If Spellbound Studios sounds familiar, it might be because you’ve played their previous Commandos-style games, Robin Hood: The Legend of Sherwood and Desperados: Wanted Dead or Alive. When you first powered up those games, you had the feeling that it would take every ounce of strategic mastery to pass through their missions. But any feeling of awe would quickly dissipate once you realized it wasn’t about outwitting the enemy but slowly thinning out their herd without raising the alarm. And with some levels containing up to 30 guards, it would prove quite the grind.
Chicago 1930 follows a similar trend, this time placing the squad-based action during the 1930s, in the era of prohibition. In an unexpected twist, you can play through the game as either the mob or the cops, each side having its own campaign. In total there are 20 missions to be played and you have a choice of three difficulty levels. Playing on the easy difficulty setting is just right for beginners, whilst the hard difficulty setting provides plenty of challenge and is a real test of patience and perfect timing.
Should you choose to play as the mob you’ll be put into the shoes of gangster Jack Beretto, a soldier for Don Falcone, who must skin wiseguys from other families and gangs. You take their share of control over Chicago, and old Don Falcone will pat you on the back. Being a squad-based game, you’ll be running heists, hits and burglaries with the help of a specialized cracksquad of other low-lives (up to five members in total). The cop campaign begins right after the Falcones are in full control of Chicago, and you have to remove them from the city.
It’s a sound premise, and it should offer plenty fun. But, as with previous games from the same developer, Chicago is yet another lesser Commandos clone, ruined by lousy AI and limited controls. Team AI is basically non-existent, and you have to meticulously hold their hands and tell them exactly what to do at the right time, or they’ll just stand there completely defenseless. For this reason, units not under your direct control become useless. In Commandos, for instance, you could easily set ambush points by setting their AI to fire when a patrolling guard approaches. No such option here.
The addition of friendly fire mixed in with no formations also give way to some unusual mishaps. For instance, if you click your squad to walk into a room, they’ll just bunch up haphazardly through the doorway, and when you click on an enemy inside that room, everyone will shoot the team member in front of them in the head. There’s no way to look into rooms through keyholes so as to asses any real plan of action. You can open up and find a guy waiting with a Tommy Gun aiming right at you, and lose half of your guys.
Despite the nice graphics and cool premise, the bad controls of Chicago 1930 quickly make the game more frustrating than it ought to be. Players who have tried previous games of the same vein will know what they’re in for, but for people after some decent Commandos-style action – do yourself a favor and replay the originals.
System Requirements: Pentium 300 MHz, 64 MB RAM, 800 MB HDD, Win98