Mafia II gives you the opportunity to relive 1943 to 1957 in American history where cops and robbers each had a grand role. You play Vito Scaletta an up-and-coming wise-guy wanna-be with the usual appetites for money, cars, women and power. Does Mafia II provide you the experience of a Don or do you come up short and get whacked? Read on and find out.
The game embarks with Vito coming back from World War II and meeting up with his old buddy Joe Barbaro who is a clear Joe Pesci look alike. Vito gets discharged from the military thanks to Joe and his shady connections and from there on out it is time to start the shenanigans. Vito quickly learns of a debt his family owes and embarks on a quest to get them out of trouble with Joe.
Mafia II is broken up into 15 chapters and provides you a grand city, Empire Bay, as its backdrop. Empire Bay is a large metropolis designed after New York City and is alive with citizens, criminals and cops. Unfortunately the chapters play out very linearly and do not award or even promote the player to explore the city. You typically drive from your home / base to a location and either whack someone, steal something or drive away again. The game can become quite repetitive at times and I do not understand why it is necessary to go up and down the stairs in your building after each mission.
The highlights of the chapters are the first and sixth chapters. In the first you actually play in Italy during the war and get to experience Vito before hitting Empire Bay. In chapter Six Vito actually goes to jail and this helps progress the story form the 40’s to the 50’s. Both of these chapters really provide something different in the game and were well written and a nice departure from the expected.
There are certain things in the game that really slow down the pacing of the title like the cars of these era. Unfortunately cars of the 1940’s handle about as well as a garbage truck on a frozen lake (although this is probably intentional for realism value) and this fact only gets slightly better when the new era of the 50’s kicks in. I found myself constantly crashing my car or killing myself or my passenger in a wreck causing me to restart my missions.
You do have the ability to repair your cars and upgrade them at garages but this does not affect the overall handling that dramatically. Also getting in and out of cars is less than stellar; apparently Vito needs a crash course from the Dukes of Hazard about how to get in and out of a car quickly to make a getaway. This really comes into play when you have cop sirens bearing down on you and Vito is nonchalantly limping into his crappy car only to be shot in the face.
The visuals are great in the game as well as the sounds. Mafia II feels authentic to the time period from the car models, clothing, radio stations, music and even Playboy Magazines. The artistic style of the 40’s is set in a cold snow driven city while the 50’s is a much warmer happier time with more upbeat music. Even the chatter on the radio and the NPCs add to the feel of the game, complete with racial slurs and cracks about Vito and his military days.
Mafia II also depends largely on a cover system reminiscent to Gears of War where Vito will take cover and stick to it until you break away from it. Being in cover can mean the difference between life and death. Mastering shooting around corners with a Tommy Gun is very important and guns will reign supreme throughout the game. You can also resort to fist fighting but this will never beat a good old fashioned pistol to the dome. When you break into a fist fight the screen cuts away and you bust out into a Blades of Steel style brawl where you can land hard and light strikes or chain together attacks for combos.
Another game mechanic that comes into play often is lock picking when trying to liberate cars. You can either try to pick a lock or break a window of a car, the latter will get you nabbed by the cops if they are driving by the former equals a clean getaway but takes longer. The act of stealing and carjacking cars is simple and effective.
The police in Empire Bay can be obnoxious at times but you do have the ability to bribe cops in order to get them off your back. I say they are obnoxious because the AI will pull you over for breaking the law like hitting a car or person or even speeding, this gets annoying when you are trying to get away quickly and then you have cops on you as well.
The cops’ AI is a mixture of dumb and smart. They are smart because they can mark you and your car as wanted which means that not only will you need to ditch your car but you will also need a change of clothes to lose them. They are also dumb since you can typically drive down and alley or just circle a block to lose them. I felt as if I spent far too much time running from cops because of silly things.
Unfortunately there is a lack of any type of online play or leader-boards to add to replay value. You can play the game on different difficulties or aim to collect all of the hidden items to add some time. Collecting Playboy magazines and having the ability to view them is an interesting add-on although I did feel a bit like a pervert viewing 1950’s boobies on my HDTV while playing at times. There is DLC to add depth to the game and DLC is present and free for PS3 users once you buy the game.
Mafia II leaves you wondering, ‘what happened?’, literally. The ending is clearly primed for another sequel and leaves you hanging, which was frustrating for me. While playing through Mafia II I could not help but feel that I was nothing more than a henchman doing grunt work for everyone which was not what I was expecting. I wanted to be the Don and run the Mafia but instead was stuck building my way up and never really making it.
Mafia II looks and feels authentic but also feels rushed. The first 6 chapters felt good and then the last 9 felt like a grind. For fans of the original this is a nice continuation with new characters, for new fans this could be a rental/buy if you really enjoy the time period and pacing and for those who were looking for a GTA style title look elsewhere. There are also a ton of things that you can do that make no sense or change the outcome of what is happening like opening you car trunk, turning of lights, flushing toilets and a plethora of other silly things that you can interact with in the environment.
- Title: Mafia II
- Platform Reviewed: Xbox 360
- Developer: 2K Czech
- Publisher: 2K Games
- Release Date: Available Now
- MSRP: $59.99
- Review Copy Info: A copy of this game for this title was provided to DualShockers Inc, for purposes of this review.