Set in an era of fedoras and dames, Mafia 2 is a third person shooter taking place in an open-ended game world filled with promising features. But does it deliver the goods? With the prospect of being a made man and running rackets with the family, expectations tend to run high.
Mafia II’s Story
So Vito just returns from World War II, with nothing in his pockets except for dreams of making it big. It’s a simple and believable beginning for your character and you’ll be sucked in right from the start with Mafia II’s exceptional acting. The artwork for the characters is amazing too. Characters have full facial expressions, including subtle looks and twitches. The whole package wrapped together makes for an enticing experience with credible characters that are endearing.
However, all that credibility may as well be sealed in cement and tossed in the river with the cliché plotline and stupid decisions your character keeps making. He’s got chump scrawled across his forehead and that doesn’t make for a character that you can identify with. Well before the end of the game, you will find yourself rooting for anyone but him.
Mafia II and the City of Empire Bay
Empire Bay is a city that combines features of several American metropolises. What is striking is the level of detail in the game world. Just like other artistic elements of the game, the environments are stunning. Everything from weather effects to random little details of citizens interacting with one another, really pull the setting together to make it an inviting place to explore.
However after five minutes of exploration, you’ll find that exploration completely pointless due to the lack of interactivity. There are no side missions and about the only thing that you can do in Empire Bay is knock over stores and harass citizens. After couple minutes of beating up pathetic everyday folk for their cars and getting a few dollars for a store hold up, your badass wiseguy tends to look even more ridiculous. This is especially poignant when dealing with police whose responses are so canned and bland, that the whole town starts to resemble something out of Stepford Wives. So what was a promising land of opportunity becomes a sterile chore to travel.
Mafia II: Gameplay, Driving, Fighting, and Chapters
And travel you do. It seems that the bulk of your game play is spent driving from place to place. The repetition is so blatant that before you get midway through the game, you’ll want to poke your eyes out with a pen. Joe, your companion, finds it so tedious that you get to do it all. Of course you can’t let him take the wheel and conveniently Empire Bay has an elevated train with no stations for you to use so you’re the chauffer for the gang. Finally, you get to a mission and hope it gets better.
Putting aside that your character is a chump and the story is a canned and messy combination of every movie gangster cliché around, the controls are easy to master and the combat animations are pretty good. Brawling can be very fun with its plentiful repertoire of juicy combinations. The shooter experience can be heavy and inaccurate which makes for more realistic duck and cover game play. However, the AI is too predictable and so it makes it easy to wait out bad guys and guess the AI’s patterns. For all the driving you’ve done to get to the next chapter in the story, it’s all over too quickly.
Mafia II and the Bottom Line
Mafia II tempts you with a dreamy world of hot art, great acting, and fun combat. The most stunning aspect of the game was the artistic achievement in the level of detail of the main characters. But with all the repetitiveness, cliché story elements, and a completely unsympathetic protagonist those artistic efforts fall flat. The perceived imbalance between tedious driving and meaty missions make the game less than fun overall. The prospect of a replay would be like having a bat taken to your legs. So if you’re looking at Mafia II on the shelves, you better say “forgetaboutit” and save it for rental.