Mafia II User Review
The story follows World War II veteran Vito Scaletta, the son of Sicilian immigrants who is desperately trying to escape the poverty that consumed his childhood. Hearing on the streets that becoming involved with the Mafia is the only route to wealth and respect for someone of his social standing, he and his childhood friend Joe descend into the world of organized crime. They must go from job to job, starting small but gaining respect from those in a higher position and risking their lives to become made men. Although Vito is doing anything he can to find his fortune, he is not emotionless or cold. He loves and protects his family, yet will kill absolute strangers if he is directed to by those who have the money he wants. He is a man of conflicting personality traits, making him a complex and compelling character to follow. Joe, on the other hand, is a simple man who only needs babes and booze to stay happy. He is a fantastic contrast to Vito, and one of the most entertaining and comical character ever seen in a game.
Around every corner of Empire Bay is another mafia movie cliché, yet each moment has just enough of its own personality to feel original. The stakes continue to rise as you climb the ladder, but the game never takes your attention away from Vito. Your actions never determine the fate of the world or anything monumental. You always feel like you are working for your own needs or getting yourself out of a harry situation that stemmed from a bad choice made by Vito. This small scale approach makes Mafia II feel more relatable without forcing you to super impose yourself on a faceless protagonist with no voice of his own. You quickly learn to care for the characters, making each twist and turn that much more exciting or, in some cases, heart breaking.
Along with Vito and Joe, the city of Empire Bay takes a leading role in Mafia II. Each citizen seems unique, and the era appropriate music adds to the overall atmosphere. Just walking down the stairs from Joe’s apartment, you will see men knocking on doors aggressively or maids cleaning floors while giving you an odd stare. A young man may be leaning against a wall while flirting with a nervous girl. Everyone feels like they are living their own lives and not solely walking on a directed path.
The city and characters are beautifully crafted, both technically and artistically, but aside from the main story quests, there is little to be done there. Here is where many gamers will be split. If you love to search every corner of an open world in order to find collectables, complete side missions, and make dozens of hours fly by; this is not the game for you. There are a multitude of Playboys scattered across the city, and I suppose you can spend those dozens of hours with this (less on the collecting, more on the appreciation of your collection), but other than this odd addition there is little to be done. For many other gamers, they see an open world game and appreciate the scope of the world but are intimidated by the seemingly unlimited tasks to be completed. If you fall into this category and love an engaging, direct story, go pick up Mafia II.
The story may be linear, but you still need to drive long distances to get to your destination. The vehicles feel just right for the time period, and it is a joy to turn on the radio and hear “Baby it’s cold outside” during a striking winter scene. There is no fast travel and many times you will groan as you once again drive back to Joe’s, most likely at the speed limit. Although a nuisance at times, it feels right. There is a massive amount of detail put into every aspect of the game, and just “teleporting” from place to place would weaken the authenticity. Because of the importance of travel, I have never cared for a vehicle in a game more. I found myself stopping at lights, thinking about who had the right of way, and yes, driving the speed limit. Mafia II pulls you into its world and it sure is difficult to find your way out.
What is a good Mafia story without explosive gun fights? Mafia II plays like many other third person cover based shooters, with added terrain destructibility. As you unload your Tommy gun, you will see bottles shatter, doors collapse, and bodies fly. Each gun feels brutal and can quickly deal death to your enemies. The realism is very present in the gunplay as well, as Vito is not an inhuman bullet sponge like many other game heroes. After just a few shots, you will find yourself sprawled on the ground. Going guns a blazing is almost never an option and you will often find yourself popping up from cover quickly to take advantage of the slight auto aim system and then quickly hugging the closest crate or wall after popping a dude in the head. Luckily, there is a forgiving checkpoint system. Yes, there are a few times where you will load your game back up and sigh as you must drive all the way back to your destination, but for the most part it is fair.
Mafia II will be a polarizing game. Many will praise it for the engaging story, authentic setting, and solid gunplay. Others will see it as a missed opportunity. A large, beautiful city with nothing but a linear story within. Mafia II has been one of the most pleasant surprises for me this year. This is story telling done right, and anyone who wants memorable characters and an emotional tale that will not soon be forgotten should look no further.
This user review does not reflect the views of the PSX Extreme Staff.