Though it takes place in the violent world of organized crime, “The Sopranos” is an unlikely candidate for a videogame. After all, Tony Soprano spends more time in therapy than kicking ass. That problem is extremely evident in “The Sopranos: Road to Respect,” a game that would be lame with any title, but is particularly disappointing given its connection to one of TV’s great series. Rather than let it sully the “Sopranos” name, HBO execs would be wise to gather every copy they can, tie them to a concrete block and let them sink to the bottom of the Hudson.
Game starts with an interesting conceit: Players take the role of whacked wiseguy Salvatore “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero’s son Joey, whom Tony decides to bring into the family just as a mob war starts brewing between the Sopranos and a Philadelphia family. It’s a decent idea, and the occasional presence of Big Pussy’s ghost adds a bit of gravitas to the proceedings.
But once you get past the setup, “Road to Respect” is an incredibly generic, poorly designed game. Players run around on missions for Tony, Paulie, Christopher and the rest of the crew that essentially consist of chasing guys down and beating them up. Controls are clunky and the fighting isn’t remotely fun, since you can knock a guy’s head against a curb or shoot him five times without knocking him out.
Players can respond in conversations by being “tough,” “neutral” or “smooth.” Choices only affect what words you use, however, and don’t seem to alter the flow of the game, so there’s no point in caring unless you really like to hear yourself talk.
Tech credits are particularly poor. Graphics look like a game made five years ago. Actors from the show do an adequate job voicing themselves, but the designers seem to have spent more time enhancing the Bada Bing dancers’ cleavage than making Tony’s face move when James Gandolfini is talking.
Perhaps most disturbing: The game’s violence is so unquestioned that it makes “Grand Theft Auto” look morally ambiguous. Onscreen, one of the most compelling aspects of “The Sopranos” is the contrast between a man who upholds normal middle-class values at home and breaks knees to collect money at work. The only way to win “Road to Respect,” however, is to beat up anyone and everyone who gets in your path. What’s next, a game based on “The Wire” where you score points for roughing up suspects?