Ever wondered if TV shows, movies and video games portray organized crime realistically?

Chris Herring
Why does organized crime always look so baller? (Tiger mask included.) (Courtesy of Silverback)

“Made Man” is one game that attempts to answer this question. It was designed by crime expert David Fisher with help from former mafia member Bill Bonanno, whose family was the inspiration for the “Godfather” movies.

Fisher himself has an extensive knowledge of crime. He worked with another mafia member on his autobiography and has worked with district attorneys and police officers. He also authored several crime novels.

Such a background is probably what motivated Acclaim Studios, now Silverback Studios, to contact him about developing a story for what they described as “the most realistic crime video game ever done.”

Fisher jumped at the chance to apply his knowledge of the Mafia and mob culture to another medium, and ultimately thoroughly enjoyed it. Fisher said he sees gaming as “a new world of entertainment” and said “a lot of people see it as just an extension of the movies, but it’s its own world.”

Fisher provided insight into how he constructs his fictional worlds of crime: “You look at organized crime, there are certain patterns,” Fisher said. “I tried to delineate what these levels were.”

Besides writing the basic story, Fisher also worked on developing the theme of each level as well as the environments, the look of the characters and even the dialogue between mobsters.

Fisher hopes to continue to work in video games, saying there may be plans to turn his book “The War Magician” into a video game with Tom Cruise as the starring voice. He said he would welcome an opportunity to work on a crime-related video game again. “I’m game, I’d like to do it,” Fisher said of the possibility of developing another game like “Made Man”.

The game itself is a third-person shooter that follows Joey Verola as he rises through the ranks of organized crime to become a “Made Man.” His journey takes him from North Carolina to the jungles of Vietnam and the mean streets of Brooklyn. To Fisher, this diversity of landscapes is what separates his game from similar shooters such as the aforementioned “GTA,” which take place only in the city and its suburbs.

Though the landscapes may be varied, “Made Man” doesn’t do much to innovate the Mafia-game genre. It’s a fairly straightforward shooter with weapons to pick up, health to collect and bad guys to kill. The problem is that “Made Man” will inevitably be compared, as it has been here, to PS2’s “GTA” games. These games revolutionized their genre by incorporating every aspect of the city into gameplay, offering a vast weapons selection and developing a bevy of dynamic and diverse characters. “Made Man” is an entertaining game, but it fails to develop a fully realized interactive environment, a task that is certainly not easy.

But the main reason why “Made Man” will never be called an innovator is the same reason few people praised “GTA” for its story. Though “GTA” developed an arc around three mob families that was more complex than an episode of “The Sopranos,” the game was mostly successful because of its high replay level and, of course, its excessive violence. The game just couldn’t get players to care about the story.

“Made Man” suffers from the same problem. If anyone can craft a good Mafia yarn it’s David Fisher, but video games have never been a medium that cared too much about stories. It’s always been rescue the princess, kill the aliens and don’t ask why. And though “Made Man” may have a great story, that fact alone, sadly, won’t attract many gamers. The game’s primary audience – 12-year-olds to college-aged kids – would probably just as soon skip the dialogue and get to the shooting.

Fortunately, according to Fisher, “Made Man” does a good job interweaving dialogue with gameplay, so characters are developed without detracting from the playing experience. This, perhaps, is the first step in getting gamers to derive something from their playing experience other than carpal tunnel syndrome.

But Fisher also knows “Man’s” shortcomings, like the fact that it’s only available on PS2, a system steadily being usurped in the gaming world by XBOX 360 and PS3. According to Fisher, this is because the game had been in development since 2003, when Xbox 360 was just a gleam in Bill Gates’s eye.

“I also think that, for 20 bucks, it’s a great game,” Fisher said. “Twenty dollars to own the only mafia game developed with the aid of a former mafia member? I’d buy it.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *