Pat the Hat Makes a Buck
I’m an absolute sucker for anything gangster (and when I say that word, I mean prohibition-era organized crime, not “gangsta“), so despite middling reviews, I had little choice but to pick up Omerta: City of Gangsters. Because it had “Gangsters” in the title, you see. Anyway, that handsome devil up there is Pat the Hat. He has a period after his name because that’s how seriously he takes himself. He wasn’t always so austere — his childhood nickname was “Earful,” he had some trouble with loan-sharks as a young man, and he had an affair with a local Don’s wife and had to flee to America. As you might be able to tell, his youthful choices have made him slippery and brash, but not very imposing.
Now that he’s come to Atlantic City, he’s going to take all the advantages the Land of Opportunity has to offer, and wring them by the neck until he’s the biggest boss of them all. First step is scraping together a thousand bucks in dirty cash.
Pat the Hat has made Atlantic City, New Jersey his new home. If you’re wondering why any handsome young immigrant would choose to wash up in New Jersey, it’s because Atlantic City was basically the Las Vegas of its day. It even had cool adult nicknames like “The World’s Playground” and “Always Turned On” (I’m not even joking), so for an enterprising young man like Pat, it sounds pretty much perfect. Maine Avenue, a “less prestigious part of town,” is where Pat plans to get his start, so he’s rented a house and housed his gang there.
Wait, what? As it turns out, instead of starting out as a soldier and working his way up through the ranks, therefore casting a twisted reflection of the brass, clout, and audacity of the 1920s American Dream, Pat has managed to entirely skip the “goon” phase of his gangster career. He’s already a boss, complete with an ugly old consigliere named Freddie Tanino who seems to know a lot more about the business of gangstering than Pat does. And the first thing a boss does, says Freddie, is to run on over to an informant’s house and ask him where all the neighborhood locales of interest are: speakeasies, distilleries, flophouses, deputies’ houses, and so on, none of which are secret or anything. Pat is so enthusiastic about this menial task that he sets off immediately, not by automobile or trolley, but by heading across town at a flat sprint, dressed to the nines and all.
I briefly wonder if this is actually an awesome mechanic that will come into play later, allowing your mobsters to get murdered in drive-by shootings or happen across enemy thugs on their way to collect rents or to shake down old ladies. Because, if so, having your boss hoof it across town like the Babe himself waddling his way around another home run could be pretty darn awesome.
Unfortunately, this is not a game mechanic. It really is just your boss running his snappily-dressed ass around like a sugar-addled little kid playing Al Capone on Halloween. Seriously, he’s going so fast he could outrun period-accurate automobiles. At least he gets there fast enough that I don’t have to wait too long.
“Sure,” says the informant. “There’s a super-secret brewery just over there, right next door to your secret hideout.”
“Perfect!” says Freddie Tanino. “Let’s have Squigs raid all their beer! Then we can sell it!”
Turns out Squigs is also a member of my gang, though he’s fine lazing around without pay when I don’t need his services. He’s so easy to please that he’s also perfectly happy knocking over an enemy brewery solo. He just runs out the hideout’s front door, makes a right-hand turn at the corner, and knocks on the brewery door. Moments later, I’m informed that I have 30 cases of beer ready to sell. Geez Squigs, you’re stacked. Here, have your fifteen dollars.
Happily — well, unhappily for Squigs, I guess — the next raid isn’t quite so fantastical, and Squigs gets himself captured. That’s alright, Squigs, I’m not sure what I was thinking anyway, knocking over the same competitors over and over again. Freddie has no idea where he could be, so once again Pat the Hat is jogging across town to meet with a secret informant in a secret location to discuss what secret place Squigs is locked up in.
Did I mention the meeting is secret?
The informant tells me that Squigs is locked up in a nearby warehouse. Freddie Tanino doesn’t feel like doing anything tonight, so it’s just Pat the Hat versus whoever they have guarding their secret prison. And Pat is tired from running all over the damn place.
Only once I arrive does the game inform me that I don’t have a gun. Or a baseball bat or tire iron, or anything really. It still teaches me that I can take cover at special green-marked locations, though none of those places are spots I’d actually like to take cover, like next to a doorway or behind some crates between me and a guard who’s holding his pistol up in the air. I do my best to hide, though this means Pat the Hat has his back pressed up against some crates while the guard looks him right in the face. Then the guard runs right past me and starts shooting me from the other side.
Oh well, at least now he’s even closer, so I won’t use as many action points to reach him so I can hit him more, and… oh. Turns out your little gangsters have separate pools of action points and movement points, so there’s really no need to worry about doing one or the other. Rather, you can run around all you like, and still fire off a stack of rounds with no penalty.
Not that I can fire off any rounds, since my “mastermind” didn’t think to bring a gun to a prison break. Pat the Hat beats the gangster for a bit, then the gangster takes a turn to run around to Pat’s other side and shoot him in the butt a few more times, then Pat turns around and murders the man with his bare hands.
Now that the gangster is down for the count, I click around his body to have Pat the Hat pick up his pistol so he won’t be engaging in fisticuffs while getting shot in the bum and thighs anymore (not that there’s any locational or flanking damage in this combat system). Only then do I realize that there isn’t any way to pick up weapons, or any inventory system at all. The man’s gun dissolved upon hitting the ground or something. Instead, Pat goes over to where Squigs is locked in a cage and springs him — and it turns out that the enemy gangsters didn’t mind leaving Squigs with his gun this entire time.
“We’ll discuss why you didn’t just free yourself later,” I imagine Pat the Hat saying. At least we’re all incompetent together.
Right then, as we turn to leave the warehouse, two more armed goons rush in.
As Pat the Hat hides behind some crates and Squigs takes cover and starts shooting, I learn a little more about the combat system:
When Pat was trying to punch that first guard to death, I figured out that I could also sweep his leg or kick him in the balls. Neither one seemed to do anything particularly impressive — a little bit of condition damage here, a couple fewer action points there — and it turns out that things are pretty much the same with Squigs’ pistol. He can spend more action points to aim, and he can “gut shot” enemies to give them bleeding damage, but none of the extra options trump firing off an extra few bullets instead of wasting the action points on fancier techniques. Furthermore, there’s no concern about ammunition. Not only do I have limitless amounts of bullets, so there’s no reason to move Squigs forward when he can trade rounds indefinitely from the comfortable security of the crate he’s hiding behind, but there’s never even a need to reload, thus removing any tactical nuance to the number of shots I’m firing. If I had to reload every few rounds, and doing so consumed action points, I might conceivably see the value in better-aimed or more powerful shots. Instead, spraying lead everywhere proves the superior strategy.
After Squigs kills one of the enemies, Pat the Hat gets bored and runs out from cover to punch someone. He gets gunned down en route to the nearest baddy. That’s fine, he needed a break anyway.
After dispatching the last goon, Pat’s limp body is like a feather pillow to Squigs — he carried out 30 crates of booze earlier that day, after all. We get back to the hideout in one piece, though Pat the Hat is still coughing blood and there’s no option to have a doctor look him over.
Freddie Tanino shows up again. “Our goal is to earn a thousand dollars,” he announces. Then he gives us some advice, says he had a stressful day, and goes back to bed or something, leaving his boss and the muscle to sort it out. His “tip” is to knock over the rival moonshiners who took Squigs as an act of revenge — never mind that’s exactly why they took Squigs in the first place. Sounds fine to me, now that I have some experience with the combat system. It should go more smoothly now that—
Damn it, Pat! Once again, he shows up to a gunfight with nothing but his manicured fingers as weapons. He consequently spends the entire shootout hiding behind cars while Squigs kills everything that moves, from filthy pickpockets to shotgun-toting hardcases. Once that’s done, Pat has Squigs haul crate after crate of booze out of there.
Now that we have loads of beer, we need to figure out how to sell it. Turns out there are plenty of prospective buyers.
It takes an afternoon of good hard work, sprinting, and heavy lifting, but soon the gang has earned a thousand dollars. Now to blow it all on floozies and dope.
Problematically, news of our business success has gotten around town. Probably from those darn informants — oracles more like; we’ll have to do something about them later. For now, the last three goons of the rival gang are attacking our… restaurant? Hideout? Speakeasy? Not sure what, but they’re attacking it, and Pat the Hat and Squigs are forced to defend themselves. After a dozen turns of ghastly combat, we arrive at the usual outcome:
And that’s that. Maine Avenue belongs to Pat the Hat. His foot may be broken, but he’s gone from near-penniless (fifty bucks, actually) to a thousandaire. And next time, he’s taking the town. Not the whole thing though. That’d be nuts.