Review – Milanoir
I was curious about Milanoir the moment I heard about its existence, not due to its gameplay, but due to its setting. As a former resident of Milan myself, I was intrigued about playing a retro-style game set in Italy’s richest city, being able to visit my favorite spots in a more pixelated (and bloodier) way. The result was a complete mixed bag. Milanoir is equally great and terrible, in a way few games can achieve.
Milanoir is a top-down twin-stick shooter with a heavy emphasis on storytelling set in Milan in the 70’s. The story is something you’d expect from an Italian crime film of that era: lots of blood, violence, gratuitous sex, betrayals and tons of drama (this is Italy we’re talking about). You can clearly see the elements that would eventually influence Quentin Tarantino in his filmmaker career. The setting is great: the city of Milan is masterfully recreated in 16 bits, and if you’re someone who has already been to that place, you can actually notice some places of interest, as well as the overall architecture of the city. I have no complaints at all with the setting and the background visuals. The characters are also sprite-based, but they look cheap in comparison: while the background is very detailed and colorful, characters look like they’ve been copied and pasted from PC games from the late 80’s or early 90’s.
Suffice it to say, I liked the setting a lot. Sadly, the setting alone can’t save the game from its myriad of issues. Just like your typical Italian car, Milanoir is gorgeous and looks appealing at first glance, but it’s riddled with issues that can lead anyone to insanity.
The big issue here is the gameplay. Milanoir is not fun to play at all. Its control scheme was clearly developed with a mouse and keyboard in mind, since this twin-stick shooter has an aiming reticle unlike other games from the same genre, such as Tesla vs. Lovecraft. The game does its best to help you with the limitations imposed by the usage of a joystick, providing you with auto aiming, but its aiming sensitivity is insane, even when you set it at the lowest option possible.
The real issue here, however, is the difficulty. Milanoir is poorly designed, featuring constant difficulty spikes throughout its levels. Boss fights, for instance, are a complete pain, not only being difficult (that alone wouldn’t be too much of a problem), but unfair. Some bosses can even kill you if you’re behind a wall, for instance. I have no idea if this is a glitch or an intentional way of making the game more challenging, but you can already imagine the game will test your patience at all times.
And then we have the driving sections. Long, boring and incredibly difficult, these sections combine the game’s unfair difficulty curve with very poor controls in order to create ragequit-inducing moments. The first driving section alone took me more than ten tries to beat. At first I thought I was just being a terrible player, I thought I was doing something wrong, but then I found out this was a common complaint said by other colleagues as well.
I equally really liked and really disliked Milanoir. I loved its setting, its atmosphere and its themes, but I disliked pretty much everything related to actual videogame functionality within it. It’s a very broken, unfair, and unbalaced experience coupled with clunky controls and somewhat unlikable characters. Milanoir made me fear car chases like no other game out there.
Excellent backgrounds which perfectly recreate the architecture and overall vibe from the city of Milan. Sadly, the character design isn’t nowhere as good.
The game tries its best in order to provide a mouse-centered gameplay style on a console, but its aiming sensitivity and automatic lock-on are beyond irritating.
All I can say about the soundtrack is that it’s “ok”. It tries to recreate a 70’s vibe, and while occasionally succeeding, it’s far from being an interesting soundtrack.
Fun Factor: 3.0
Despite the cool setting, Milanoir is beyond irritating. An overall dull gameplay coupled with terrible driving sections and an excessive amount of difficulty spikes ruin what could have been an awesome little title.
Final Verdict: 5.0
Reviewed on Switch.
Also available on: PS4, Xbox One, PC
A copy of Milanoir was provided by the publisher.