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Publisher: Runesoft    Genre: Action
Min OS X: 10.4    CPU: G3 @ 800 MHz    RAM: 256 MB    Hard Disk: 1000 MB    Graphics: 32 MB VRAM

Chicago 1930
October 31, 2007 | Michael Yanovich

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Ready for a history lesson? Check it out. Some time ago, specifically from 1920 – 1933, the US Government outlawed alcohol. You couldn’t make it, sell it, buy it, or drink it. Of course, making something illegal doesn’t make it unobtainable or undesirable, it just drives the product into the black market. And like all black market goods in high demand, the price goes up -- boosting inherent profit margins -- and where there’s easily obtainable markup for an illegal product, there’s an organized crime syndicate ready to capitalize on the standard supply & demand chain.

That’s exactly what happened in America, too. Supplying American’s demand for moonshine was an easy entry point for organized crime groups – like the mafia – to ratchet up massive profits by giving the people what they wanted. This is where the game Chicago 1930 steps in. The game tries to recreate the battle between mobsters and cops for control of Chicago, one of the hotbeds of underground speakeasies with easy access to Canadian booze smuggled over the nearby border.

If you want to see the amazing movie version of the game, be sure to check out Brian DePalma’s masterpiece, The Untouchables. No, the game and the movie aren’t related in any way other than similar subject matters, but it’s a great example of the genre done right. The newly released Mac game, however, is an example of a genre done wrong.

History – Game Style
One of the fun additions to the Xbox Live service on my Xbox 360 is the Arcade Game area. There, you can download casual strategy games, card games, and even remakes of classic video games. Anything from early 1980’s quarter arcade action to remade Sega Genesis titles.

When I first booted up Chicago 1930, my initial reaction was that this game felt like it belonged in the Arcade Game window. It just felt like a game that would have been really groundbreaking in 1988, but as a new title it felt tired right out of the box. Only after playing the game for a while did I bother to do some research on the title. I was definitely surprised when I found out that the game made its initial debut on the PC in 2003! Now there are plenty of titles that take their sweet time to make their way to the Mac, but four years for a title that’s so far from A-List it makes Hulk Hogan look like a hot commodity by comparison? Even in 2003, this game would have struggled for acceptance by the “here and now” community. In 2007, there’s definitely no place for this game anywhere but in the “mediocre retro” category, from the ho-hum graphics and dull AI to the stone-age interface and weak playability.

Here’s the game in a nutshell. You can play through the game as a Mobster trying to take over the city, or as a cop trying to clean it up. The city map is broken into segments. Controlling a certain area gives you bonuses… for example, if the cops control a map segment with a police station, then they can recruit more cops to help the cause. Control an armory and you’ll have access to additional weapons.

Playing as either side or the other is pretty much the same. You do the first mission solo to learn the game – sort of a watered down tutorial that in reality makes you figure out most of the game yourself, with very little guidance where you need it – and then subsequent missions allow you to pick and choose between a bunch of specialists that can help you with future missions. You can go for a balanced team with hand-to-hand combat specialists, weapons specialists, first-aid masters for backup, etc. The only difference between the sides is that as a mobster, you could theoretically solve all your problems with a gun. Shoot cops, witnesses, enemies and bystanders alike. Or bribe witnesses to keep them from squealing to the feds. Cops have to follow stricter rules, protecting the innocent and shooting only in certain circumstances. Otherwise they have to try to get the baddies to surrender so they can be arrested.

Aside from that, levels are spent moving your units around, talking to people with certain icons over their heads, and shooting at other units with different icons over their heads. Sounds exciting? It’s better than a root canal, sure, but that’s not saying much.


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