You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Empire of Sin’ is a Bloody, Strategic Take on the Criminal Underworld of 1920s Chicago

When Paradox Interactive and Romero Games announced their new strategy game, “Empire of Sin,” some fans may have been disappointed. They could have wanted another intensely violent and fast-paced game from John Romero, one of the original creators of “Doom.”

They shouldn’t be though as ‘Empire of Sin’ is a deep, violent take on criminal management and X-COM like strategy that looks absolutely riveting. It’s a combination of a high-level management sim where you lead a criminal organization and low level strategic, turn-based combat that occurs when you need to get your hands dirty.

“‘Empire of Sin’ is a single player strategy game where you play one of 14 gangsters trying to take over Chicago,” John Romero tells Variety in a private showing at E3. “What you do is take over rackets from other bosses and build rackets from the ground up while you recruit playable characters to fight for you. You’re basically trying to manage people while you’re trying to take over the city.”

“Empire of Sin” has been an idea in Brenda Romero’s head for 20 years and now she’s finally getting the chance to make the project a reality. She’s leading the team as the game director for both Romero Games and Paradox Interactive. They’re bringing “Empire of Sin” to PC, Mac, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 in Spring 2020.

The combat in “Empire of Sin” will be familiar to fans of X-COM as the mechanics are mostly the same. Characters move around on a stylish grid-based map (usually in a speakeasy or brothel) and exchange grenades and bullet fire one turn at a time. Everything from overwatch to the likelihood that a shot hits or misses is included.

“If you’re a fan of X-COM you’re gonna feel right at home,” said Romero Games game designer Ian O’Neill. “There are two things that make us stand out though. Obviously, there is the thematic difference with the gangster weapons and there are the dynamic character personalities. One of the guys is actually down right now so we’re going to execute him.”

O’Neill then had his character, Al Capone, take out his knife and brutally slash a thug’s throat, killing him instantly with a nice splash of blood across the screen. Those executions, which vary based on the characters in your squad, have other effects on the battle. They can intimidate enemies and help you build a reputation. “Executions are brutal and they’re designed to really give a nod to the 1920s gangster” O’Neill added. Outside those changes, the combat is fairly approachable if you’ve played X-COM or another game like it.

That’s just the surface of “Empire of Sin” though. The crime management system where you run brothels, casinos, speakeasy’s and other types of rackets to bring in money and take out the competition, is shaping up to be incredibly deep.

Outside of simply managing all the factors that usually come with a management sim like the flow of money or the status of your individual business, “Empire of Sin” has a complicated personality system. Characters you recruit have backgrounds. They have friendships and rivalries, preferences and weaknesses, both of which can spread to other people they work with. Your gang members can become numb to violence and turn into serial killers, they can hit the drink and become alcoholics, or they can fall madly in love with someone else.

“These are their dynamic behaviors,” O’Neill said. ” Their relationships can change and evolve over time, their trades can change and evolve over time. Depending on what they are exposed to and what actions you perform and what actions they perform themselves.”

All those traits affect each character and the characters around them, making for a difficult challenge in managing and an unruly bunch of hooligans.

“Empire of Sin” feels a lot like an incredibly advanced spiritual success to 1998’s “Gangsters: Organized Crime.” I was impressed by what I watched in the hands-off demo, although some of the promises made seem far fetched. I’ve yet to see if the cause and effect of these systems will be as realized as they need to be in the full game, but for now, I’m interested.

Popular on Variety

More Gaming

  • Call of Duty Modern Warfare

    Call of Duty League Commissioner on Why It's Time for a Franchise Model

    “Call of Duty” esports is officially headed for a city-based model. Publisher Activision Blizzard announced over the summer that the newly coined Call of Duty League will have a franchised, home-and-away structure immediately when it launches its inaugural season in early 2020. It’s set 12 teams in 11 cities, and the roster mania has already [...]

  • Nintendo Switch

    Nintendo Switch Unit Sales Top 15 Million in North America Since Launch

    Nintendo is tooting its own horn, boasting that the Nintendo Switch and Nintendo Switch Lite systems have together sold over 15 million units in North America to date. That’s according to the company’s own internal data. As of July, the Nintendo Switch had sold over 36 million consoles worldwide, the company said. Nintendo Switch carries [...]

  • Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order

    'Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order': Respawn CEO on Telling the Story Behind 'Becoming a Jedi'

    When it comes to media properties, it doesn’t get much bigger than “Star Wars.” That sentiment certainly isn’t lost on Vince Zampella, CEO of Respawn Entertainment, the studio behind “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.” The title, which follows Jedi Padawan Cal Kestis (voiced by Cameron Monaghan) after the events of “Episode III — Revenge of [...]

  • Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order

    'Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order': What to Expect From EA and Respawn's Latest

    There’s a lot riding on “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.” The upcoming title from EA and Respawn is the first major single-player “Star Wars” video game since 2008’s “The Force Unleashed,” and is one of the most anticipated games of 2019. After years of multiplayer adventures, could “Fallen Order” be the title that brings the [...]

  • Google Stadia Game Streaming Service Launching

    Google’s Stadia Game Streaming Service Will Launch Nov. 19

    Google hardware chief Rick Osterloh gave us an update on the company’s game streaming service Stadia during the company’s fall hardware event in New York Tuesday: Stadia will be available to the public on Nov. 19. Stadia promises to stream games directly from the cloud, with no need to buy a full-blown game console. Consumers [...]

  • Fortnite Chapter 2

    'Fortnite' Emerges From Black Hole With All-New Island in Chapter 2

    After its previous world was sucked into a black hole, “Fortnite” is back — with an all-new island featuring a map with 13 different locations. The latest installment of the free-to-play battle royale game, which publisher Epic Games calls the first season of “Fortnite” Chapter 2, went live early Tuesday at around 6 a.m. ET. [...]

  • Fortnite-Season-X-Out-of-Time

    'Fortnite' Goes Dark: A Masterful Marketing Stroke by Epic Games

    On Sunday, “Fortnite” — the most popular game on Earth right now — without warning, imploded into darkness. At around 2 p.m. ET on Oct. 13, a meteor in Season 10 of “Fortnite” that had been biding its time set off a cataclysmic chain reaction that sucked up everything on the the island and eventually [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content