The Sopranos television series is in its twilight and is long past its peak of popularity, but that hasn't stopped THQ and 7 Studios from producing a game based on the show. The Sopranos: Road to Respect is a straightforward mission-based action game with a strong cast of identifiable characters and a fairly interesting story, but it's also ugly, short, riddled with bugs, and just no fun to play.
You'll see some familiar characters from the show, and boy, do they look ugly.
Road to Respect puts you in the shoes of Joey LaRocca, the son of informant-turned-corpse Salvatore "Big Pussy" Bonpensiero. With your father out of the picture, you get taken in by Tony Soprano as a lowly thug for hire. It's up to you to do a lot of dirty work for the DiMeo crime family so that you can earn the respect of the bosses and eventually become a made man. You're given missions by Tony, Paulie, A.J., and other members of the family. Some missions have you roughing up thugs who are causing trouble; others have you carrying out orders to assassinate certain people. It's all very simple and linear, and all of the missions play basically the same, to the point that you'll revisit the same locations to beat up the same generic thugs multiple times throughout the game.
The missions are all combat-focused, so you start at one end of a level and move down a corridor or go from room to room beating up enemies two or three at a time. Usually there's a special character that you have to confront--and of course, beat up--at the end of each mission. The combat controls are extremely clunky and unresponsive, which makes the fighting frustrating and tedious. You have a quick attack, a strong attack, and a grapple. Most of the time a fight comes down to mashing the quick-attack button to punch a guy in the face about 50 times until he falls over dead. If you weaken an enemy enough you can grapple him and pull off special finishing moves. You can choke guys, break their arms and legs, or just slam them into walls and kick them in the head. These moves are fun to watch the first time you see them, but they quickly get old because you'll see the same few animations over and over again. There are also context-sensitive attacks where you use objects in the environment to finish off your enemies. You can slam a guy's head in a refrigerator door, introduce his face to a table saw, or shove his head in a toilet. Again, these are satisfying the first couple of times you see them, but there isn't enough variety to make them interesting or worthwhile in the long run.
Aside from being boring and repetitive, the combat is also poorly executed. The controls are unresponsive, so even when you're mashing on an attack button you sometimes won't be able to get an attack off. There are also collision detection issues that cause you to get hit by enemies who are standing several feet away, while you whiff while trying to hit an enemy who is right in front of you. The enemy artificial intelligence ranges from broken to cheap. Sometimes you'll be fighting three enemies at a time and they'll just punch you over and over until you're dead, because there's no way for you to move or attack between blows. Luckily that doesn't happen often, because the enemies usually have a hard time moving around even in an open environment. If there's a table or other obstruction in the room, you can bet that an enemy will get stuck on it and just stand there twitching until you put him out of his misery.