Chicago was a hotbed of criminal chicanery in the 30s. Murderous personalities like Al Capone, massacring thousands of competing mobsters, law enforcers, and civilians alike. Despite the bloodshed, their tales still live on with the likes of Bugsy Segal to Bugsy Malone, providing the Chicago Outfit with a cultural legacy that lasts almost a century on. In 2002, German developer, Spellbound Entertainment, expanded their Real-Time Tactical range with a video game offering that had you either taking on or taking down the mob in Chicago 1930.
Depending on if you play as the cops or crooks, you take on the role of Edward Nash or Don Falcone’s henchman Jack Berreto respectively. Tasked with either building up a criminal empire in 1928, or dismantling it in 1930. The area of Chicago is divided up into nine sections, these sections are accompanied by a unique mission for you to undertake, destroying a distillery or investigate a Mob slaying for example. Victory over a district provides you with a bonus, represented by a building, such as a Speakeasy to hire more men or, newspaper offices to boost popularity. Making choosing which mission to take on a much more strategic consideration, as opposed to a linear sequence of missions that other games at the time led you through. You initially control one guy, but quickly accumulate a squad during the campaign. The squadmates are unique and can be skilled in different combat abilities that can be upgraded on completion of certain missions.
The levels are overviews of locations containing the objectives, and you manipulate your character with a simple click-based interface. Not everybody you meet needs to sleep with the fishes; Some characters you can communicate to get clues and useful items. If that does not work, you can also move bodies to hide them, or find key items stashed away in their pockets. Managing your squad of goons should not be too much of a hassle, even though inventory management can be a challenge, with your goons only having limited slots. Although, selecting a gun is straightforward, especially with the mouse becoming a gun reticule that you hover over the target you wish to attack. This also works for non-lethal weapons like chloroform or brass knuckles. This can be a useful strategy, as you can even tie up and incapacitate the briefly knocked out foe.
While both campaigns play similarly, I did particularly like the campaign of Edward Nash, especially the murder mystery-tinged focus of his introductory case. Offering intriguing differences to the real-time genre’s habits of finding and killing. Those who want to unload Tommy guns will find joy in Berreto’s campaign. The music adds a lot to the charm, sure it’s ostensibly a synthesised orchestra, but the tunes are nice, giving an era-appropriate moody noir feeling to the proceedings. The voice acting is fun as well, although the voice actor of Don Falcone did remind me a lot of John DiMaggio.
Spellbound Entertainment is certainly a pedigree developer in this field, with the Desperados franchise and other celebrated titles. Turning their attention to the era of cigar-chomping hoodlums is a natural evolution for their style of gameplay. Gangster ‘simulators’ aren’t as novel as one would initially think, but its added flourishes and role-playing inclinations make Chicago 1930 a dateline to remember.
If you want more positive reviews delivered to the e-mail box of your choice, you can click on that little text bubble at the bottom of the screen. Do you agree or disagree? or have a suggestion for another pop-culture artefact that needs a positive light shone on it? Leave a comment in the comment box below! But remember to keep it positive!