This Game Should Sleep With the Fishes

In chapter two of Nick Tosches' Trinities, the writer describes grizzled, old Mafioso Giuseppe Di Pietro: "His legs and back were weak with pain. But he did not allow his countenance to betray that weakness or that pain . . . His face, cold and expressionless in denial of his pain, was like a weathered tombstone carving." There's a beautiful complexity there, a complexity that characters in the best games should now possess as a matter of course. The industry is, after all, 25 years old. It's not in infancy any longer. It's a grownup, and it should act like one.

This brings me to a game for which I harbored the highest of hopes. Ever since the it was announced, I looked forward to THE SOPRANOS: ROAD TO RESPECT. Here's the reason. I'm a true aficionado of the show and have been since the first season. Sure, it's a violent series. But as my friend, horror novelist John Saul once said, "If it weren't for violence, we wouldn't have some of the greatest works of literature, like Romeo and Juliet. The thing about The Sopranos show is nuance. Yes, there's murder and blood, but it's offset by multi-dimensional characters mired in a suburban world that can be as devilish as the Mafia is at its worst. Although you might not be a member of the Mafia, you can always empathize with what goes on in the lives of Tony, his family, and his friends.

As the release neared, I became more excited about it. Courtesy of game maker THQ, I even met with show creator David Chase at New York's Silvercup Studios where the series' interior scenes are shot. Chase said he felt he owed it to HBO to make a game, but that the it would not be exactly like the show. In fact, Chase said, it would be far more action-oriented. Now, THQ has a lot riding on the game. Everyone from James Gandolfini to Tony Sirico does voiceover work that's often brilliant. The actors' nicely-rendered images appear as well.

Welcome to suburbia.
image: Courtesy of THQ
Welcome to suburbia.

Details

The Sopranos: Road to Respect
Publisher: THQ
Developer: 7 Studios
Format: PS2
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    Much as I was predisposed to like the game, I find Road to Respect really lacks nuance when I play it. The characters can't seem to get a sentence out without using some nasty word. That makes them immediately cliché. From the beginning, there is violence, violence, and more violence. I'm not one of those people who's against violence in a game when it's used to move a complex story along. But the constant whacking of people in the game becomes, well, tiresome and tedious. While the writer has added some compelling plot points peppered with humor along the way, I was daunted by the lack of well-rounded characters in the Mafia soldiers' lives in general.

    THQ has chosen not to add the important female characters from the show. So the brilliance of, say, Edie Falco's Carmella, is nowhere to be seen. This is a mistake of mammoth proportions as it makes the Mafia types in the game seem to have singularly violent lives with no one to go home to, and no one to love or even like.

    In the too-short Road to Respect, you begin as a low level soldier called Joey LaRocca, the out-of-wedlock son of Big Pussy, played in the show by Vincent Pastore and killed in season two by Tony. Early on, you don't have a weapon, only your hands to protect yourself. You're a slave to Tony and even Christopher. At one point early in the game, you're even asked to get take-out food for Tony and the gang. But you take a different road on a different mission. You never do get the food for them, and they never take you to task for it. The TV show would never let a loose end like that remain untied. That's why the TV version will be considered a legend, one of the greatest TV shows ever, when it ends next year.

    As Joey climbs the ladder to respect, he's supposed to amass a battery of moves with which to vanquish various foes. Press some buttons together, for instance, and you'll make a wild throw or distinctive hold. But the controller doesn't always respond to these, and too many of the opponents can be repelled or killed merely by mashing buttons. Simply, the game needs more work.

    Unfortunately, this disk will be remembered as a mediocre effort with detailed graphics of the characters, but second-rate graphics of everything else. It's a game that fans of the show will likely buy because of the nicely-acted appearances of Gandolfini, Imperioli, and the gang. But sadly, as far as true gamers are concerned, The Sopranos game will get little respect. Because of its flaws, it should get whacked. It then should be fitted for cement shoes and thrown unceremoniously it into the muddy Hudson.

    Check out reviews of all the latest and greatest games (updated every week), along with past faves in NYC Guide.

    Gears Of War
    Publisher: Microsoft
    Developer: Epic
    Platform: Xbox 360

    It's almost like a video game. Big monster boss Donald Rumsfeld is gone and so are many Republicans that the Democrats hated such as Rick Santorum. But there are many more Republicans to come, and they will constantly make it known that liberal values are the values of evil, that liberals are like the awful communists of old. And W. will try to make it look like the elephants still have a mandate, as he did in his recent press conference with the statement, "To our enemies, do not be joyful. Do not confuse the workings of our democracy with a lack of will." Will the new Congress be just as contentious as the old Congress? Will W. be conciliatory at all? If they're all locked up and can't decide because of their warring ways, I don't say let them eat cake. I say let them play GEARS OF WAR.

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