Score: 8.0 / 10
the rise of technology comes a greater realization of a particular genre
of gaming: simulation. While item collecting and boss battles formed the
set pieces of earlier titles, the modern gamer may look forward to
increasingly realistic gameworlds where immersion and the joy of
experience takes precedence over high scores and killjoy.
is one such game, placing the player in the shoes of one Tommy Angelo, a
taxi driver in the city of Lost Heaven which resembles a crime-ridden
1930’s Los Angeles. After a strange turn of events, Tommy is forced to
join the Mafia and is consequently bound to the powerful Salieri family.
ascension through the criminal underbelly spans 20 missions. These are
played from a 3rd-person perspective and usually involve driving of some
sort. Objectives range from delivering (suspicious) packages,
chauffeuring mobsters, vandalism and grand larceny.
also “Freeride”, a freeform driving session featuring cars the
player unlocks during the single-player missions. The objective is to
earn money by destroying other vehicles, eliminating gangsters or (if
Tommy is driving a taxi) ferrying passengers. True to its crime ethic,
Tommy can steal cars, however, if caught by the police, he may be fined
It wouldn't be a gangster movie without the guns and Mafia features a small, but potent selection of old-fashioned weaponry such as the Colt 1911, Thompson 1928, Smith & Wesson Model 27 Magnum and the ever-reliable baseball bat.
From the panoramic opening sequence to its seedy, post-mission cutscenes, the cinematic aspirations of Mafia become obvious. All cutscenes are real-time and benefit from commendable direction and camerawork. It’s also here that I was able to
witness close-ups of characters’ faces
which display some of the most lifelike skin textures I have ever seen.
Voice acting is occasionally irritating (the stuttering Ralph comes to
mind) but generally well done.
creating the sprawling city of Lost Heaven, the usual design pitfalls
have been cleverly sidestepped. Pedestrians do not behave robotically
and display various walking styles and mannerisms. Traffic lights are
functional and the lavishly-detailed cars obey road rules. It’s
through the strength of its simulation that Mafia’s “day in the
life” gameplay dynamic atttains plausibility.
3rd-person view is adequate, but suffers minor problems with regards to
combat. In the spirit of authenticity, guns exhibit recoil; while
acceptable from a first person perspective, I found this setup to be
awkward when aiming weapons from behind Tommy’s head.
if gunfighting is occasionally problematic, the driving scenes are
simply astounding. Cars handle superbly; I could feel the suspension of
the car as it rocked and the slight sway of chassis as it rounded a
corner. Vehicles damage realistically too, with broken headlights,
punctured tires and even loose axles.
are authentic to the 1930's time frame and you'll be behind the wheel of
such venerable machines as the Schubert Six, Bolt Ace Fordor and
Lassiter Phaeton. As the game progresses, you will acquire faster and
swankier cars which are stored in a garage for future use.
Cars are authentic to the 1930's time frame and you'll be behind the wheel of such venerable machines as the Schubert Six, Bolt Ace Fordor and Lassiter Phaeton. As the game progresses, you will acquire faster and swankier cars which are stored in a garage for future use.
It's a pity the strength of its presentation is spoiled by a curious setback concerning game difficulty. There's one mission where Tommy has to win a race in which the driving proficiency demanded of the player is ridiculously high. The resulting frustration and repeated attempts (30 by my last count) almost single-handedly destroyed all enjoyment hitherto experienced. The casual gamers among us will certainly have their patience tested.
also requires some hefty system requirements. Even on my Pentium 4 and
64MB GeForce 2, I experienced considerable slowdown during the fast car
chases (effectively defusing any suspense) or when atmospheric effects
(rain, mist) were present. Load times were also lengthy.
But in the end, I have to admit that I enjoyed the life of a mafioso. While I didn't appreciate the sudden difficulty of the racing mission, it doesn't wreck the game as a whole. It's a nice change to be one of the bad guys: I invite others to do the same.
- Justin Liew
(October 2, 2002)
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