Mafia 2 Review
Despite it being deceptively linear, Mafia II is a great story-driven shooter that retains, for the most part, both the feel and quality of the original
Posted by Tim Reid (with_teeth26) on Sep 2, 2010 - 8:46pm EST (Sep 2, 2010 20:46)
Immersion is a funny and illusive thing in the video game world, and really has little to do with polish and production values. Some high-quality, big budget titles with great production values and polish simply aren’t immersive in the least, while other under-the-radar, minor titles developed by unknown teams are incredibly immersive. Mafia II, as a somewhat under-the-radar title, is a game that does immersion right, down to the very last detail. Mafia II does almost nothing to pull you out of the incredibly well crafted game world, and this serves to make the time you spend playing the game go by rather quickly, which has the effect of making your journey through Empire City feel rather short. When you are playing, each mission transitions so smoothly into the next that the game hardly gives you any good spots to stop playing, and it always feels jarring and unwelcome when you finally are forced to quit.
Really, they are just having a friendly chat
This quality of immersion is one of the many aspects of the original Mafia that made their way into the long-time-coming sequel. It’s a bit surprising that Mafia 1’s ruthless, uncompromising realism made its way into the sequel since many disliked the amount of driving done in the first game, but fans of the excellent original will be thankful that the core design of the game hasn’t changed all that much over the years. That’s not to say there haven’t been changes; the controls, health system and combat have all been modernized, along with the technology, but the core of the game, the parts that make Mafia II feel like a Mafia game, are still intact, which is great news if you are a fan of the original.
Seeing as how the story of the original game was wrapped up to a fantastic conclusion, it’s no surprise that the story of the sequel is all-new and almost completely unconnected, although the basic structure of the plot does share a number of similarities with the original game as well as many famous gangster movies like The Godfather, Goodfellas and Once Upon a Time in America. You play as Vito Scalletta, a Sicilian-born immigrant to the USA who, with the help of his lifelong friend Joe, gets exposed to the organized crime world of Empire City. Vito initially does work for the mob because he needs money after returning from Italy where he served in World War II, and eventually gains the favour of those working in the business of organize crime. The plot moves slowly at first, with lots of seemingly pointless missions, but eventually things really pick up and the story overall is great with some fantastic twists and turns. Overall the story is not nearly as well wrapped up in the end as the story of Tommy Angelo in the original game, and many of the characters in Mafia II feel somewhat one-dimensional in their purpose and personality. Still, it’s one of the better stories so far this year.
Icy roads and old cars make driving tricky and treacherous
One thing that is deceiving about Mafia II is the open world – or lack thereof. Even though when driving between missions you are allowed to explore Empire City, there is very little to do, and thanks to the GPS that shows the best route you will hardly deviate from the path set by the game. There are a few diversions in the form of shopping for clothes, weapons and car upgrades, but seeing as how all but the former are provided by the story missions, you will hardly need to take advantage of these features at all. This is no different from the original Mafia, where the open city only came into play when driving from one mission objective to another, but still it is important to realize that this is not a GTA clone; rather it is a linear game that takes place within an open city. There are some collectibles to look for, including authentic playboy magazines, but really they are minor diversions compared to what is seen in other open world games. Those looking for a game to just have some sandbox fun with should look elsewhere; Mafia II is in essence a linear, story driven game, albeit a very good one.