Mafia 2 Review

It's been about eight years since the release of Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven by 2K Czech (formerly Illusion Softworks) and now Mafia 2 arrives to make some more offers that gamers can't

It's been about eight years since the release of Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven by 2K Czech (formerly Illusion Softworks) and now Mafia 2 arrives to make some more offers that gamers can't refuse. Set in the fictional city of Empire Bay during the 1940's and '50's, Mafia 2 aims for a more focused approach to the open-world gameplay style. Players take on the role of Vito Scaletta, an Italian immigrant who, upon returning from the front lines of WWII after suffering a minor injury, reunites with childhood friend-turned-wise guy, Joe Barbaro. Before long, Joe's ingratiating Vito into the Mafia's version of the American dream.

Empire Bay presents one of the more visually arresting cities to appear in an open world-game, seeming more "alive" than other titles. Besides the all-around high quality of the voice-acting, the characters are expressive, with their own distinct personalities. It's not often that a game can convey emotions effectively through facial expressions alone, but Mafia 2 is full of such moments. Pedestrians go about their daily business, and you'll occasionally find yourself stopping to overhear scripted conversations between inconsequential characters just because they're so entertaining. Some may find the racism somewhat shocking (and based on stereotypes), but it seems to be there to set the scene for that time and place, not the sake of attention.

Gameplay in Mafia 2 consists of a blend of driving and on-foot combat and exploration. The game's gunplay is fast-paced fun, with cover playing a key role to survival. Step in front of a Tommy gun, or a close-range shotgun blast, and you'll be reloading the last checkpoint before you can say "cannoli."

Mafia 2's mission structure is more akin to playing through a piece of gangster fiction than playing other open-world games. Each of the game's fifteen chapters is structured around a series of specific events, though you'll never have more than one primary objective to pursue at a time. You can always explore the city at your leisure while between objectives, but despite Empire Bay's beauty and stellar ambiance, there isn't very much else to do. Stealing cars and robbing stores are interesting diversions, but the main story is compelling and well-paced enough that you'll rarely feel the need to dally with these minor distractions. (The exclusive "The Betrayal of Jimmy" DLC for the PS3 brings in some more traditional "drive and kill" missions to Empire Bay, via a separate storyline.)

Though fictional, the game's period vehicles are highly detailed, a lot of fun to drive, and reflect damage realistically. I couldn't help but laugh the first time I peeled around a street corner and my hubcaps popped off. It's also worth noting that high-speed vehicular collisions can kill you instantly, which adds some tension to the game's car chases. Listening to Mafia 2's various radio stations is also a treat, since they're brimming with a great selection of songs from the era to help set the mood. (I still have Louis Prima's 'When You're Smiling' stuck in my head.)

Mafia 2's biggest shortcoming is that outside of the events and missions in the main storyline, there's not a whole lot of depth—just the illusion of it. Cops will occasionally pull you over for speeding or colliding with another vehicle, but you can run red lights all day without repercussions. Players can also interact with the world in a number of incidental ways, like flicking light switches and flushing toilets, but their inclusion is entirely in the service of ambiance, not gameplay. You can waste your money to fill cars that never run out of gas, or take your car to the car wash. Or not. It's entirely up to you.

Without spoiling anything, I will say that the game's cliffhanger ending is too abrupt for it's own good, and left me wishing for more closure after having grown so attached to the characters. By the end of the campaign it rather amazed me how much of Empire Bay ended up serving as nothing more than incredibly atmospheric set-dressing. It's a ripe setup for DLC, I suppose.

Mafia 2 was developed by 2K Czech and is available for PC, Xbox 360, and PS3.

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From The Chatty
  • reply
    August 26, 2010 7:36 AM 4/10


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      August 26, 2010 7:44 AM

      I've got it on the PC and it certainly isn't a bad game as 4/10 would suggest. Maybe they were just expecting a lot more side stuff? The main story is pretty engaging, and the game looks great.

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        August 26, 2010 8:06 AM

        I played the demo (also on PC) and the game is nice and immersive. The graphics are good as you say, although maybe more post-processing or visual effects would add to the realism. The character models are detailed and react realistically when shot. You see red holes appearing on their clothes and bodies fall realistically, the ragdolls are very convincing. Walking past corpses after a shootout seems more grisly than most games due to their realism, you can really get the impression of a crime scene where a massacre has taken place. I found the guns nice and accurate on the PC and the hit detection good. So as a shooter at least I think the game works, I'll probably get it for that reason.

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          August 26, 2010 8:26 AM

          I have been playing on PC. There's no bruises, gushes on the face when you fight with someone, and there is no bullet wounds (except yes on clothes) when you shoot them, only blood spurts and blood pooling (which sadly, isnt really that good either).

          I played this game in the PAX East, they seemed to have more roleplaying element to it that they seemed to take out. Money is worth a lot more, and when you defeat anyone, you can actually take their money. Gas also is important to the fact that your car can run out of gas and it will die. There is actually a gas meter instead of just a stupid light right now...

          As for animation, it is good and quite realistic, but still not as realistic as GTA's Euphoria engine...

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      August 26, 2010 7:56 AM

      The opinion of that review is in the extreme minority.

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      August 26, 2010 8:01 AM also gave a 4/10 to the first Mafia fyi:

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        August 26, 2010 9:58 AM

        That's ridiculous!

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        August 26, 2010 11:19 AM

        yeah, after seeing that, it just convinced me that I might enjoy Mafia II just as the first, heh

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      August 26, 2010 8:34 AM

      Eurogamer tends to underrate games for attention.

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        August 26, 2010 9:06 AM

        Eurogamer is among a pool of cynical harsh game journalism sites from the land of cynical harsh journalism. Edge, Develop, RockPaperShotgun and Nukezilla are other nice examples. I like reading their articles for a perspective that isn't fluffed up like IGN or GameSpot.

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      August 26, 2010 12:25 PM

      How about you quote the part where they explain exactly why it's 4/10. They could be wrong, they could just as likely be right.

      To me a lot of heavily promoted games are 6s and 7s. TV and movie critics all rate "harshly," which is to say they rate justly. IGN is an online retailer itself through D2D, that's a huge conflict of interest. Why would anyone read their "reviews?"

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      August 26, 2010 3:46 PM

      They gave the first Mafia game 4/10 so I'm not listening to them!

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      August 30, 2010 8:10 AM

      I'm probably around the midpoint of the game and so far I'd say they aren't THAT far off with 4/10. This game is nowhere near as good as the first one. You don't really DO all that much. For the first couple of hours, you're like "Sweet I'm playing a gangster movie". A few missions later and you'll be like "WTF I'm watching a gangster movie that I occasionally get to interact with". Also, the graphics are not THAT good. The engine is put to shame by GTA 4, IMO, and that game came out over 2 years ago.

      6/10 at midpoint and it's a disappointment after the stellar first game.

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