Mafia, is, simply put, the best Mafia themed game I've played. It's a third person shooter, sandbox game, developed by Illusion Softworks, now known as 2KCzech. the game takes place in 1930's America, and it follows the life of a gangster who was once a cab driver, Tommy Angelo. The game's graphics were great at the time of release, which was in 2002, now in 2011 i still say it's a great game despite the painfully outdated graphics. Why? Because, despite the outdated graphics, what made and makes Mafia great is the story, the
characters, the atmosphere and gameplay, things that transcend time.
The game was a sleeper hit, not much was known about it before release, but when it hit, it soon became a cult classic, praised by both reviewer and player, it remains a great game even today.
The story follows the exploits of a cab driver turned gangster, Tommy Angelo. He got into the business by accident, when two members of the Salieri crime family were trying to escape memebers of the rival Morello crime family. Tommy becomes a pawn in the game called fate, forced to take Salieri's job offer in order to avoid death at the hands of Morello's gangsters, Tom enters the murky waters of crime life early on in the game, and quickly climbs the ladder, becoming Salieri's go-to guy.
In the story mode, players will experience 1930's America through the eyes of an average person (albeit with a shifted morality), forced to become a gangster. The story's narrative is focused on Tommy Angelo, and the rise of the Salieri family as it destroys any and all opposition. From killing the boss of the rival family, to assassinating a politician, to wining a race for the Salieris, to
bootlegging booze, players will have a wide number of missions to playthrough, each giving it's own distinctive feeling.
The great thing about the plot, that really makes Mafia stand out, is the way it's told. It doesn't simply follow events but rather the story is told through Tommy's conversation with Norman in a restaurant. Norman a police detective, whom Tommy is asking for witness protection is a hard ass, no nonsense cop with an Irish accent, he looks at Tommy as a gangster, scum. The player plays through missions in order to see Tommy's life and to see if Tommy will indeed get Norman's help.
What set Mafia apart from GTA III, perhaps the most, was the story. GTA III followed the life of a silent protagonist in the early 90's. Mafia's look, atmosphere and story was completely different, and in my mind, better. It just goes to show the importance of a great story in video games, Mafia's story, in my opinion, more than anything else helped cement its cult classic status.
The game plays out like any sandbox game would, it allows the player to explore the city of Lost Heaven, but other than the main missions, there isn't much a player can do. It's quite linear, and despite the free ride and free ride extreme modes, there really isn't that much to do in the main mode except follow the story.
The player will drive, run and shoot his way through this action packed crime themed game. There are well over 30 unique vehicles at the player's disposal (with the exception of Free Ride Extreme) are all from the 1930's era.
The weapons range from melee, to thrown. The classic, instantly recognizable Tommy gun is one of the many options in death-dealing players will have in this game. Colt 1911, Grenades, Molotov Cocktails, Shotguns and Sawd-off shotguns are just to name a few weapons, and if all else fails, you can take a 24 magnum revolver and blow your enemies to bits.
What sets it apart from other sandbox games is the strictness of the law. Unlike GTAIII, in Mafia if you are seen by a cop with a weapon he will attempt to kill you. Even slight offenses such as driving through a red light, or knocking over a garbage cans can be finned. Other law breaking acts include speeding, shooting, killing someone, running over someone. From a gameplay perspective this really helped set Mafia apart from it's predecessors, even games that came after it.
Being a sandbox game, the player will be able to explore the huge city of Lost Heaven, which is based off of several cities, such as Chicago and New York. The modes that truly allow for unrestricted exploration are Free Ride and Free Ride Extreme.
In Free Ride the player starts by choosing the area of the city, the time, the traffic density and the car the player starts with. More modes can be unlocked by completing the story mode. In Free Ride the player earns money by killing other gangsters who are easily recognizable, with their black overcoats and fedoras. For each kill the player will receive 500$, and money can be used to re-fuel the car, buy weapons, pay fines and heal yourself at the hospital.
Free Ride Extreme on the other hand is a different experience all together, there the player will have to complete various tasks, most of which are way over the top. For example, you have to run down a man dressed in his underpants who leaves a fire trail as he runs. Or drive a truck full of nitroglycerine to a certain location, or drive a racing car so fast, it alters the camera image, yet another example would be attempting to escape in one of the slowest cars from a Zeppelin that will fire at you from up high. You get the picture. Free Ride and Free Ride Extreme are modes, created, to give players something to do after the story mode, and all three modes are quite fun!
Characters and Atmosphere
The characters in this game are superb, they aren't as well detailed as in some other games, and some you meet only for a short while but all of them are outstanding. The cinematics, combined with great voice acting, breathe life into characters. From Salieri, the boss, to Sam and Paulie, Tommy's best friends, to Ralph the cars guy who is also a complete moron and Vincenzo the weapons guy, to Frank the Don's right hand man. All these characters play their role, and they play it well, even the minor characters such as Lucas Bertone (who gives Tommy the know-how needed to steal cars and their locations for favors) or Big Dick or Sarah are colorful and truly well executed.
What makes them so great is the voice acting, that works most, if not all the time, when Tommy had to clean a toilet during a certain mission i laughed quite a bit the first time i heard/saw it. Or when Salieri talks about Pepe's cheeses, to more serious topics like murdering someone in cold blood, or beating some hoodlums to a pulp so that kids may laugh at their busted faces, the voice acting is delivered excellently. Another reason why the characters work so well is the dialogue, i have to admit, the dialogue in this game is...well, also excellent, especially when you compare it to other games that don't have such great dialogue, we won't name them, but they know who they are.
And so, finally we come to that 1930's atmosphere, can't you imagine it now? That bar/brothel filled with illegal booze and cigar smoke? Yes, glorious indeed, but the atmosphere is very well done. It was perhaps unique for the time, to see old timers and to listen to 30's music, all the while shooting at the police with a Tommy gun. It just portrays the life of a gangster in 1930's America to perfection.
As mentioned, Mafia is the best Mafia themed game you can come across. If you're not too worried about the graphics you can probably get it now, for less than 10$ off of steam, trust me when i say, get it, for that tag price you will not, can not regret it.
Simply put, if you're looking for an outstanding game with brilliant story/plot, great and memorable characters, excellent gameplay and amazing atmosphere, by all means, get this game!