author: Krzysiek Kalwasinski
Mafia and Hidden & Dangerous Dev Talks His New Game Starring Chuck Norris
Crime Boss: Rockay City is a love letter to action cinema of the second part of late 80s and early 90s. It’s also an interesting blend of genres that promises a breath of fresh air in the genre of FPS. We’ve had a chance to meet with the developers and ask them about how the game was created.
There’s no guarantee that Crime Boss: Rockay City will knock our socks off – but it can easily become a fun, nostalgic trip into the past, they heydays of Michael Madsen, Danny Trejo or Chuck Norris. That action cinema is gone, and if someone pays homage to it nowadays, it is slightly done in a different in style in the case of Ingame studio’s newest creation. It’s saturated, popish, neon-lit, with a ton of one-liners and unfettered action. All that comes in a form of a co-op FPS with a clear division into a mission structure, which we can either perform stealthily, or by raining lead on anything that moves. Without a doubt, this game has a very specific audience in mind.
The peculiar narrative and the appearance of Hollywood stars are not all there is to it, as you will see from Jarek Kolar’s answers. He began his adventure with game development in the 90s, when he, along with programmer Petr Vlcek, created a parody of Monkey Island called The Secret of Donkey Island. In 1997, he founded the Pterodon studio, which, together with Illusion Softworks, developed the excellent Vietcong. The creator of Crime Boss also participated in the development of Mafia.
Through an online interview, we’ve learned more about his vision for the game, which we will be able to play on March 28 on PC, PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S.
Gamepressure: There’s plenty of familiar faces and names in the game. What else do you have in store that’s attractive and original?
Jarek Kolar: The famous actors are giving us good visibility and interest among players. Also, their input into the characters via their voice acting is extremely valuable. It’s improving the narrative experience quite dramatically.
But it’s the game itself where we’ve made innovations in the player FPS genre. We want to forget about checkpoints and safeguarding the player. That kills the tension in contemporary single-player games. Crime Boss in single-player mode is like a multiplayer experience. You have limited room for error. You make a bad call, make mistakes, and you’re in trouble.
If you make too many mistakes, the mission fails. But failing one mission is not the end. You lose a few guys, but your crime organization can move on if you still have money for hiring more thugs and thieves. Or just go out and do the robbing yourself if you’re feeling brave – you don’t need to share the loot. But then if you get killed, it really is over. It’s game over. Just like in real life.
Crime Boss is built for failing though – starting a new game gives new experiences, new options, new choices. The story never feels the same. And the missions are quick. No travel. No exploration. Just decisions and pure gameplay.
GP: The YouTube gameplay is mostly focused on a bank heist. This immediately evokes Payday. Will heists at various locations be the core of the experience, or are you preparing different gameplay modes and activities? Can we expect a hub?
JK: Travis Baker owns a club. It’s an old art-deco club build in the 30s, with all its glamour and glory long gone. The bar downstairs is good for recruiting thugs and thieves for your crew. There’s a planning room above the club with a map of the city divided into turfs, plus plans for the heists. Upstairs is the boss’s office, empty and ruined at the start, but turning into a showroom of power and wealth after some successful runs of the boss campaign.
The gameplay is an FPS crime game, with heists and turf war battles. But the structure is more of a strategy game. Think Mafia played like XCOM or Defender of the Crown. The development team consist of people who have worked on Mafia, Hidden and Dangerous, Vietcong and Silent Hill franchises. So, expect a mix of these ingredients. The result is a non-linear, roguelike, story-driven boss campaign, then there’s also a series of co-op mini-campaigns, freeform heists and moneymaking in single player and co-op.
GP: How did you manage to convince so many actors to participate?
JK: For the publisher, who was involved with Death Stranding and Control, it’s not such a big deal.
Signing up all this Hollywood talent took a lot of time and making it all compatible with their busy schedules was quite difficult. As with any game or movie, there are negotiations with the Hollywood stars (and their agents), and we felt it was important to spend as much time getting the stars we wanted as needed, because of how cinematic this game will be.
In Crime Boss, the Hollywood superstars draw upon the most iconic characters from the 90s. We haven’t cast them to our story, we have invited them to go back in time, let them experience the things they have been famous for 30 years ago. With Unreal Engine technology, we have endowed them with younger bodies and let them jump right into the story of Rockay City.
GP: Have the actors only lent their faces and voices, or did you also hold motion-capture sessions? And how big a role will the actors play in the game – can we expect some kind of cinematic storyline with minor and major roles?
JK: The game portrays these actors as they looked in the 80s and 90s. For example, Mr. Chuck Norris is now 82 years old. So, it wasn’t possible to use photoscans nor mocap. But they did record the voice lines for their characters, and sometimes also amended the script with their takes on those characters that they might have portrayed in the 90s.
GP: Which characters will we be able to control?
JK: The Boss campaign will let players control the Michael Madsen character, Travis Baker, as the boss who manages his criminal crew and climbs through the ranks of the criminal underworld. He is also playable in heists and missions, where he’s extremely valuable, which runs the risk of losing his life and therefore the whole campaign. But he can send other people instead. Michael Rooker’s character, Touchdown, will guide the army of thugs in the turf war missions, but when the proverbial shit hits the fan, and the enemy gang attacks your territory, Touchdown is also there to help with defense.
GP: Is Travis Baker a nod to fans of Taxi Driver and Travis Bickle?
JK: No. We don’t have a traumatized war veteran in our story. Our Travis is a flamboyant, confident cowboy. Think of Mr. Blonde in Reservoir Dogs, with Michael Madsen’s sharp tongue and stellar performance. A bit arrogant, a bit rude, a bit selfish. You don’t always agree with him, sometimes you don’t like him, but it’s fun to be him.
GP: Ok, you mentioned Michael Madsen and Reservoir Dogs. Does the game sport the same kind of witty and poignant dialogs as the post-modern cinema of Quentin Tarantino or Robert Rodriguez? Were these films your inspiration? If not, what did inspire you?
JK: Yes, we cannot deny the inspiration of these Tarantino movies. Pulp Fiction probably holds the biggest influence as a collage of interconnected stories that revolve around common themes and characters, with surprising, nonlinear storytelling. L.A. Confidential is a tale about a corrupted blend of the underworld with the world of police, with a femme fatale role of Kim Basinger. Predator 2 is a great inspiration for a decaying metropolis ruled by criminal gangs, with police being unable to control anything, featuring strong character played by Danny Glover, who’s also giving us a lot of inspiration in Lethal Weapon. From the more stylized movies, we can name The Last Action Hero, Rambo, Commando, Machete, Bad Boys or Sin City. We should also mention the inspiration of more serious movies that are dear to us, such as Goodfellas, Scarface or Heat. And we must also mention memorable TV shows from that era – Miami Vice and Texas Ranger.
GP: The game is set in the 1990s, how do you intend to portray this period of the United States in the game? More pop or more realistic?
JK: The game is 90s pop crime drama, b-action movie tone, with a ton of action, comedy and a pinch of satire, taking place in realistic, yet very surreal world. At least in the context of 2023.
In the 90s, the world was quite almost the same as it is now, but at the same time very different. Mobile phones just appeared, computers started to be used widely in business, there was no internet for everyone, news were still printed on paper, TV was the thing, there were no social networks. It was a time we remember as simpler, nicer, brighter. This was the time many of us remember from teenage years. Action movies and pop-culture in general; rap, rock, grunge, rave and disco music; summer, holidays, sins, neons, MTV and cheesy action movies – we lived it all!
Rockay City is full of decadency and high rate of crime. Criminals rule the city, while law enforcers are struggling to fight them. This is far from any reality, but works well in the context of the game. Almost like the comic-strip themed Sin City. The closest real-life inspiration would be Miami or Los Angeles.
Crime Boss: Rockay City for fans of a forgotten genre
Judging by the responses we got from Jarek Kolar, Crime Boss: Rockay City will not be a game for just anyone. The very choice of actors indicates a focus on a specific style; the focus on cooperation, strict mission structure and randomization will surely not suit everyone. Many of today's audiences would probably like to be able to freely explore Rockay City in-between missions, but this will not be an option. However, there are players, to whom the idea of asymmetrical multiplayer will certainly appeal, this time referring the 1980s thriller cinema, rather than slashers from the era. The gameplay footage didn't impress many viewers, but considering the lower budget, the whole thing doesn't look bad and may positively surprise you. Even because of the excellent, very attractive surroundings and masterful direction of the cutscenes. It’s a game worth keeping on your radar – we are certainly crossing our fingers.