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PC Review - 'Made Man: Confessions of the Family Blood'

by Tom Baker on July 18, 2007 @ 2:12 a.m. PDT

Work up the ranks of The Mob, from opportunist G.I. fighting in Vietnam, to "wise guy" on the make, doing deeds and winning favor from the Don in New York City.

Genre: Action
Publisher: Aspyr
Developer: Silverback Studios
Release Date: April 23, 2007

Made Man is a third-person action shooter that which follows the life of mobster Joey Verola from the jungles of Vietnam to the dangerous streets of New York. You must use your training as a soldier to battle through the hordes of enemies and dominate the rival Mafia families as you search for stolen Vietnamese gold.

Made Man: Confessions of the Family Blood sees the player relive the past experiences of the anti-hero protagonist as he tries to find a missing fortune in gold which he and a fellow mobster found in Vietnam during the war. This is as much of the story as can be deciphered from a very choppy and often confusing plotline, which splices together gameplay and seemingly random points. The game chapters often double back on themselves and go back and forth, giving the player no real sense of order or placement and almost seeming like an attempt to revamp an otherwise predictable and bland story of mob law and betrayal.

Joey is brought into the fold after he saves the adopted son, the unfortunately named "Eggs," of leading member of a major Mafia family during Vietnam. The story builds on him retelling his rise to Mafia infamy to a fellow "legitimate businessman," and in doing so, explains the current predicament of the lost millions in Vietnamese gold. However, the flashbacks are usually uninformative, and Joey often goes on about events which have little or nothing to do with the gold. The story is the first of many disappointments Made Man has to offer, as the "Memento"-style flashbacks are an effective way to tell a deep and twisting story, but the game squanders this opportunity by inserting events in seemingly no chronological or thematic order.

As a third-person action shooter, Made Man relies on player movement and use of cover against intelligent and numerous AI. Even though the title offers ludicrous amounts of enemies to slaughter, gameplay is very sloppy in comparison to previous third-person action games like Max Payne. The enemy AI ranges from single-digit IQs, where they barely hide behind absurd areas of cover and even face the other direction in firefights, to extrasensory perception, where they can shoot through your cover in order to hit you. The AI never feels real or even remotely challenging, and the game sometimes gives the impression of button-mashing through wave after wave of enemies until it's time to move on.

The controls also feel loose and badly ported from the PS2 version. The cover system is awkward and difficult to work, and it often leaves you immobile in attempts to strafe across a wall. More often than not, an adequate tactic is to simply run around like a headless chicken and shoot anything that moves; doing so will see you through most areas, since the game takes little thought or tactics to progress. Made Man is not working on a new or innovative concept, which may have forgiven some of these faults, and the lack of a decent AI negates the need for the poorly designed cover system or any use of stealth, which is stated in some of the missions.

The gameplay woes do not stop here, either. The targeting system and crosshairs ported from the PS2 version obviously did not take into account the ease of aiming with a mouse, and as such, dispatching of enemies becomes more of a point-and-click chore, rather than a dynamic or challenging experience. There are also camera issues when controlling Joey, with the typical WASD controls for the keyboard feeling cumbersome and leaving the camera facing in the opposite direction.

Features like the "kill rush," where Joey gains an infinite supply of ammunition and slows time for a short period, have been done before and to a more successful degree in games such as The Matrix and Max Payne. There is also no explanation as to why he should posses this powerful ability, which feels randomly inserted and lifted from other titles in an effort to spice up the game. The "kill rush" feature also adds little in the way of variety to the mind-numbingly repetitive nature of fighting, with waves of enemies requiring the same tactics of unloading clips of ammunition before you're able to progress to the next section.

There is no other variant to the gameplay, as it begins and ends with mindless mouse-clicking until all that remains is a pile of bodies and a sense of accomplishment akin to tying your shoelaces. A puzzle, branching maps with more than one linear route, or even a simple "locate the key" sequence would have helped to alleviate the repetition of this title, but scratching the surface of Made Man only reveals more surface.

Another feature, the "retort kill," where immobilized and essentially useless enemy AI are executed after spouting one of three inane expletives, is an annoyance rather than a valuable addition to the gameplay. Even the 25 different types of weaponry all feel the same, from the severely overpowered pistols to the pitiful-sounding shotguns, no weapon requires a special skill or tactic to use. With a few exceptions, the ability to dual-wield all the types of weaponry is a nice touch but still does not provide the varied or intense gameplay you would expect of a third-person action shooter.

Graphically, Made Man looks like it has come from three generations ago, suited to the PS2 but not the PC. In comparison to other PC titles, Made Man delivers a graphical experience which is outdated at best and dire at worst with pixelated settings, clunky and slow movement from character models, and textures with seemingly single layers. This all leads to a game too far behind the times to be making an appearance on the PC now. It looks slightly sharper and more defined than the PS2 version, but at a time when games are reaching new levels of physics and graphical ingenuity, this is inexcusable. The introduction of destructible environmental features such as tombstones, cars and lighting fixtures is somewhat entertaining but still manages to be a letdown due to its limited availability. Inserting a larger quantity of destructible cover items would have added some excitement to the game, but as it is, Made Man offers plenty of indestructible set pieces to hide behind, with the destructible items being a very limited and non-vital aspect of the experience.

The game's audio proves a mixed bag at the best of times. The soundtrack fits the era changes well, with psychedelic rock marking the portions of the game set in Vietnam and use of licensed glam rock from Bachman Turner Overdrive providing the stereotypical soundtrack to the '80s. However, the music is largely uninspired and repetitive, doing little to contribute to any feeling of danger, action or excitement. The voice acting is reasonable, but at times, you'll find yourself overwhelmed by the clich├ęd sayings and Italian-American accents. In his monologue, Joey tends to talk over the sounds of gunfire or music, a practice which detracts from what little sense of action can be squeezed from a scene.

Ambient sounds are mainly comprised of looping tracks of rain or bird sounds, but they're barely audible over the constant drone of weapons fire. There is only one sound for each gun; dual-wielding pistols sounds more like using artillery than a handheld weapon, whereas the shotgun sounds like a BB gun being fired repeatedly. Due to the amount that you will be using these weapons, there should have been more variety in the sounds, but after an hour of listening to the repetition of the booming pistols, you'll find yourself turning off the audio sound and not being any worse off for it.

Made Man: Confessions of the Family Blood for the PC is a poor port of an unimaginative and outdated PS2 game. There is little here to keep any gamer interested for more than an hour at best, and the lack of multiplayer and no consideration given to unlockable content means that if you manage to make it through Made Man once without switching off in boredom, you will not have any reason to pick it up again.
If you are a hardcore action shooter fan, you may be insulted by the total lack of challenge or variation in the gameplay, and if you are not, there is nothing here to attract you to this uninspired generic disappointment. This is one confession that should have stayed within the family.

Score: 4.0/10

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