Goombahs that go to work for Tony Soprano and his cronies tend to have startlingly brief lifespans. Yet despite the lack of job security, a remarkably determined (if dimwitted) batch of new recruits keep trying to make their way into the Family. THQ’s take on HBO’s megahit places you squarely in the shoes of just such a fellow - and much like a typical mob soldier's life expectancy, it ends almost as quickly as it gets started.
Evidently, Salvatore “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero's convenient "disappearance" a few years back wasn't enough to quash his son Joey's dreams of mobster glory. Despite plenty of people hinting at Tony's involvement, he gladly accepts an offer to become a Soprano employee. What unfolds is a tale of sex, violence, murder, and revenge - in other words, everything we love about The Sopranos. For all its faults (and there are plenty, believe you us), it stays true to the brutal spirit of the show, with a full season's worth of f-bombs, bare breasts, offensive slurs and busted skulls on parade.
Road to Respect is fundamentally a beat-em-up, following a linear path that couldn't be straighter if it were the Prime Meridian. In just about every situation, Joey winds up brawling with anyone he comes in contact with - not just street punks and gangstas, but heaps of bodybuilders, lawyers, pharmacists, even old men.
Theoretically, there are all sorts of combos for beating the snot out of everyone, but the controls are so sloppy that simply mashing the living hell out of the two punch buttons will take care of business most of the time. In case you're not interested in speaking with your fists, just grab one of the plentiful (and remarkably efficient) random weapons strewn throughout the levels. Did you know that bashing a head with a crowbar sounds like kicking a tire? Neither did we, but apparently it does (at least in New Jersey).
When you're not yawning through mindless fisticuffs, gunplay will occasionally rear its ugly head. Shooting skills aren't necessary, though, since there's no aiming - simply hold the L1 trigger, and the enemy will be right in your sights. It's understandable that gunning down foes is not stressed as an important gameplay mechanic (after all, leaving piles of bullet-ridden corpses is a surefire way for anyone to get pinched by the law), but what little there is shouldn’t be so lame.
The lone strength of Road is the simply perfect voice acting and representations of Tony, Paulie, Christopher, Silvio, and Vito (who evidently hasn't yet had his, um, coming-out party). You'll have missions with all of them, and plenty of the conversational traits are nailed just right, including Silvio's shrugging cynicism, Paulie Walnuts' pointed sneer, and Vito's bizarre waddle. If you didn't already hate A.J. Soprano, you will now, since a sizable chunk of your (brief) gametime will be spent working through his botched attempts (and subsequent dire consequences) at establishing a party business.
Clocking in at just around four hours, The Sopranos: The Road To Respect is one of the shortest full-price console games in our memory. Despite impeccable voicework, the subpar visuals and dreadful combat controls forced us to dump it unceremoniously under a bridge in Jersey - never to be spoken of again.