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Score: 8.0 / 10
In Mafia II, you play the role Vito, an
Italian-American living in Empire City during the 1940ís. On a heist gone wrong
Vito is arrested and is given the choice of serving jail time or serving in the
military. Vito ends up choosing the latter and serves in Italy during World War
II. Upon his return to America, Vito soon finds that
his family is in debt to a loanshark. In order to
pay the loan back, Vito teams up with his long time buddy Joe to carry out small
jobs for the Mob. Once the debt is repaid, Vito and Joe, both intrigued by the
lavish payouts resulting from their deeds, continue to work for the Mob.
The original Mafia was released in 2002, shortly after Grand Theft Autoís (GTA)
popularity exploded in the mainstream. Mafia
conjured up comparisons to GTA, while still garnering favorable reviews. Mafiaís
gameplay was far more stringent than GTA as missions were timed and traffic laws
were more strongly enforced by police. Mafia II is a sequel in name only, so you
wonít have to worry about playing the first game if the series is new to you.
While superficially the game looks eerily similar to GTA series, the game plays
much differently. More importantly this is where Mafia II stumbles a bit as
Empire City would have made an excellent environment for sand box style gameplay
to flourish. Instead the City feels like a tease. The gameís main focus is the
storyline first and foremost while the exploration takes a backseat. This
approach makes the game feel like Heavy Rain at times. Much of the gameplay,
especially early in the game, centers on driving from A to B to simply activate
the next cut scene in the game or carrying out simple mundane task. One feature
that is sadly missing is the ability to skip ahead to your destination like in
To make up for the ridiculous amount of driving during Mafia IIís 15 chapters,
the gunplay is extremely well done and exciting, even if the first part of the
game doesnít actually let Vito do much of it. Your character can take cover
behind most objects in the environment and some cover can be destroyed with the
right amount of fire power. One bizarre omission is the ability for your
character blind fire behind cover; the AI has no problem doing this though.
The game also features a reasonable amount of
hand-to-hand combat. Itís fairly simplistic and mostly involves holding the
dodge button until you can get enough light punches in against the enemy before
finally using a finishing move. It would have been interesting to see the game
take an RPG-like approach to this combat and have your character upgrade their
fighting techniques as the storyline progresses.
On normal difficulty Mafia II takes approximately 10 hours to complete. Once the
storyline is done you do have the option of collecting magazines or wanted
posters, which add some longevity, but ultimately they donít compare well to the
side missions offered by GTA.
Presentation wise, Mafia II is absolutely fantastic. Empire City truly feels
like an American City in the 1940ís and 50ís. Everything down to the characters
costumes to the gameís outstanding music feels, looks and sounds authentic. The
game successfully captures the playerís attention and features characters who
appear genuine and relatable. You really do care about the characters and feel
for their plight throughout the gameís storyline.
Like GTA, each of the gameís many vehicles feature three radio stations which
play rock music and jazz with DJís who seldomly interject between songs. A lot
of the songs chosen for the gameís soundtrack are easily recognizable. One neat
addition are the news updates which basically relate to the missionís you
recently played in the story. For example a firefight involving your character
is will be mentioned on the radio stations during their news updates. The radio
stations sound great although it would have been nice to have a fourth station
which was strictly talk radio.
If you love story driven games, then I recommend Mafia II, just donít expect to
get the same amount of replay value as similar games already out on the market.