It’s been 8 years since the original Mafia was released to the world. While it was reported to not be so great on consoles, the PC version was truly magnificent.
In my opinion, Mafia was grossly underrated, and flew under way too many peoples radar. It wasn’t the Grand Theft Auto clone that people thought it might be. It was, mature, told a great story and as far as games like this go, way ahead of its time.
So now, Mafia II has finally been released and as a big fan of the original, I delved into the world of the “Cosa Nostra” to find out if the sequel lives up to its predecessor.
Mafia II begins in the 1940’s and pulls you into the world of Vito Scaletta, a young Sicilian whose family moves over to America for a better life. Life carries on and before he knows it, he finds himself mixed up with all the wrong kind of people, and so the story begins.
Mafia II is set in Empire City, which is modeled on New York City in the 1940’s. The city is big and beautiful and really gives you a taste of what life in the 40’s was like, including the problems brought about by World War II.
While Mafia II may seem like a sandbox game at first, it isn’t. Yes, it is based in a large city, but instead of a gameplay type that would have you driving around in a “free roam” sort of way, choosing missions a la GTA, the story is the focus.
So then, Mafia II is a story-centric game, merely based in a big open world but don’t think that it’s a negative. You will still experience Empire City in all of it’s glory, and add seasons into the mix (such as snowy winters and rainy seasons) and you really have a big and beautiful visual city on your hands.
If the story is the focus on the game, then we can all agree that unless it’s good, there’s a problem. The Mafia games aren’t about the big cities, or the action and don’t set out to merely take the best and cheesiest parts of the Hollywood films and put you in control. The idea put forward in Mafia is to give the gamer a way to experience the life of a Mafia family member in the old days, along with all of it’s twists and turns, and in that regard Mafia II delivers for the most part. While the story is interesting and worth playing for, I’m saddened to say that while most of the story is intriguing and immersive, it falls very flat in one or two very key areas enough to seriously make you forget about the good parts and feel let down with the bad ones.
While you will be exposed to some great action sequences using the new and solid cover system, there are a lot of missions that stay true to the experience, such as getting rid of bodies, sorting people out when they are misbehaving. Each mission isn’t an excuse to throw you into a firefight, but rather offers more true-to-the-material experiences that push the story along, sometimes leading to long, but worthwhile cutscenes and set pieces.
Most of the missions are laid out as highlights in Vito’s life, usually always starting with Vito waking up in the morning, and ending with Vito climbing into bed at night. While some people might find it a tad strange, it works with the pace of the game, and gives you a taste of what it was like to not know what each day may bring.