Reviews

Mafia II – Review

Release Date: Out now!
Developer: 2K Czech
Publisher: 2K Games
Singleplayer: Yes
Splitscreen: No
Multiplayer: No
PEGI: 18+

The world of the Mafia has captured many people’s imagination with its crime and intrigue.
And Mafia II finally lets us play out those stories of betrayal as Vito Scaletta and his best bud, Joe Vito and Joe start out life as small time crooks and getting caught see’s Vito being taken off to fight in the War.

It’s here that the game begins and serves as a combat tutorial for the game.
You’ll find yourself in the games main setting – Empire Bay – after a serious accident sends Vito home and it’s here that the games beauty shines through as when you first set foot in Empire Bay it’s in the grip of winter.
It’s breathtaking stuff as you walk to your mother’s home through snow-covered streets with the period 1940’s cars driving past. The level of detail gone into this small but fantastic city is superb and 2K have once again shown that they can create top-notch game worlds.

So may find it peculiar however, that Mafia II is set in an open world that has none of the open world traditions.
Those looking for side missions to partake in or other sideline activities will be disappointed to find that Empire Bay is more of a backdrop the games main narrative.
It must be mentioned that the city itself changes as well during the story.
A series of events leads to you seeing Empire Bay after a period of time has passed and the cars and styles have all changed.

And it’s the main narrative that drives Mafia II, the story of Vito as he initially tries to repay family debts to becoming a made man is a fascinating story to behold. It’s helped by the fact that Vito is acted to an incredibly high level as is Joe. These two characters become a joy to watch as their story unfolds. Sadly it is a rather generic rags to riches affair but it’s well enough told that I didn’t really care.
The cut-scenes can be a little hit and miss on delivery but for the most part using the game’s engine to render them was the correct approach as it helps give a much more seamless feeling.
The major failings in the story are the ending. The final battle is predictable and the ending is rather disappointing, almost ruining much of it for me.

There are some other things that ruin the immersion in the story to a degree. The inconstancy of character models is odd. Vito is detailed as is Joe and many other characters but some you encounter during a cut-scene look rough. I also encountered scenes where two exact character models were standing next to each other and even had the same voice.
These certainly won’t ruin your game though.

In terms of gameplay, Mafia II comprises of two main things a few other smaller features.
Driving is what you’ll spend a fair chunk of your time doing in Mafia II. Going from place to place consumes much of the games 10-12 hour gameplay time which can a be a little irritating. Especially when it asks you to drive all the way across town to simply go to bed to end the chapter.
However, the period cars all handle pretty nicely. Those used to modern cars may be surprised at the twitchy handling and lack of speed but these cars aim to be more accurate to the period.
The change the cars undergo is a nice touch as well as the 40’s disappear and the 50’s rears its head.
You can also take your car to the garage to tune it up, paint it and change the rims and number plates if you need to fool the cops.

Speaking of which the cops are a little hit and miss in Mafia II. Speeding is generally fine as long as it’s not insane speeds which is a little odd. They also won’t pay attention to most traffic violations. But oddly I found myself occasionally crashing headfirst into them with no repercussions but slightly scratching their car could lead to a fine. Wierd.
They’re also everywhere! This can be a little frustrating at times but luckily they’re easy to get away from. But once you have actually trying to get to a clothes store or Body Shop to change your license plate to lose them becomes awkward due to the amount of them around.

Gunplay, of course, plays a large part in the life of Vito and it’s a good thing then that it feels enjoyable and solid to use.
As you may expect, Mafia II uses the now pretty standard cover system with a slight difference. Tapping A to enter cover is standard enough but to exit cover you must also tap A again. It does take a little while to get used to and can feel clunky to begin with but give it time and it’ll feel fine.
Guns all feel nice and powerful and the iconic Tommy Gun is present and correct. It’s a joy to walk down a corridor with the Tommy Gun and mowing everything down. Including innocent potted plants.
It’s a bit of a shame then that the enemy AI tends to take cover and then never move, simply popping in and out every now and again. This can lead to some boring encounters but for the most part combat is fun and solid, though the likes of Gears of War can rest easy.
The major glitch that I encountered was some cover was not as solid as it appeared. It is possible to hide behind solid concrete and still be hit. This can be pretty frustrating.

Other elements to the game are melee combat which is often used in the story. It’s a simple yet pretty effective system where counters and timing are key. It’s far from complicated but enjoyable enough and the fights are used often enough to break up the games pacing. Punches feel nice and brutal and the finishing moves are well done but repeat themselves.
Stealth is also used in the game and is surprisingly good. As with gunfights you can use X to move around a corner whilst staying in cover (a nice little feature) and you can drag bodies to hide them. The field of vision of guards can be a little hit and miss however but for the most part the stealth is fun and effective. It’s a shame that it is rarely used.

The game’s soundtrack is superb, from listening to music while driving around to the tense and often fantastic orchestral score used during missions it punctuates the world perfectly and helped immerse me in the 1950’s.

The good:
+ Eat Tommy Gun, Mister!
+ Vito & Joe and very interesting characters
+ becoming a made man

The Bad:
– Why am I being shot? I’m behind concrete!
– ugh, driving to joe’s again
That’s the ending?

Scores:

Graphics: 8.5
The city is detailed and lovely to look but character detail is a little inconsistant.T here are a pop-up problems with foliage etc and some characters look rough.
Overall the graphics and artstyle are very good.

Sound: 9
The musical score and voice acting are all spot-on. Only the occasional over done accent can spoil it.

Story: 8.5
rags to riches style of tale with some twists. It’s well told throughout but the ending takes this from a 9 to an 8.5

Gameplay: 8
Solid shooting and driving with some fun stealth and fist fighting.
Gears of War can rest easy as the king of cover but the games cover system is solid.

Lifespan: 7.5
10-12 hours can be put into Mafia II but apart from that there is little to do outside of the main narrative.

Overall: 8.5
Mafia II is a truly immersive crime sim that puts you into the shoes of one of the best acted characters in a game. It’s gameplay is solid and enjoyable and the period setting  with its music and cars is superb.

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