A Worthy Sequel
It's been a while since I wrote an review for a video game. However, so called critic reviews of Mafia II have influenced me to write one about this open world game. Mafia II is the sequel to a game called Mafia. It was an open world game in a classic gangster movie setting. Think films like the Godfather, Goodfellas, Once Upon a Time in America, and you get the idea. The game was first released on the PC, and after critical acclaim, console versions soon followed. The game was praised for being a graphical masterpiece and having one of the best storylines in recent video games. The reviewers back then understood the true purpose of the original Mafia. To tell an epic story. The open world was just a means to an end. More on that later.
Mafia II improves upon the original in every way. The games has better gameplay, better graphics that really set the mood, and believe it or not, a better story. If you liked the classic Mafia movies and shows like the Sorpranos, then there's no reason why you wouldn't really get into the story of Mafia II. You play a Sicilian pretty boy named Vito Scaletta. Vito has one dream in life, not ending up breaking his back for chump change like his Father did. It's this dream that leads him into the life of the Italian Mafia. Along the way, Vito's best friend Joe Barbaro is right by his side. Joe is the stereotypical gangster we've seen in plenty of Mafia movies. He has a goofy English accent. He's known for making wise cracks and going crazy without warning. In fact, a lot of characters you meet will remind you of characters used in your favorite Mafia movie. But that's what makes the story come to life. You feel like you're playing through a Scorsese movie, instead of just watching one. If Mafia movies are not your thing, then the storyline will only remind you why that is. The story is told in chapters and there's a set number of missions you must complete before going to the next chapter in the storyline.
The gameplay is improved over the original game. There are three types of gameplay used in Mafia II, gun fights, brawling, and stealth. Each gameplay segment is very well polished. You won't find yourself confused with the controls and the camera while playing. This review is based on the PC version of the game, and the keyboard and mouse control setup makes playing the game a breeze. The game also has driving in it. It's an open world after all. The cars handle as well as you expect. However, like the first game, you have to obey traffic rules to keep the police off you. Fortunately, the developers included an option to turn on a speed limiter, to make sure the car doesn't go over the speed limit in the game. This makes driving from one mission to the next really easy. Like other open world games, there is a penalty factor if you cause too much chaos. There is two ways the police can track you. Either from a wanted photo, or from the license plate of the car you're driving. To eliminate the wanted level, you can either find a clothing shop to change clothes. Ditch your wanted car for another one, or if the wanted level is low, you can bribe the cops to leave you alone. You can also take your car to a garage and completely change it's features to avoid the police. One of the negative aspects of the gameplay is the damage you take while driving if shot. The damage you take while driving is no different than the damage you take while on foot. If you get shot at enough times, you'll die just as easily. The cars also have impact damage to your health. If you drive too fast and smash into something, you'll die instantly.
The Graphics in Mafia II is a step up from the original game. But that only makes sense, since this is a current-gen game. The open world really captures the early 1940's and 50's. You drive around in classic American made cars, and dress up in classic suits to look the part. One of the major things praised in the original Mafia was their excellent cut-scenes, more so the well done character models. The developers once again created great character models. You see the full outline of their faces, including skin patterns and different facial and skin bumps. The facial expressions when the characters interact with each other is very well done and believable. The character models themselves move very fluidly. There is no stiffness at all in their movements, rather they are walking, fighting, or shooting. However, I noticed that many of the NPC models repeat a lot, especially with the ethnic characters. The world itself is very detail with nice light and shadow affects.
The game has a solid licensed soundtrack. Many of the hit songs that shaped American music can be heard throughout the game's three radio stations. Songs like "Why do Fools Fall in Love", and "My Automobile", helped shape Rock N Roll for example. The radio stations also do a good job setting the historical atmosphere. News reports about World War II and other relevant subject matters really help set the time line the story takes place in. News updates whenever violence occurs is really a nice touch as well.
Overall, Mafia II is the sequel fans of the original game expected. Critics slamming the game for not being more of an open world experience completely drop the ball. For example some critics complained that there isn't anything to do besides complete the story missions. This is false. There is plenty to do. For one the game has collectibles. You can spent time searching for Playboy Magazines. Each one showing a classic picture of a Playboy Bunny. The pictures are not too erotic. The most you'll see is the woman's breast. None of the pictures show their baby making factories. Another thing you can do is collect wanted photos of real life Mafia gangsters. You can also unlock the games artwork. There's even a section of artwork you can't unlock, unless you beat the game on hard difficulty. If you want to cause trouble you can start fights with civilians. Steal cars and sell them for money, and rob stores for cash. So this complaint that the open world of Mafia II is just eye candy with no interaction is false.
If you liked the original Mafia, then you'll like the sequel just the same. The sad thing is, if this game had the GTA label in front of it. The same critics complaining about the game, would give it 5 stars.
4 out of 5.