This year, THQ and 7 Studios are bringing everybody‚Äôs favourite mob-family to a control-pad near you, with The Sopranos: Road to Respect. The videogame tie-in ‚Äď for PS2 and Xbox 360 ‚Äď will feature voices and likenesses from the hit TV-series, and takes place between seasons 5 and 6.
It‚Äôs an action game, so if your mind just sent up flags saying ‚ÄúGTA-clone‚ÄĚ, you‚Äôre not alone. But the developers are definitely trying to shake that label and emphasise Road to Respect‚Äôs plot and ‚Äúunique, intimate experience‚ÄĚ ‚Äď whatever that means. But even if it does end up living up to those suspicions of clonedom, we can at least expect a good quality product: working close with HBO and having the actors from The Sopranos onboard goes a long way.
The game‚Äôs story revolves around a new character, Joey LaRocca (who you will play as). Joey is the illegitimate son of ‚ÄėBig Pussy‚Äô, trying to work his way up in the family. It sounds a little contrived, sure ‚Äď but it is vindicated somewhat by coordination with events in the actual series. Basically, you can expect to make your way in the world of Italian-American organised crime and go from small-time to big-time through a mixture of brutal violence and threats of brutal violence.
...Yeah: it still sounds a lot like a GTA-clone to me, too. But hey ‚Äď it worked out fine for Saints Row. And Road to Respect is offering some innovation. Intimidation will apparently play a big part, and the player will be able to control conversations by opting to play it smooth, or play it tough, rather than selecting from a list of possible responses. This simple system will hopefully lend itself to dialogue which, while non-linear, still flows realistically (it‚Äôs that emphasis-on-plot thing they were talking about).
Games-based-on-movies have been coming at us thick and fast recently, so it‚Äôs hardly surprising to see popular TV shows being used as material too. We can only hope that, come November, Road to Respect manages to live up to the promise of the Sopranos franchise, rather than falling into the gutter with the mediocre games just cashing in on a big name association.
The Good: A very solid tie-in to a great TV-series.
The Bad: Could turn out to be just another GTA rip-off.
The Ugly: Endless stereotyping of Italian Americans?