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PS2 Review - 'Made Man: Confessions of the Family Blood'

by Aaron "Istanbul" Swersky on June 17, 2008 @ 12:36 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: March 27, 2007

Back in 1992, id Software released a little title called Wolfenstein 3D, a new spin on the old Castle Wolfenstein games of the 1980s. Instead of maneuvering a little icon around on a map, the game was played from the perspective of the viewer; it was no longer your character who was mowing down Nazis, it was you who was fighting for truth, justice and additional ammunition. Doom was the next title in the first-person shooter genre, and from there, the field blossomed into countless clones and wannabes, everything from Heretic to Hexen picking up the ball and running with it.

The fascination with taking the role of the gun-toting hero hasn't diminished the tiniest bit since that time, and even now, game development companies continue to make titles to appeal to those of us who pick up an arsenal in search of glory, and with varying success. Like every other kind of game, the formula gets a little stale after a while, so companies try different things in an attempt to be that special developer who revolutionizes the industry and churns out the next Halo. The question that has to be asked is, does Made Man: Confessions of the Family Blood succeed in any capacity to shake up a somewhat-stale gameplay style or otherwise make its mark on the gaming industry as a whole? The answer to that question is "yes," but this is a perfect example of why doing something new isn't always a good thing.

Graphically, Made Man is well behind the times. The graphics are more than slightly sub-par, and the failure to accurately represent the view of your character and at which locations on the screen he has a clear shot can really limit the fun that can be had; on more than one occasion, I found myself firing into a wall that simply wasn't there because the game decided that the wall had an additional invisible inch that didn't need to be colored in. Thank goodness the real world doesn't work like this, or we'd all be black-and-blue every day from running into all of those phantom barriers.

Enemies at a distance range from "barely distinguishable" to "invisible," with each one proving to be the ultimate diet success story — slim enough to practically be a straight line (with a few exceptions, I confess) and, for the most part, utterly generic in appearance. Backgrounds are indistinct and difficult to interact with in some key situations, and the lighting is abysmally bad. There are some areas where this is to be expected, but this fact apparently made the designers a little careless, as they extended the poor visibility to pretty much the entire game.

The audio aspect of Made Man is one of its few saving graces. Voices sound exactly like they should, with individual voice actors having done a surprisingly good job differentiating one character from another. Everything from the sound of different weapons firing to the sound of glass breaking sounds authentic, a real treat to the ears; it's not difficult to figure out where a lot of the budget for this title went, though the scripting is often such that I felt more sympathy than awe for the poor saps who were hired to recite the dreck that was written for them.

In terms of gameplay, Made Man suffers from the aforementioned issues due to graphics, but there are other unrelated problems that plague the experience as well. Aiming is extremely difficult, with a very small target point that often fails to represent where your bullets are actually going, and utilizing the sniper rifle that you find is an exercise in futility when your enemies are plugging you full of holes. Joey, the protagonist, moves like he's got cinder blocks attached to his legs, and his movements are often jerky and difficult to control, with a control structure that often leads you to choose between moving or turning. Those lost seconds can be lethal in a title like this, where enemies run the full gamut between "direly in need of corrective eye surgery" and "able to take the wings off of a fly at 100 yards." While it's true that enemies will often literally let you walk right up to them without making a move against you, that's a lot less about trying to compensate for movement problems and a lot more about coupling sloppy AI with inconsistent difficulty to create a fairly haphazard experience.

The real problem in Made Man lies in the characterization and plot. While it's true that the main character is a war veteran who rescues a buddy that gives him the opportunity to join the Mafia, the fact is that this game tries way too hard to be tough. Particularly annoying is the speech at the outset of the game. I've said it before, I'm saying it now, and I'm sure I'll have to say it a hundred more times: Dropping F-bombs every three seconds is not a substitute for good dialogue. Adults will find the overuse of profanity to be nothing short of comical, and kids will swiftly find that their parents were grossly negligent in allowing them to play this game. Congratulations, Silverback Studios, you've managed to make a title that will appeal to kids in their mid-to late-teens who can manage to sneak a copy of it by their parents and nobody else.

The plotline is often predictable (apart from a couple of interesting twists — I'll have to admit that this is the first time my enemy has been a printing press), the dialogue is cheesier than a platter of movie nachos, and the overall impression I get is that two people were responsible for this story: one somewhat-clever writer who tried to make things a little interesting, and one minimum-wage writer who took a bunch of easy stereotypes and threw them in carelessly, without trying to synch up with the other guy's vision.

In general, Made Man: Confessions of the Family Blood is a marginally passable offering, something to play if you've drained every last bit of enjoyment out of Max Payne and absolutely can't find anything else to play. The plotline is fragmented and cliché, the characterization is regrettable, and both control and graphics suffer from poor development; even the addition of good sound can't save this one. This kind of title might have been excusable on the PS1, but now, it's little more than an anachronism. This is one offer you can refuse.

Score: 4.8/10

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