Sometimes it’s good to be bad. 2K games makes you an offer you can’t refuse with their recent release, Mafia 2. Transport yourself to Empire City, a pseudo-New York City of the 40’s and 50’s, for a gritty adventure of betrayal and violence.
Mafia 2 plays a lot like a standard open world third person action adventure game. You drive or walk to missions. The missions are linear so you don’t get much distraction from the story. The problem with this type of build is that the missions start becoming redundant. Go save this guy, drive here, go kill that guy. No real side missions. No decision making.
You can go anywhere but there unfortunately isn’t much to do outside of the storyline based missions. You can make money by stealing cars or robbing shops. You can buy new clothes, get your car washed, or get your car souped-up.
This gathering of wealth and buying of material things isn’t very useful as the game makes you restart with nothing due to various plot points throughout the game. This unfortunately leads to an uneventful experience when not in the missions.
There are also collectibles that can be found throughout the game. Playboy magazines are hidden through out the levels, and are time sensitive, which means if you missed them the first time you were in an area they will disappear and they can later appear in areas you already visited.
Wanted poster collectibles are not time sensitive and can be found hidden in back alleys, on fences and behind buildings. There are no in game benefits that I can discern, but you can view them in your gallery.
The driving mechanics are simple enough. Other than your standard drive and reverse, you can honk your horn and there is a speed limiter capability. The speed limiter can come in hand to make sure that you aren’t stopped by the cops for speeding, but the horn does nothing for you. You hit the horn and the cars around you don’t react, while pedestrians stop and stare at you. Trying to pull out of a garage without hitting someone or getting hit by a car is time consuming and nearly impossible. The choice of cars changes slightly as the game progresses, but is very limited in general and stylistically look very similar.
The fighting mechanics are pretty simple and you learn the controls as part of the story. The punch and block system is explained and taught to you through bare-knuckle boxing missions. The shooting mechanics work well and the area the bullet hits matters, such as head shots doing more damage or shooting a gas tank will cause a car to explode. You can hide behind objects to protect yourself from flying bullets. Your health bar automatically replenishes which means that you just need to hide behind an object for a short period of time in order to fully replenish your health in the middle of battle.
Story and Presentation:
One of the strengths of the game is the story lines that permeate the game. We follow the exploits of Vito, as he grows from a street punk to soldier to mafioso. The story includes many twists and turns, but most of them are predictable. The game builds the secondary characters well, and they play an integral part of how the storyline progresses. It’s through these characters that we understand Vito’s impetus and everything ties together in a circuitous manner.
Mafia 2 feels more like a movie than a game. You have montages that propel the story forward. The story line follows a definitive rise and fall. As much as this makes the story line strong, the game play is broken up by tons of cut scenes. The direction of the story is clear from the beginning and cannot be changed, which means that even if you see the problems your actions may cause you have no way of heading in another direction.
Graphics and Sound:
Graphically Mafia 2 isn’t a break through in the technological realm, but the ambiance works well for the feel of the game. The color schemes and tones are fitting for the time period of the game. Overall the cut scenes are well done and I didn’t notice any clipping in the images.
The sound is the real achievement in the game. The rights to the songs they had in the game must have cost a fortune but it was well worth it as we are privileged with music by the greats of the time including the likes of Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers. The music has a strong influence on the ambiance of the game, making it all the more enjoyable and engrossing. The voice acting was passable, but the actual dialogue was very strong. It’s filled with comedy nuggets that poke fun of the modern day, with dialogue in the story lines that hints at the Obama presidency and the radio touting the new technology like the VCR.
Mafia 2 has a wonderful storyline and is filled with great music. If you like Grand Theft Auto and The Godfather games, this game is definitely worth at least one play through. The replay value of the game is minimal, as there is no alternate storyline or side quests you may have missed. It is also a fairly short game if you don’t consider the amount of time you spend driving. Overall it’s a good game that had the potential to be great and I can only hope that when Mafia 3 comes out I can give it the score a story like this one would have deserved.
PlayStation 3 (Also available for XBox 360 and PC)
Developer: 2K Czech
Publisher: 2k Games