Mafia IIMikey 3 comments
I have a problem. I recently decided to jump into the console gaming scene after having been a die hard PC gamer for as long as I can remember. With the purchase of the latest XBox360 I also bought Alan Wake, a game which on many web sites received perfect or near perfect scores, a sentiment I can 100% agree with.
This means my introduction to console gaming has the bar set very high, and every other game I've played since hasn't been able to come close to sucking me in the the level Alan Wake did.
Mafia II however, comes very very close.
Set to the backdrop of late 1940's through to the 1950's in the fictional city of Empire Bay, you play fresh-faced stereotypical mobster wanna-be Vito Scaletta. The game has you play the character briefly at the beginning during his mandatory stint in the War, after which he rejoins society and decides that working a typical 9 - 5 isn't the life he wants, and thus with the help of his good buddy Joe (who is always hanging out with the wrong crowd), Vito begins his journey into the life of an underworld minion.
As the story take place over several years of Vito's life, naturally you start off as a low level Mafia goon, doing simple missions and earning the trust of your business partners and employers. As you progress you will be given more challenging missions and work for more important clients (Mafia Bosses further up the food chain).
That might not sound very interesting to some, and it's certainly not original, but thankfully the entire game is supported by a good story and some of the best voice acting and cut scenes you will ever see in a video game. It unfolds like any good Mafia movie, and is so good in fact that there were times I wished I could put the controller down and just watch the story play out by itself.
It would be hard to say to much about this game without giving away some of the plot, so for the rest of this review (after the screen shots and videos) I will demonstrate some of the good and the bad in Mafia II.
The Graphics and Sound
Outstanding. A lot of work has obviously been done to create a believable 1940/1950 era, (just look at the screen shots above!) right down to an authentic sound track (with 100 licensed songs from the same era) and engaging musical score. The cut scenes, which do use the actual game engine, are extremely well done.
The city of Empire Bay is beautifully rendered and it's hard to avoid the compulsion to just drive around to check out the detail.
There's a lot of fun to be had, but there's also one issue that needs to be addressed in this and all other sandbox style games. A note to all game developers - driving from location to location is not fun. To cite just one example, in many parts of the game you have to drive home all the way across town just so Vito can go to sleep.
While there are obviously times where you do need to drive around, like when out and about robbing stores for example, we should be given a choice at the beginning of each driving section: Press A to jump straight to your destination, or Press B if you want to drive there instead. The amount of time you'll waste just driving for no reason at all is ridiculous. Aside from being boring, it's also an obviously lame attempt to add padding to the game length. Another note to all game developers: Game length does not matter - substance is all that matters.
The characters are very believable, and there are plenty of LOL moments to break the seriousness of the game. Joe, apart from being your best friend and partner in crime throughout the game is also the comic relief.
That depends on the gamer. As the story unfolds like a movie, revealing the plot at episodic junctions, there will be no mystery and surprise the second time around. I probably won't play it again, except maybe just to watch some of the amazing cinematics.
Though flawed in many places, the rest is pretty damned good - "an offer you can't refuse". Although marvellous to look at and very compelling, the obvious padding (driving stages) and some seriously flawed AI prevent me from giving Mafia II a better score. That said, it's a great experience and one you should add to your collection.