Industry-watchers might remember Made Man (originally titled Interview with a Made Man) as one of the projects that got canceled when notoriously mediocre publisher Acclaim collapsed in 2004. Now, another publisher has seen fit to pull the game from the wreckage, dust it off and slap a $20 price tag on it. But even as a budget title, Made Man was better left buried.
Based around fictional mob enforcer Joey Verola, Made Man spans three decades and might be the only crime game ever to feature playable Vietnam flashbacks. As gangster stories go, it's fairly meaty, as Joey tells the tale of his induction into the mob - through his chickenshit army buddy, Johnny "Eggs" Biondo - and of his decades of violent work for the family. There's also a couple subplots about a coffin filled with Vietnamese gold and a war against New York's Triads, but Joey's the focus, and the narrative hops between time periods in whatever meandering order he decides to tell it.
The thing is, other than the story, there's no good reason for Made Man to exist. Whether you're creeping through back alleys in New York, blasting through dense jungle or slogging through a gator-infested swamp, the action is the same ultralinear, third-person run-and-gun you've already played a thousand times before. What's more, almost every other game did it better. There's some rudimentary stealth and a surprisingly decent (if glitchy) duck-and-cover system that echoes Gears of War 's, but for the most part the action just consists of blasting anything that moves in the face, over and over again, until it and everything around it dies.
It also consists of dying a lot yourself - particularly in the long, grueling Vietnam levels - and then of starting the level over from the beginning, because the developers were extra-stingy with their checkpoints. Your cannon-fodder enemies aren't smart, but they're excellent shots, and even when you're creeping around behind cover, they seem to know exactly where you're going to pop up.
Granted, there are a few bright spots. You can dual-wield any weapon, even AK-47s, and that's pretty cool even though it's almost completely useless. There are also a few cool set pieces in its levels, like a gunbattle in the scaffolding above an arena concert (during which exactly two songs are played, over and over). But in the end, even some of the game's cooler features are liabilities.