it. We even told the cops and the judges what to do. As long as everybody was gettin’ their cut, there wasn’t nothin’ to worry about.

But now, Madonn’, the Feds are getting all “CSI” on Our Thing, with RICO and the DNA testing. And guys got no honor any more; they’re breaking omert and going into witness protection, like that S.O.B. Henry Hill.

Speaking of Mr. “Goodfellas,” at least we still got the media. Copolla, Scorcese, those Italian boys made their names off us. The American people, they let their government toss us behind bars without thinkin’ twice, but then they lap up anything with our names on it, act like they can identify with us or somethin’, like they know what The Life’s all about.

I suppose that’s why Aspyr Media released the game “Made Man” – to try and cash in on the craze before it goes the way of America’s love affair with Cowboys and Indians, and the public tosses us out like last week’s goomah. It sure wasn’t so we could have fun playing a videogame. Hell, I been messin’ around with the thing for a week, and I still can’t get the damn camera system to work right.

The game’s kinda like “Grand Theft Auto,” but it tries to be a lil’ bit more real, not so cartoony. They brought in David Fisher to help design the thing. Fisher’s a journalist who’s made a career of writing books about Our Thing working with folks like the real life Donnie Brasco (if I found that FBI pucchiacha, you better believe I’d give ’em the Mo Green Special, if ya catch my drift).

Fisher worked to make each level in the game match with a real mob rank. You play as a button man named Joey Verone, starting in the early ’70s, right at the end of the Golden Age, just before government started really crackin’ down on us. The story follows Joey as he rises up the ranks over the decades, workin’ to become a made guy. There’s also some pretty cool ‘Nam flashbacks where you get to go back and duke it out with Charlie.

They did their damndest to make the thing authentic, sending Joey on missions to highjack cigarette trucks for buttlegging, mundane shit like that. Y’know, people don’t realize this, but the day-to-day life in Our Thing is really pretty boring, not all Hollywood glitz and glamour and gunfights.

But the thing about a game like this is, we ain’t plumbers, so you gotta have a lotta blood to keep it fun. “Made Man” strikes a compromise – it’s not as all-out as “Grand Theft Auto,” but it’s still gorier than The Life really gets. I wish the developers had the stugots to just push it all the way instead a tryin’ to sit all mediocre in the middle.

Fisher said he wanted to put more cut scenes into the game. It prolly woulda been smart, cause it’s the story that sets this title apart – every character’s based on real life gangsters that Fisher’s encountered over his thirty years chronicling Our Thing. A real, fully cinematic crime game woulda been somethin’ we ain’t seen yet.

But there’s some real issues with the gameplay. They got it set up so you move around with the left joystick and shift the camera and aim your piece with the right. Sometimes it comes in handy, but a lotta the times you run around blind, getting shot like a jamook and you don’t know where it’s comin’ from.

They added a pretty sweet feature, new to “GTA” style games, that lets you hide behind a wall and set your sights on somebody around the corner. When you press the shoot button, you pop out and whack some mortadellas before ducking back for cover. At least that’s how it’s supposed to work – half the time I just ended up unloading a clip on the wall I was hiding behind, letting everybody and their mother know where I was tryin’ to lay low.

I guess you shouldn’t expect too much outta a game like this though. Acclaim started working on the thing more than three years ago, before they went belly up. Aspyr grabbed the title next, but took way too long in getting it out. Two years ago, this game might’ve been a bit more impressive.

There’s only so many things you can do with a crime game where your main character runs around the city, guns blazin’, while the third-person camera follows. When “Grand Theft Auto” came out, there was nothin’ like it. But now, between that and “True Crime” and “The Godfather” and “Scarface,” it’s been done to death, and a few glitchy control additions ain’t gonna change that.