Developer: Silverback Studios
ESRB: Mature [Violence, Langue, Sexual Themes]
You remember the commercial for Smokin’ Aces? Well, Made Man is sort of the same way, it starts and finishes like this: Expletive...blam, blam, blam...expletive, expletive...blam, blam, blam...(no surprising plot twists)...expletive...blam, blam, blam. Literally, this is the abandoned love-child of Virtua Cop, Max Payne and Smokin’ Aces.
The confessions of a made man named Max Payne...oops...I mean Made Man, starring Joey Verola, is nothing short of a confession that plays out a lot like Max Payne who took a trip to Sega’s Virtua city. The similarities and action sequences of Remedy’s Max Payne have somehow found their way into Silverback Studios’ Made Man. The only problem is that unlike Max Payne, Joey can’t dive and doesn’t have a convenient way to use bullet-time.
Yes, there is bullet-time (it’s in just about every shooting game these days) and there’s a feature called Retort Kill, which basically means Joey says something profane and then executes the poor sap on the ground. Yeah, it’s games like this that get picked up on Jack Thompson’s radar and not without good reason.
However, I will say that this has some truly good things about it. While it would be easy to run this game into the ground – further into the ground than an opponent of the Undertaker in a buried alive match – I’m actually convinced to tell you how much fun this game can be. It’s not fun like Max Payne or True Crime, but it is fun like State of Emergency or Virtua Cop. For those of you who know where I’m going with this review, based on the fore-mentioned references, then you can pretty much guess what Made Man is like.
The story follows several decades of a Vietnam soldier turned Mafia (hitman?) as protagonist Joey Verola retells (confesses?) his journey through the mob life, which started in the jungles of Vietnam. Joey recounts specific events while talking with a protégé on what seems like an unending drive. I admit, the in-car sequences look cool; nicely shaded well written and excellently directed. I particularly loved the way the other vehicles and buildings looked during those cinematics. The biggest problem, though, graphically, is that those very doable cinematic graphics weren’t the same as the ones in the actual game. And it’s not that the PS2 couldn’t handle the same kind of graphics, because God of War II is living proof that the PS2 can handle graphics of that caliber. Heck, the models in the game don’t even have facial expressions or moving mouths. I can’t tell you how hard it was distinguishing who was talking when it looked like everyone’s lips were sewn together.
Players are literally mass murdering gang members, FBI agents, security guards, hill-billies and hired guns. There’s just too much shooting for this game to be about the Mafia. Where was the secret meetings? The discussions of money laundering and store fronts? Where was the tension between the loyalists? Why didn’t gamers get more story-heavy content? That’s what me and a cohort asked while taking turns endlessly running and gunning through Made Man. Heck, even some stupid box puzzle would have been a nice mix-up to the murder, murder, murder concept that this game plays on.
But small pockets of vastly entertaining gameplay segments didn’t help the fact that many of the sounds were blippy or cutoff unintentionally, or the game freezing every once a couple of hours. Added to the previously mentioned annoyances, was the lack of an auto-save. I can’t tell you how awful it was to beat several stages without realizing that the game had to be saved in order to pick up where I left off. That’s not to mention that the AI acts like stiff robots – shooting non-stop until they have to reload, but doing very little in the department of flanking, taking proper cover or maneuvering through the stage to actually make the encounters fun. Instead, near the end of the game the AI has perfect aim and ruin a lot of the good moments of a shootout. Frustration should not be the result of a fast-paced shootout and yet that’s what ended up happening in Made Man.
Overall, though, the non-linear storytelling; lacking, but good soundtrack; well scripted cinematics; surprisingly good ending and dynamic (but glitchy) shootouts made for what could have been a good action-drama, but instead is an over-the-top, super-cheesy, action-shooter. I’m not going to say it’s a bad game, but I will say it has some awful drawbacks that will only make Aspyr’s Made Man desirable by a dedicated few. Otherwise, rent this game at your own risk.