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

Playfish 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.

Players 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.

This 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.

When 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.

Yes, 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.

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