MAFIA II Game Review (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, October 04, 2010
Mafia II is the sequel to Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven and is interesting among games of this type…that being the “Grand Theft Auto” type. You play as Vito Scaletta, the son of Italian immigrants, who has returned home from World War II to find his sister in deep debt to local gangsters. He has to make some big money and fast and hooks up with old friend Joe, a small-time hood who has connections with local crime bosses. Vito is one of the more complex characters seen in a video game. Like Michael Corleone from the Godfather films he is a war hero who is drawn into the gangster life out of need rather than any desire for power or wealth. In that regard he’s not a bad guy but he does what he has to do to survive and help his family.
The game consists of 15 chapters in all that take place over roughly a decade from 1945 – 1955. The action takes place in New York…err…Empire Bay. You start out small…stealing cars, shaking down workers for protection money, safe-cracking, etc…but it isn’t long before you’re hired to do hits. Despite the variety of missions they seem to get tiresome rather quickly and become filler for the many outstanding cut scenes when the story makes its progression. There are simply too many moments of down time where you are forced to return to your apartment and go to sleep all so you can know what to do next.
Empire Bay is a sprawling town of some 10 square miles that is completely open to explore. While the game touts its open-ended game play…it really isn’t. Sure you can drive around and explore as much as you want but there’s not much to do outside of the jobs you’re given to do by Joe or some of the big bosses. There’s not a wide variety of shops to visit. As with GTA there are shops to get your car fixed and have your license plate changed to keep the coppers off your tail. There are clothes shops where a change of duds will also help take the heat off. The police are extremely tenacious so these are things you’ll be doing often. A scrap yard will gladly “accept” the cars you’ve acquired and is a good way to build up some extra cash. The streets are teeming with pedestrians and cars (around 40 in all) although again there’s not much interaction between people you meet. While it’s a great setting to look at it’s disappointingly empty.
At one point, Vito is sent to prison which is the lynchpin that forwards the story from the 1940s to the 1950s. However your time is prison is spent basically in one boring fist fight after another. The hand-to-hand fighting “system” consists of little more than heavy and light punches and then a finisher when your opponent is weakened. It is uninspired to say the least.
Mafia II is filled with wonderful period moments such as driving around during Christmas time, and listening to Bing Crosby or Dean Martin on one of three different radio stations, or hearing news reports on the war in Europe. This nostalgic charm is something that sets it apart from the GTA series. It’s timing isn’t perfect though. For example in 1945 we see a thug reading a copy of Playboy magazine and yet Playboy’s first issue didn’t come out until 1953.
Mafia II’s greatest strengths are its storyline, which hooks you in and keeps you engrossed, even in the face of repetitive tasks. The visuals are simply gorgeous. Take a moment, hop in a car and just drive around Empire Bay, especially the shoreline road, and soak up the sights. The voice acting is fantastic. The characters sound like they are from the period with their thick Brooklyn accents and gangster slang, but it never comes off as being a caricature. The characters are some of the best in any sandbox game and is it just me or does Vito look an awful lot like Harry Connick, Jr.?
As you would expect from a game of this type there’s nothing in the way of online play…no co-op or multi-player modes. The Playstation 3 version comes with a code for a downloadable content pack called “The Betrayal of Jimmy” and additional downloadable content has been promised by 2K. The game is rated M for violence, nudity, and a TON of profanity.
Mafia II is a lot like empty carbs…it won’t keep you filled for long but it does taste good.
Mania Grade: B-
Game: Mafia II
Platform: Playstation 3
Developer: 2K Games