During the storyline of Mafia II, players will enter the world of mobster crime leader, Vito Scaletta. Vito soon realizes that to pay off debts he can’t lead an honest lifestyle and must turn to the Mafia for work. Alongside Vito’s best friend Joe Barbaro, Vito must prove himself throughout the course of the game. While he starts off as just a small fry who sells cigarettes, Vito eventually finds himself stuck in the Mafia’s way of life whether he likes it or not.
So before I make any spoilers let’s kick off with the HOTs and the NOTs.
One of the most important parts to any game is, obviously, the actual gameplay, which just happens to be another thing 2K Games has done notably well. During the game players will spend a lot of time driving around, and the vehicles are one of the most satisfying parts of the game. It’s a blast to drift and skid around corners, but going too fast will cause the car to do a speedy 360 or crash into a nearby object.
Gunfights are a pleasure to be in, as there is a great cover system which means no accidental dropping out of cover. This is great for when players are recovering health or reloading. The ease of changing weapons should also be highlighted; with a simple press on the directional buttons you can change from a pistol to a Tommy gun, or put your weapon away to avoid cop attention. This means players will experience some intense shootouts throughout the game. Mafia II’s melee combat is superb. Fistfights often turn brutal as Vito uses environments to quickly knock an opponent unconscious. The game has some great combo moves and some brutal finishing moves that players can use to dispatch their enemies without mercy.
There is a variety of vehicles available in Mafia II. The average speed of the cars improves once the 1950s arrives, whereas in the 1940s the cars take a while to get going. Apart from the fantastic damage modeling, the fact that vehicles gradually get dirty or snowy when driven really shows how much detail there is in Mafia II.
Mafia II has some amazing cutscenes and these are topped off by the well timed and surprisingly funny one-liners that are dotted throughout the script. These lines turn an otherwise standard cutscene into a pleasure to watch. This adds a humorous side to the game which strengthens both the script and characters behind the lines. Without these one-liners the game would have been too serious at times, thus losing its fun factor.
The Detail in Empire Bay
Empire Bay is an intriguing and ever-changing city, whether it is in an icy winter or a bright summer. So much attention to detail has been spent on the city and the people in it. During the winter chapters the snow crunches underfoot, pedestrians will randomly slip over on the icy sidewalks and the constant snow slowly turns cars white. Everything has changed when you enter the world in the1950s. Empire Bay is colorful and full of life and the way the whole city appears so different after the seasons change is outstanding. Even the water looks very realistic, which is something many games struggle with.
Use of Radio
The use of radio in Mafia II is incredible, as it helps further the story and is representative of the time period. Mafia II features over 100 licensed songs from the 1940’s and the 1950’s. These songs can be heard around Empire Bay via radios in cars and certain shops. During the winter chapters the music on the radios even changes to play seasonal themed music, which is a nice touch that helps immerse players in the game.
The radio reports on big events players have caused during the storyline, such as a large scale shootout or explosions. The radio draws players into the game’s storyline by showing his/her influence on Empire Bay. The three radio stations have period topical talking points, which range from the wartime propaganda in the 40s to the invention and cost of a color television. By giving insight into the collective thoughts of the American people during the 1940s and ‘50s, Mafia II creates a realistic environment that gives players a look into the past.
Mafia II’s story is clearly the games strongest point. The journey Vito takes through the world of organized crime is compelling from the start. After the initial cutscene, which strongly builds the bond between characters Joe Barbaro and Vito, the game launches into the tutorial and adds further back-story to Vito’s time in the army. From then on, players experience Mafia II’s gripping storyline, which comes with plenty of unexpected twists and turns.
When inside Vito’s or Joe’s apartment, the game won’t allow players to draw their weapons, let alone shoot the place up. This together with not being able to run inside often adds time going up and down stairs, which can be frustrating. Additionally, players can’t go out of the room unless they change, which doesn’t take long but I still forgot to a fair number of times and wondered why I couldn’t leave the room, especially during one mission where Vito leaves his house in just his boxer shorts and vest.
Game Feels Unfinished
There are a number of things that make Mafia II feel unfinished. While they are usually very small, some are rather noticeable. Unfortunately a number of things lack animation in Mafia II, from turning on taps in the sink to turning lights off. Although the water appears from the taps, Vito doesn’t actually lean over and turn the tap or in fact touch it at all. A small animation would have solved this, but instead this problem was never corrected. As with many open world games, when players are hurtling down a road in Empire Bay and quickly stop in front of one of the stores they can enter—for example a gas station— the glass sometimes hasn’t fully loaded and visibly changes from a solid grey to the usual see-through glass. While many open world games suffer from this texture loading, it would be nice to see a title fully pull it off for once.
Mafia II also feels unfinished due to its lack of certain features. If Vito is traveling at 100 miles per hour and about to go straight into a wall, or even just 10 mph along a side road, he cannot bail out of the car. This is by no means a necessary feature, just as cars break down and don’t set alight, but its addition in the game would have made a more rounded experience, giving players the option of diving from vehicles to enhance the gameplay. Not adding blind firing into Mafia II must have been a conscious decision from the developers, but it’s one I can’t understand. Many a time I was covered when reloading and an enemy would run round the corner and I would have to pop out of cover to shoot the guy next to me, placing Vito in even more lines of fire. If all these things had been done, the open world and the gameplay would have felt like they had been fully polished and not like there was still potential for improvement.
Mafia II has been and still is a joy to play. The storyline is phenomenal and full of twists and unexpected turns following Vito’s life in the world of organized crime in Empire Bay. The characters all add their own spark to the title and the fact that there’s no multiplayer is no problem at all, as there is a decent length story which has high replay value. It would have been nice for a few extra things to do around Empire Bay, but that is coming shortly via DLC. Everything about the title engrosses players into the period from the music to the city itself, making this game a thoroughly satisfying experience.
[Editor’s Note: Mafia II was reviewed on the PlayStation 3 platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]Mafia II Review,