The original Mafia released on PC back in mid-2002, and although the game had some technical issues, it was considered a big success. Eight years later, we are now set for the sequel is finally hitting store shelves and the coveted PS3. Did Mafia II improve on what its predecessor offered, or simply get lost in the sea of mediocre open world games?
Mafia II follows the life of Vito Scaletta, an Italian immigrant who came to Empire Bay with his family at a young age. Growing up in a rough part of town with an alcoholic dad, Vito strayed and ended up hanging out with the wrong crowd. During a robbery, Vito gets arrested and instead of doing jail-time like most other Italians in the neighborhoods Vito enlists in the army and is sent to Sicily. After a three-year stay Vito is sent home after sustaining a bad but non-fatal gunshot wound. After getting back Vito hooks up with an old friend, Joe Barbaro, and gets right back into his old habits, but this time around he is working with the Mafia. Now Vito must work his way through the underbelly of Empire City in order to become a ‘made man’.
The story in Mafia 2 is very entertaining and well-presented from the characters you encounter throughout the length of the storyline to the missions you are sent out on. In fact, the story is so good at times that it gets to the point that you may be merely rushing through the other parts of the game to see the next cut scene. Now this may make it sound like the missions aren’t that entertaining, but the missions are actually mildly entertaining and sufficiently varied. You may be asked to bury a body, crack a safe, stealth through a building, or even engage in turf wars. The mission structure is quite refreshing since a lot of other games like this are usually built around simple fetch quests.
The issues some gamers may find with Mafia II is that it’s an open-world game. Now you might be thinking, why would that be a bad thing? Well, although Mafia II is set in an open-world environment, the overall mission structure is quite linear. In addition, there are virtually no side missions at all, and the only missions you will be given are the main story missions. There are still some open world aspects you can engage in from stealing cars and driving anywhere you want to buying clothes. However, the open-world environment definitely leaves a lot to be desired. The game could have very easily been made into any other action third-person shooter with simple linear chapter to chapter structure, and at many times it feels this way.
In terms of controls, the shooting mechanics may take time to get used to. It isn’t anything in particular that is poorly executed, but other third-person shooters have done it much better. The weapons on the other hand do feel unique when shooting them partially due to their inherent classic nature as with the Tommy Gun and Colt M1911, but unfortunately there is not a wide variety to choose from. This isn’t a huge issue since this is taking place in the 40’s and 50’s, but get used to using only a small handful of weapons. This once again ties back into the issue with the open-world environment. The lack of options in gameplay leaves the world feeling like an empty shell that could have been so much more.
Thankfully, there are some missions that require the standard hand-to-hand combat. Whenever you get into a fist-fight, the game changes more into a standard fighting game. This portion of the game does a good job at changing the pace, but they do get quite repetitive eventually bringing the game’s flow to a complete halt. On the other hand, the driving portions of the game are very well done. The physics of the automobiles were done very well, and each car is also wonderfully detailed. The cars have a good sense of weight to them and aren’t too difficult to maneuver. Driving around Empire Bay is relatively easy, and unlike some other games crashing is a bit easier to avoid.
Voice acting is one of the strong points of Mafia II, and really help’s to increase the appeal of the story. Each character fits his/her role extremely well, and some of the more intense scenes really do get the blood going. Also, the guns all sound authentic, and there is a complete 40’s and 50’s soundtrack to listen to as your cruising Empire Bay. Both of these elements encompassed together provide a great audio experience that helps boost the immersion level considerably.
On top of that, the graphics are also extremely well-done. Each character model for the male characters are wonderfully animated and provide a great deal of realism to the environment. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the female characters. It’s hard to imagine how this was looked-over, and it’s definitely the first, but the females look quite disturbing at times to say the least.
There are only a few things that detract from Mafia II. Some people may have an issue with extremely linear presentation within the open-world environment. The story is good enough that fans of solid stories shouldn’t find it much of a problem, but with it being presented as an open world game it can be looked at as quite a disappointment for some customers. The gameplay is also varied in missions but limited in gameplay. While it is manageable, there are plenty of third-person shooters that gameplay in a much better fashion. However, the graphics and audio are both fantastic and together with the story really create a solid experience when it comes to the ten or so hours you’ll spend playing through the campaign.
Overall, Mafia II is a very fun game to play with a fantastic story, presentation, and graphics. There are a few issues that hold the game back from being a real contender such as the lack of gameplay variety and the linear story. When all is said and done, Mafia II is a memorable gangster title that entertains for a short while but comes just short of offering a true next-generation open-world experience.
PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score
Engaging story from beginning to end
Linear and limited gameplay
Premium graphics and audio presentation