Review: Milanoir (Switch)
Inspired by the Italian crime flicks of the '70s revered by Quentin Tarantino, Milanoir is a pixel-packed action game set in the violent city of Milan. Come meet Piero, a convict suddenly released from prison looking for revenge over the man who framed him. Hunt for the truth and escape the ones who are chasing you through an unforgiving city. Someone wants you dead: you have to use all your toughness to survive. Shoot, choke, sneak your way through the enemies and engage them in breathtaking car chases.
CRIME & VIOLENCE: A sordid story of betrayal and greediness. A homage to the Italian masterpiece crime movies of the '70s such as Caliber 9 and Almost Human. Stay alive, trust no one...
FUNKY '70S SOUNDTRACK & AMAZING PIXEL ART GRAPHICS: Enjoy the streets of Milan from a new, high-quality pixelated perspective! Immerse yourself in a groovy '70s atmosphere!
ARENA MODE: There's no escape from death, but more killings means more time…
2P LOCAL COOP MODE: The Guy in Blue joins the Guy in Red to face a common enemy.
May 31st, 2018
If you’re a movie buff like I am, chances are that you’ve seen the biggest crime movies such as The Godfather and Scarface. These movies are highly revered by many, and others have been inspired to bring their own take on the genre. Quentin Tarantino is one of those directors that has adapted the genre into his own works, with Pulp Fiction being on of his most famous films. Milanoir cites Tarantino’s films and two movies called Caliber 9 and Almost Human as its biggest influences. This is a story of revenge in the dark world of crime drama—enter at your own risk.
Violence: Milanoir is full of violence. Perio, the main character is a hitman for a mob family. Players engage in shootouts between enemy Italian gangsters. Some scenes require the use of stealth maneuvers in which the player must sneak up on enemies from behind and choke them about. When a character is shot they fall to the ground, although there is blood in other scenes. For example, one cutscene is shown from an enemy’s point of view as he is being stabbed by the main character. In another, a child is shot; all that scene contains is a puddle of blood and a teddy bear fall out of a locker door.
A variety of guns are utilized throughout the game and many characters will even attack the player with knives. Molotovs are also present and will burn the player or enemy characters alive upon contact. A handful of vehicle chase scenes are present in the game and usually involve the explosion of these vehicles and obviously death to their drivers as a result.
Language: There is no voice acting in this game, so swear words are actually in text along with the rest of the dialogue. Words like f**ck, s**t, a**, a**hole, and d*mn are all within the game.
Drugs/alcohol: Some scenes do take place in a bar, but no one is seen actually drinking. Some characters are also seen holding lit cigarettes but not actually smoking.
Sexual Content: The first chapter takes places in an apartment complex that is used as a brothel, but nothing is seen until the final moments of that stage. When the main character enters a room in search of his target, a woman sits in the bathtub as another (the target) hops out of the bathtub bare naked. The first woman picks up a shotgun nearby and shoots at the player from the bathtub with breasts exposed. Due to the pixel art nature, the nudity within the game is not visually detailed. Genitals and nipples are not actually visible on these characters.
During one scene where the main character spends time in prison lies some suggestive themes. Due to the type of crime the character has committed, he sees some extra abuse from both inmates and guards. The guards take him to a vacant cell and take turns beating him, but towards the end of the scene, it is implied that he is sexually abused with a night stick.
Other Negative themes: I’ve had to reference this moment twice already within this content guide, so I need to go into more detail. At the end of a chapter, the main character finds his target, whose immediate family is there too. As Piero holds up the man and his wife, there is someone hiding in a locker. Perio tells that he will shoot if they don’t come out. He decides to shoot, and discovers it was a child. This is the reason for his imprisonment and some of the details mentioned above.
Milanoir is a story of crime, violence, and revenge. As I explained in the introduction, it has taken inspiration of crime films from the past. Do not let the pixel art style fool you—it’s just as dark as the intellectual properties that have influenced it. Set in Milan Italy somewhere in the 70s, players take control of a hitman named Piero who works for a family in the Italian mafia. We are introduced to him as someone from a rival family attempts to take his life. The family begins to track down who was responsible for the hit on Piero, but things spiral out of control in such a way that drives Piero on a quest for revenge and bloodshed.
Though there were a number of things that made this game tough to get through, the story was one of them. It just felt way to dark for me; there were no story beats that led me to believe that there were going to be any redemptive qualities to this world or characters. I look at something like Max Payne 3—both a crime violent crime drama and also the story of a broken human being who seeks freedom from the sins of the past. Sadly, that is not the story that Milanior is trying to tell. There is nothing here that gives me a reason to feel for any of these characters and this dark world that they are living in.
The presentation itself was well designed—even if pixel art is so common within the indie community these days. The character design carries an exaggerated look that fits. It’s the detail in the environments I truly admire. There is much detail in the pixels and each area feels dense with the objects that are placed within each chapter. This creates a feeling as if the world had been lived in rather than bland or empty; rather than a video game-y open space to shoot bag guys. A great example is the stealth mission that takes place in a street marketplace. Ultimately, these environments do well in complementing the noir aesthetic of 1970s Italy. I’m always keeping an ear open for a good soundtrack in video games, and this one didn’t particularly stand out to me. Overall, the presentation as a whole is probably the strongest out of the entire package.
Gameplay is usually what makes or breaks a game for me, and Milanoir sadly falls into the latter category. The concept is great, but isn’t fully realized thanks to the aiming controls. This is a top-down shooter, but its not as simple as aiming with the right stick in the direction of your enemy. We are forced to move a crosshair around the screen, reload, and move our character in and out of cover all at once. I could see how these controls work on the PC version, but this makes for a frustrating experience on consoles. Not optimizing these aim controls hurts the reaction time and speed of aiming in a fast paced shooter that demands quick actions. It’s like trying to play a light gun shooter with a controller.
There were some fun shootouts I was able to handle, but the controls hurt the overall experience. There are some gameplay mechanics that did attempt to make things easier, but some are less common than others. There are a handful of different weapons and throwables that can be picked up. Rather than the default pistol, there is an SMG, revolver, and the molotov cocktail. These do change the dynamic of a shootout, but they only appear on occasion for specific scenarios. A fun mechanic to play with is the ability to shoot street signs; shooting these involves a bullet ricocheting off the sign into an enemy or two. The gameplay mechanics attest to the film influences, but it’s actually not all completely about the shootouts.
Milanoir operates on set pieces in a similar fashion that we see from third and first person shooters. Aside from the shootouts, we have vehicle chases and stealth sequences. The vehicle chases usually boil down to controlling a vehicle up and down a path while dodging and taking out enemy vehicles. I found this attempt to be admirable since most indie games of this nature don’t attempt such things. The stealth sections aren’t too difficult and are a nice change of pace to slow things down. These moments involve staying out an enemy’s line of site and choking them from behind when the opportunity arises.
Lastly, at the end of each chapter is a boss fight. These boss fights are almost puzzle-like in requiring a specific pattern for things to be done. The controls were responsible for hindering this experience as well, but these fights were intense and rewarding when I was finally able to beat them. Some of them are typical action tropes like a boss shooting at you from a moving van, or a rooftop fight against a boss in a helicopter. One of the more unique and intense examples is a bossfight against a guy who is trying to run the player over with a bus.
The more I think about it, the influences and Milanoir are reflected all the way down to its core. The aesthetic, gameplay, and story should all combine into a great action packed indie game—but they don’t. The controls alone are the reason that I feel Milanoir has shot itself in the foot. The problem is that they are the reason I cannot recommend this game to anybody. The story may be a little too dark, but I get it; that is something I could almost forgive if the gameplay was as fun and entertaining as I feel it could be. With the aiming, I could see the the controls being more intuitive with the precision of a mouse, but it just doesn’t work on console. If you still want to make this purchase, I would recommend the PC version; you’ll likely have a better time than I did.
Review copy kindly provided by Sandbox Strategies.
+ Fun gameplay at times
+ Graphical Presentation
- Aiming mechanics