Review – Mafia II
With all due respect, your sister’s a slut.
The original Mafia was released way back in 2002, around the same time as Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. It gained very favourable reviews for its story and being a more realistic take on the open world format. A lot has changed in the gaming world in eight years however, so have 2K Czech managed to bring Mafia 2 in line with the world’s expectations?
Mafia 2 puts you in control of Vito Scaletta as he works his way up through the Mafia. You’ll start off as a no good kid who, thanks to circumstance, has to do some dirty work to make money fast, but end up enjoying the lifestyle and taking more and greater risks. It is this story that will keep you playing Mafia 2 and at times it can be quite powerful, though if you’ve seen Goodfellas or any other gangster movie you probably won’t be surprised by any of the twists.
At first you might think that Mafia 2 is a GTA-clone, with an open world where you accept missions and create havoc. You would only be partially correct. True, Mafia 2‘s world is open from the beginning and you can create havoc if you so choose, but you don’t accept missions because there are only story missions and there will only ever be one at a time. Unlike GTA where you’ll have a choice of which missions you want to do at what time, even though you’ll do them all eventually, Mafia 2 has no choice. There will be one marker on the screen and you will have to go there if you want to make progress.
Not necessarily a negative in itself, but there is nothing else to do. As I mentioned you can go around shooting up the place, robbing stores or crushing cars, but to what end? Sure, you’ll get a bit more cash, but there is little to spend it on. You can buy new suits or modify your car but there is no point in that unless the cops are after you. You can buy guns but you’ll have plenty just from playing missions. I played Mafia 2 through from start to finish (on hard) in a few days, simply going straight from one mission to the next. I still enjoyed it, I just don’t understand why there had to be the illusion of a living world when it’s actually incredibly empty.
The missions themselves are much like you’d expect. Drive from here to there, shoot this and that, repeat. There are a few interesting scenarios in which these actions take place but people who curse GTA for its lack of variety won’t find anything here to appease them. The shooting mechanics themselves are quite good, sometimes. There are moments when you’ll spray a guy with a ‘Tommy Gun’ and he’ll wince and crumple as you’d expect, whereas other times enemies will run out into the open only to turn around and run back exactly where they came from, or will stand out of cover to reload. Also I have not had so many long range shotgun based instant deaths as this since Rainbow Six: Vegas.
Mafia 2 also has a habit of taking control away from you and fading to black to inform you that something is happening or to do something cool, and will then give control back to you. Why I can’t be informed that the police are now after me whilst playing, or simply by noticing with my eyes I don’t know. Mafia 2 is obviously fond of the cutscene. A little bit of fuss has been made about the length and frequency of the cutscenes but I personally didn’t mind this and it certainly isn’t a patch on Metal Gear Solid, I would just have preferred to be able to continue playing with voices talking over the action at points, or let me shimmy across the ledge myself instead of just watching it happen. I guess that could be classed as a minor niggle, but it would have added a cool bit of variety to the proceedings, rather than just driving and shooting. There are a couple of stealth sections which are genuinely a breath of fresh air simply because you get to do something different.
Mafia 2 is not perfect by any means. There are plenty of niggles but you’ll have fun soaking up the atmosphere of 1950s and ’60s America. It starts off really strong, then moves to doing jobs and building up your cash. Sadly it soon becomes apparent that cash is fairly useless. There’s nothing you need to buy or invest in. It’s hard to feel attached to the open world or derive a sense of progression because of this.
The majority of the characters are forgettable with only your buddy Joe providing any sort of meaningful relationship. The rest are just cookie cutter mafia guys who’s motives are never explained on anything other than the most superficial of levels, it’s disappointing.
Driving in Mafia 2′s period cars was a treat for me. The cars all handle quite similarly which meant that I could hop in anything and feel comfortable.
The way the gunplay in Mafia 2 functions leaves a lot to be desired. You could take so few bullets before dying coupled with the checkpointing meant that I did spend a lot of time repeating sections. This was by and large due to being one shot killed by some shotgun flavoured prick. Not great game design in 2010.
I stuck to the missions and got a fair amount of enjoyment out of Mafia 2. Is a solid experience not revolutionary but il be interested to see what this developer does next
Secondary Score: 6/10
My biggest negative with the game is that there is no real sense of progression. Obviously if you’re following the story you’ll feel progress is being made, but from a strictly gameplay perspective there will be times where you are literally sent back to square one. You’ll learn to counter punch about half way through the game which will stay with you forever, but when the story dictates it there will be moments when you lose all your weapons and all your money, even any nice clothes you’ve bought. Like I said earlier, these things are easily replaced or have little use anyway, but I would like some sense of progression in the game, whether it’s a huge amount of money or a swankier pad or a huge collection of powerful weaponry. Instead all I have to go on is the chapter number.
Still, Mafia 2 has a decent atmostphere which, as Alan Wake proved, can make up for a lot. Set from the mid ’40s to the early ’50s, the developers have taken every opportunity to make it feel like you’re running around committing criminal acts in this time period and not simply running around with a ‘Tommy Gun’ in modern day. From the cars you drive, to the music that you hear throughout, even the collectibles (actual real life vintage Playboy pinups) keep you immersed in the world. It’s just a shame that you have such a narrow view of this world. It would have been nice to be able to travel Empire Bay and just go dancing, or whatever the hell they used to do back then and not simply have to constantly kill. According to Mafia 2 gangsters wake up everyday to a phone call which starts a job and then as soon as they finish their job they go home and go to bed. Although with so little else to do I don’t really blame them.
If you enjoy a gangster flick, or believe a decent story is enough to pull you through ten hours of gameplay then you may well find an experience worth having with Mafia 2. If you’re an open world fan and expect this to tide you over until the next GTA or Saints Row then you’ll be disappointed.