Mafia 2 Review

Too often we think of the quality of games only in extreme terms; usually we either say a game is amazing or not good. And that’s it.

Mafia II is neither amazing nor not good. It’s just good.


Mafia 2 (PS3 [Reviewed], XBox360, PC)
Developer: 2K Czech
Publisher: 2K Games
Release Date: August 24, 2010
MSRP: $59.99

What we have here is a game that is unusual. It’s an open-world game, but it’s very linear all the same, not unlike Crysis. A chapter begins, typically, when the main character, Vito, wakes up and gets a phone call. You want me to meet you somewhere, Joe? OK. You go meet Joe or whoever, do something, shoot some guys and go back home and go to bed. Chapter over. There’s not gonna be much dicking around on the player’s part, because there’s not much dicking around that you can do aside from robbing stores for little money or running over pedestrians in your car. The only extra thing I ever did after a mission was go to the store and buy a new outfit with my hard-earned cash from the day.

The story is pretty slight. It’s a typical coming-up-in-the-mob tale, and it takes elements from most mafia movies you’ve seen, but it still manages to surprise in some very pleasing ways. The game opens with Vito fighting in Italy in World War II, and you actually spend an entire chapter in prison.

The game moves along at a brisk pace, and it’s a good ten hours long. In a way, they’re taking a lesson from GTA IV, which was so long and meandering that some gamers never finished it. But the story suffers because of it. At one point, while Vito and his friend Joe are driving through Empire Bay’s nicest neighborhood, and Vito says he’s gonna own a house there one day. And he does, but the game doesn’t give you time to appreciate that fact before some bad s**t goes down and you lose the house.

This is my main beef with the game. Yes, it’s all a generally pleasant experience, and the driving and fighting are, while not spectacular, efficiently executed, and the productions values are quite high, making it one of the best looking games on the 360, for sure. But the story just does not breathe, and the story is as important as anything else here.

The game has fifteen chapters, and Vito experiences a major life change about every five chapters. The problem is that the chapters are too short, usually encompassing only one event, whether it be a mission or going to a bar to pick up Joe because he’s drunk and waving a gun around. This is a big problem because the scope of the game is so large. It takes place over eight years in Vito’s life, and in order to make the player feel that, the pace of the game needed to be much more relaxed than it was.

People liked to complain about GTA IV’s time-wasting elements, like when friends would call Nico to go drinking or bowling or whatever, but those things were absolutely crucial to immersing the player in Nico’s life. Because there’s no extraneous material and because the story moves so quickly, the player is more like a spectator in Mafia II.

One big nitpick: the checkpoints in this game are horrendous. You might go through ten minutes of combat and then die, only to have to do it all over again. The worst part comes when you have to come up with about $1500 by robbing stores or crushing cars; I had robbed five or six stores, and then I got shot up by the cops. And then I had to start all over again, because the game won’t save until you get all the money and deliver it to the loan shark you owe it to. This is abuse.

So what are we left with? Mafia II, despite those flaws, is still a good game. The story is interesting and engaging, and there are some great character moments scattered throughout (my favorite is when Vito drives a couple drunk mobsters home and they sing along to Return To Me by Dean Martin). And it’s fun to play, pretty much. But while it’s ultimately a title that won’t be mentioned on best-of-the-year list come January, I doubt many folks are going to regret spending the time it takes to complete it.

Pros:
Engaging story
Interesting characters, great voice cast
Super high production values
A generally pleasant experience

Cons:
Poorly paced plot lessens the impact of some big events
Horrid checkpoints

Final Score: 80/100

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2 Comments on Mafia 2 Review

Fivetry

On August 29, 2010 at 3:23 pm

I’ll agree with most of the reviewers assessment of this game. I completed all 15 Chapters in about 15 hours and was left with a, “That’s It!?” moment.

I want to like this game, but there were elements – mostly in the playability side – that prevent me from “vouching” for it!

The Pro’s are the sheer scope of the City. However that is marred by not being able to do anything outside the narrowness of the story driven chapters. It was like I was being directed by a guy in a white coat around a maze looking for cheese. The storyline aspect prevents you from exploring (with side chapters) Empire Bay, Vito personality, and Gangsterism.

The Graphics were awesome as was the Music and Sound bites within the story (radio stations, casual comments from NPC’s). The Voice acting was spectacular – 2K pulled out all the punches for at least having good acting for a storyline game.

But at the end, you are left with …was it worth $60.00. I don’t know, everyone will have to determine that for themselves. All I know is if I pay $60.00 for something, I’d like to at least have a few kicks at the can with it. I just don’t see that happening with Mafia II

charlie

On August 31, 2010 at 2:37 am

i would rather give this game a 6.5/10
feature-wise, it feels incomplete. it has some serious pacing problems. other than its graphics and level of detail of empire bay, it is no where comparable with mafia 1.
a lot of missions&side missions have been cut off from the game, such as freeride and some contents from the trailers. my guess is that 2k is going to release as expensive dlcs.

if you are going to buy this game because it looked fantastic and promising in the gameplay videos and trailers, i suggest you dont. because a majority of the stuff from the trailer doesnt even exist in the game, and some parts in the trailer is the actual fmv ingame. yep, you read it, lots of fmv in the game. anyway, you’ll know it when you play it.
for me, i preordered the game the day it became available on steam(just because how great mafia 1 was), and it was a huge disappointment after i finished it.