From the streets of gangland New York comes the latest title from 2K Games for the made men of Mafia II. Will it eclipse the ground made by the first in the series, or will the title just leave you as cold as the fish you will be sleeping with? Find out as Mafia II ‘makes us an offer we can’t refuse’.
Building on the foundations already laid by the first in the series of mobster titles, Mafia II was always going to have a lot to live up to. The original was a landmark in the gangster gaming world that saw it stamp all over the intentions and character of the main competitor in its class, The Godfather, that had been released to a collective ‘Meh’ from reviewers some four years prior.
So it was with great expectations that we loaded up the disc and installed to hard drive our copy of Mafia II that had arrived only moments previously, was it worth the wait? Had it lived up to the hype surrounding the title in recent months? Let’s find out together shall we?
Mafia II capitalizes on the stage that its predecessor built for it back in 2002 and takes the atmosphere and gritty realism of the silver screen offerings of period gangster movies of the time and brings them all with stunning clarity and detail to the gaming community. Very few games have come to the table with this much attention to detail or depth of storyline for some considerable length of time and it is plain to see why Mafia II has rocketed to the top of the charts since its release a short time ago. The city scape and street level views are quite astounding in their imagery as you are taken from one work of art to the next as you travel around the open world gameplay zone cooing at the sights and sounds of the immense gaming area’s.
Though the backdrop of the gangster era is a familiar one for media outlet’s that include everything from the movies, novel’s, comic books and the gaming industry, 2K Games have somehow managed to take the clichéd format of the standard issue gangster title and turn it into something fresh and invigorating. The story follows the fortune of the quintessential Italian immigrant family as they attempt tp carve out a slice of the American Dream-pie that they have been promised in the movies. What you get is a smashing romp over three decades that includes such poignant moments in World history as Prohibition, The Great Depression and of course The Second World War. What the characters in the game get is a gritty realism that is seldom found in gaming these days as more and more developers decide to opt for quantity over quality in the constant race for more and more customers.
It’s a credit, then, to the men and women of 2K Games that they have not sold their integrity and their devotion to producing a quality gaming experience for their followers and fans for the casual gamer nod of approval. Mafia II is a hard-hitting title that rightfully earns its PEGi rating in every respect. But while we are on the subject of respect have some held in reserve for the game’s story writers as they have managed to come up with a yarn of incredible depth and magnitude.
Unlike other shooters in its class Mafia II has not sold out to the multiplayer crowd either, and the single player campaign has benefitted enormously because of it. Yes, we too have sen the negative comments from reviewers who have described the shooters as being on rail and linear, but you show us a title that has a pot that is as in-depth as Mafia II with as much gritty determination to produce as real an encounter as possible, and we will also show you the same format of beginning-middle-end.
Linear is a strange word to use when describing Mafia II, in that we cannot understand how a game that has a story which plays through in one sitting and does not conclude over several editions, as in the case of Assassin’s Creed for instance, cannot be described as anything else but? Of course you are going to end up doing exactly what the developers and the story dictates. That’s why it is called ‘the story?’ So to pull the game to pieces simply for following the format of story is something that we do not agree with and do not condone.
Mafia II has an absolutely stellar storyline played out by larger than life characters, who, in turn, are voiced by first-rate voice actors. The gameplay fits superbly with the perfectly rendered period settings, and the graphical content supplied by excellent use of the games powerful engine.
Playing as Vito Scaletta, the Sicilian immigrant central character, you will start your criminal career alongside your lifelong buddy Joe, as you progress up the ladder of the New York underworld. Forgetting the natural instinct to compare the game with similar titles in the genre such as the very obvious Godfather games, or the more established Grand Theft Auto series, Mafia II is an open world sand-box title that adheres more strictly to its storyline, as opposed to the random pointless meanderings of glitch-hunters looking to drive car’s up staircases and along rooftops as they attempt to convince themselves that aimless wandering of city streets accounts for a true open world gaming experience. It does not. In our opinion Mafia II still qualifies as a highly enjoyable sand-box title. There may not be a lot to do outside of the main storyline of the game as far as burgling shop’s or stealing cars are concerned, but when you have a storyline in your title that is as deeply engrossing and undeniably compelling, as Mafia II does, then surely the main reason that you purchased the title, in the first instance, was to step into the shoes of the handsome and suave lead character Vito, as he brought his debonaire style of gangsterism to the streets of 1940’s New York.
This hard-hitting and fast paced storyline is Mafia II’s saving grace and goes a long way as to explaining the games mass appeal. The side missions and car chases are all very nice but when all is said and done you just want to get back to the plot of the title as you become ever more invested in the future of your character as he struggles to make a name for himself against all odds. This classic blend of action and storyline makes for a genuine sense of kinship with Vito and you find yourself becoming ever deeper engrossed in the games narrative as you build a stronger emotional tie with your character as the storyline unfolds around you.
The cityscape of the surrounding metropolis from which the take is told is a stunningly created environment that oozes quality and has pure class in every line of coding that has been used in the construction of the 2K title. Empire City looks as good as anything you have ever seen before, and though the gaming world has utilised the familiar urban setting of the Big Apple more than any other city in the world, few developers have been able to recreate the smouldering city atmosphere as well as 2K Games. To further add to the games blatant beauty and ravishing good looks 2K’s development teams have managed to transport the gamer back to the intended period in American history with such an eye for detail that it’s as if Doc and Marty have kidnapped you in their DeLorean and once more took you Back to the Future.
The attention to every conceivable detail is, at times, astonishing, and just adds perfectly to the experience as you fight your way through the campaign as Made Man Vito. Even the tunes that come softly to your ears from the car radio as you drive around the city are reminiscent of the time and serve their purpose with pinpoint timing and effect as they aid the transformation from the different era’s that you will play through in the game.
Gameplay comes in the form of the standard third person shooter fare that is the norm for the genre, but is given a more polished look from the developers with silkier controls hat allow for easy and enjoyable gaming. The game runs smoothly from chapter to chapter as you perform high level and low-level missions that will see you performing tasks as varied in their commitment with everything from cleaning the local toilets to helping out a rival mobster ‘sleep with the fishes.’ Weapons are your typical gangster style hand cannon .38’s as well as your trusty ‘Tommy Gun.’ But there are a wide range of alternative weapons on offer to you. Your fists, for example, are always a useful tool and quite often you will find that they are better suited to the job. If for nothing else save personal satisfaction at beating the living daylights out of a rival gangster.
The controls handle very well with the mere tap of a button sending your character darting into cover or blasting his way out of trouble. At no time did we ever feel like the controls felt sluggish, or that we had to repeatedly press on a button for Vito to obey the command that we were trying to issue him. Hand-to-hand combat is very well conveyed with the all the correct movements happening at the first press of the respective button.
The shootouts in Mafia II are complimented by the way that 2K Games have given the title destructible environments. So pay heed to our warning when diving for cover behind that table or bench as the rounds are more than likely to come crashing through the woodwork before very long.
The one benefit that will have PS3 owners ‘lording it’ over their Xbox360 rivals in forums and via their Youtube channels is in the fact that the Playstation gets to enjoy the added delights of some extra content by way of the excellent Betrayal of Jimmy. But rather than litter the review with spoiler after spoiler we will leave the Playstation owners safe in the knowledge that they have some cracking additional bonus content in there that sits head and shoulders over some of the title missions.
So with that in mind we ask ourselves the question that we proposed at the start of the article: ‘Is Mafia II a hit, or a miss?’ Well, fellow gamers and gameresses, far from what most reviewers would like you to believe this game is an absolute haymaker of a hit! The game is best summed up by saying that we have thoroughly enjoyed our time here in Empire City as we built our criminal empire from the ground up. The action comes at you like a fist coated in brass knuckles, and the storyline is deep enough to drop a man wearing a concrete overcoat in and him never to be seen again. A first-rate title from 2K Games.
Graphics: We thought we had seen some pretty titles this year with game such as Alan Wake, God of War 3 and more recently Halo: Reach, but nothing could have prepared us for what was waiting in Empire City. Everything looks perfect. Right from the stitching in the guys suits, down to the wing tips on their feet. A truly mesmeric affair of the most astounding graphics to date for the award-winning studio. Quite simply beautiful. 10
Gameplay: Forget what you may have heard or read in other reviews as we are here to tell you that Mafia II has one of the most original and truly compelling storylines that you will have played for many a gaming year! The gameplay is smooth as silk and the controls are a joy to work with, you will love it! 9
RePlay Value: The additional bonus content of The Betrayal of Jimmy indicates the ease with which 2K Games can continue the story of Vito and his Mobster chums. DLC is undoubtedly planned for this sizzling title and we cannot wait for it to appear. 8
Presentation: Despite the cries of linearity from certain quarters we found that when we stepped into the shoes of Sicilian Mobster Vito Scaletta that all thoughts on the subject were put aside and we just got on with the task at hand, That being enjoying the game set before us immensely as we played for 14 hours straight and enjoyed every second of it. 2K Games really have managed to create a sequel that is superior to the first in all departments and we are looking forward to seeing what else lies for Vito in the future with the promise of additional content. 9