From the excellent original PC game to its horrific release on Xbox, the Mafia series has seen both the highs and lowest of lows. The long awaited sequel has arrived and for the most part is a worthy follow-up.
The game begins with your character Vito Scaletta getting caught for a petty crime and given the choice, in lieu of jail time, to join the US Military in Sicily during WWII. During combat (the first level of the game) Vito gets knocked unconscious and sent back home to Empire Bay for some R&R. While there he hooks up with his old pal Joe who is trying to make a name for himself in the Mafia. Joe arranges for a fake medical report that excuses Vito from returning to military service and introduces him to some influential characters that show Vito that joining the ‘family’ is the only way to get ahead.
While some may have been expecting a sandbox game in the vein of GTA or The Saboteur, but Mafia II, despite having a decent-sized city to play in, isn’t by any means a sandbox title. The story is mission based, fairly linear and straying from the mission at hand is definitely frowned upon. However you do get chances to supplement your income by extorting store owners or just straight out stealing their cash register. Sadly though this extra cash is essentially cosmetic as it can only be used for buying new clothes, items from vending machines, food, and fixing or modifying vehicles. It would have been brilliant if there had been some kind of real-time economy running throughout the game as EA’s The Godfather did.
Hand to hand combat in the game is one of the standout features – it’s cinematic in presentation yet very simple to execute. Pressing A causes Vito to sway backward and avoid being hit, B throws some light punches while Y lets loose with some haymaker combos. When your foe is almost defeated, pressing B when prompted has Vito perform some classy finishing moves.
The weapon combat and cover system is also a polished affair with Vito being able to slide into cover and pick off the enemies form there. The enemy AI isn’t terribly smart and they usually choose to pick a spot and just duck out occasionally for some pot-shots. They’re easy pickings for most of the game but if they land about half a dozen hits on you then it’s curtains unless you can take cover long enough for your health to regenerate.
The other main variation to gameplay is the driving model. There are some amazing period cars scattered around Empire City and you can drive all of them. You’ll need vehicles a lot for getting across town in a hurry or stealing them to order. Your cars do take damage and you can also run out of petrol so making regular visits to the mechanic and gas station is essential – unless you just ‘acquire’ a new vehicle of course.
As you rise though the family ranks, a fantastic story unfolds which will, without giving too much away, undoubtedly be somewhat extended and have all the loose ends tied up in the upcoming downloadable content.
All in all, Mafia II could have been a lot more, yet it’s under no illusions about exactly the game it wants to be. It’s linear but allows you a little bit of leeway on occasion. It holds your hand yet lets you believe you’re forging your own path through the game.
The graphics are stunning (although the PS3 release suffers considerably with a clumsy conversion), the soundtrack as good as you’ll get in any game and an enthralling storyline that invites you to play it through to the end. Having said that, and with the game being single-player only, there is absolutely no reason to pick up the game and play through it again unless you’re hell-bent on getting that 100% collectables achievement.
Mafia II (Xbox 360)
Developer: 2K Czech
Also available on: PC, PS3
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