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.
Other than the Gears of War-style cover system we mentioned earlier, the game only has a couple of things to set it apart from every other generic shooter on the market. One of these is "retort killings," which you can pull off when a wounded enemy is writhing around on the floor cursing at you. Put him out of his misery with a nasty quip and a couple of bullets, and you'll get all your health back.
It's a neat idea, but it'd be a lot cooler if who writhes and who dies hadn't already been decided long before you came blasting through. You can nail a guy square in the face with a shotgun, but if he's supposed to die by retort, he'll still crawl around yelling insults at you. Meanwhile, less-important enemies will die as soon as they've absorbed enough bullets, regardless of where they're shot. So the "retort" guys are really more of a pre-placed first-aid kit that can shoot back, which would be more impressive if there weren't already first-aid kits scattered around the game.
There's also a "kill rush" feature that slows down the action, but not your aim (you might know it better as "Bullet Time"), although it's difficult to tell exactly when you've killed enough guys to activate it. Parts of the scenery are destructible, but that coolness is offset by impassable knee-high barriers and random piles of furniture that only serve to push you along a linear path. (It also doesn't help that you can't shoot straight through windows - you need to shatter them first, then put another round through whomever's standing behind them.) And although the screens on the back of the box promise awesome fights with paired katanas, even those are slow, clunky and nowhere near as gratifying as you'd think.
On top of the crappy gameplay, Made Man is absolutely hideous even by PS2 standards. The environments are flat and low-res, the characters' lips don't move during in-game cutscenes and everyone looks like they've got some weird skin condition. They also move really stiffly, whether they're running laboriously toward you or just falling over in the exact same death animation as the last five guys (or alligators) you killed.
Made Man isn't necessarily broken, but it's irksomely linear, repetitive, ugly, dull, buggy and frustrating, and its story just isn't compelling enough to keep anyone but the most dedicated and masochistic players blasting away at its identical goons. Even if you've got $20 to waste, there are better ways to spend it - and your time - than this.