Playfish Raises the Bar on Mafia Role-Playing Games with Gangster City

Gangster CityPlayfish has always produced creative, high quality social games, but if the truth were to be told, some of its recent titles such as Poker Rivals and Quiztastic just didn’t feel as strong as previous creations. Having been purchased by Electronic Arts, expectations of the company have gone up even further. Enter Gangster City. Discovered just today, this Flash powered rendition of the classic mafia-style game takes Facebook role-playing games to an uncanny new level of quality and detail.

To be blunt, after about ten seconds, we were blown away by this game’s level of polish as this mafia tale was told in voice acted, noire/comic book fashion. Granted, it’s no high definition CG rendered Avatar, but for Facebook… it was more than impressive.

CutscenePlayers start off as a mere grunt whose father got involved with the mob and, like all good revenge stories, got himself killed. Now, it’s up to the player to have his or her vengeance. To this end, the game is a disguised version of the mafia basics. Players are immediately presented with a surly looking character by the name of Mickey, who also greets you with voice acting, that starts giving you missions to start you on your way.

Missions appear in a list format with a difficulty (based on your current level) posted on the right. Like with most Facebook RPGs, the mission consists of equipping the proper items, an energy cost, and an automatic outcome. After completion, players gain experience towards a new level, some cash, and potential items for later use. However, unlike other role playing titles, the mission isn’t a mere text blurb and refresh of the browser window, but an actual Flash cut-scene. If you have to fight someone, it’s some simple sound effects and flashing images simulating a shoot out, but if it’s something like stealing a car, you actually see yourself hotwiring the ignition.

HotwiredThis brings a level of detail to the game that has yet to be seen in any major Facebook RPG, and while the car cinematic does get old after a while (since you can repeat quests multiple times to “master” them and earn extra bonuses like cash or extra stats), it is still very impressive and the effort is most appreciated.

As players complete missions and level up, new ones (some from new characters) become available and they are able to unlock and buy new pieces of equipment to strengthen a character. Expectantly, with new levels, players can allocate a handful of points to their stats of attack, defense, and energy. This is where another godsend comes into play.

MissionsWhen you level up, or have to buy a weapon for a mission, for that matter, you are prompted to do so directly in the mission window. No changing screens. No browser refreshing. No waiting. Because the game is done in Flash, everything the player does is instant and fluid. There isn’t that disconnect that loading causes that screams “you are playing a free Facebook game.” Instead, it actually feels like something you might play on a console.

There are also other various nuances Playfish pays attention to that furthers the game’s quality. The various regions, for example, while separated by level are actually viewed as an overhead, Grand Theft Auto-type of map. From here, players can pan around the city and see all the locations where new missions can be found, as well as all the locations that they own.

MapYes, as expected of a mafia game, you can own property, and it earns you income over periods of time. However, in Gangster City, it is infinitely more gratifying because you can physically see your owned locales on the city map rather than just a compilation of images. Unfortunately, since they take up physical space, players can’t buy multiple instances of the same location (i.e. owning 30 towers in, say, Castle Age), but purchasing more of the same local is justified as “investing” into further into it.

Now, this wouldn’t be a mob game if you didn’t have a mafia family. This means you can, in fact, invite friends to join your mob as Associates and as Family Members. Adding friends to the latter grants the player more power in the form of stats. Once added, they can perform special missions called “Family Jobs” that take a long time to do (hours in some cases) but earn special rewards. Currently, we have tasked our editor with an extortion job (in the game, mind you); Playfish’s attention to detail makes it very gratifying by placing not only the time left for completion, but their Facebook profile image with a word bubble stating “Boss, I’m getting it done.” Oh, how the tables have turned.

Family JobsAs for Associates, these are mob members that improve your effectiveness in the player-versus-player aspect of Gangster City. This is called “Robbing” and using a small amount of energy (not Stamina like in other RPGs), you can fight other players to earn some extra experience and cash. Furthermore, the game allows you to purchase lists of players based on how much wealth they have (with a cost that directly correlates to said wealth). This, of course, has the most potential reward, but also the most risk as these are usually the better and more equipped gangsters out there.

If there is any one potential problem with Gangster City, it may lay hidden in this robbing mechanic as we haven’t found anything like the Mafia Wars hit list, or come across a bank to safely stash our money at yet. The concern is explotation along the lines of continually robbing the same person over and over again. However, as new as the game is, and as few players as it currently has, it’s far to early to tell.

In the end, Gangster City is easily one the most impressive RPGs on Facebook. Having everything integrated into Flash makes some of the annoyances associated with traditional apps – namely constant loading – disappear and the polished visuals and sound effects, coupled with extraordinary attention to detail, make this a very addictive and very fun social game. Since it is new, there is no significant application data for it yet, but this game could explode in the near future?