Milanoir was an unexpected delight in the whirlwind that has been E3 2017. Developed by Italo Games, a dev team of two poured their heart and soul into one of the clearest and unique visions to come out of the crime genre in years. Part of this is due to where they drew inspiration from, the Poliziotteschi film era in Italy.
For those unfamiliar, Poliziotteschi is, rather reductively, the Italian version of vigilante cinema going on stateside around the same time. The same themes of disillusionment with law enforcement and machismo, failed or otherwise, were explored in these films, with the additional lens of Italian socio-politics (a complete mess at the time) and mob culture. All this to say that Milanoir takes the elements of these films and distills them into an attractive, immersive pixel-art action game.
The characters are clear stand-ins for Franco Nero, George Eastman, Barbara Bouchet, and other familiar faces of the genre, and the commitment to this look is wonderful. When I played the game, I walked into the bar and was immediately met with characters chatter lighting up the area. There are characters shouting of windows, bizarre figures hanging by street corners, all have a relationship with the world and our protagonist, Piero. The opening of the game is pulls a fake that is both so brilliant, and so obvious, that I kind of want you to experience it for yourself (it's on Steam greenlight now), but rest-assured it sets the tone brilliantly for the adventures to come.
This game plays like a movie, and that's important to understanding its gameplay loop but also the way it flows. We right away find ourselves in a brothel, looking for a mysterious blonde, Africana, who is one of the keys to Piero's revenge quest. We have to sneak past some guys, choking them out by sneaking up behind them. While walking around the brothel, that environmental dialogue continues, with people shouting at each other, having conversations about how "crazy things are," a guy excitedly watching a couple having sex, all adding to the texture of this film environment.
The game plays a lot like Westerado: Double Barreled, and the character models sort of approximate this design, but the color scheme, and the landscapes, are all Milanoir. The music's clear homage to funky 70s jams are a true delight to soak in while playing this game. The game relies on a curser that can move around the whole of the screen, which you use to shoot enemies with your pistol which, fittingly, never runs out of ammo. While I felt somewhat hampered by this mechanic when using the right analogue stick, I doubt I'd face a similar fatigue while playing on mouse and keyboard. The first proper shoot out took some getting used to, but once I did, the satisfying click of the gun and the splat when I connected with mobsters temples was truly satisfying. There is a dodge mechanic, a crowd control push command, but you're here for the story, and for the car chase at the end of the demo where you finally gun down that nasty Africana.
A brunette appears out of nowhere to help you escape, just when you run out of ammo (finally!). She'll help you if you help her leave this brothel for good. Piero reluctantly agrees, and he's watching her closely, he says. The idea of running out of ammo suddenly made me aware that I was in danger, and being rescued suddenly from that danger was a real relief since the game's features, or rather their removal, cued me in to the next story element. If this game promises more story driven moments like that, which tap directly into subverting the established rules of the game, than I am in. Expect Milanoir in Fall 2017.