By hsvlad 1 Comments
1001 Videogames I must play before I die!
I remember Mafia more for its small details then anything else. Neat little additions that made everything in the game feel that little bit more real. I also remember it having some of the hardest missions I remember playing in any game as a kid. The cinematic and serious tone set it apart from GTA 3 which came out the year before and Mafia almost seemed like an answer to the few issues I had with GTA, though it also forgot to bring some of the best parts with it.
The main thing Mafia got right, for me anyway, was the shooting. This is probably due to it being developed of the PC before later being ported to the PS2 and Xbox. This meant there was no lock on mechanics which I never really managed to get the hang of in GTA 3. One of the little details I mentioned earlier was that bodies, bullet casing and even spent magazines stayed in place (probably until a maximum number was hit) which left the environments after a shootout looking dirty and damaged. It sounds like a small thing but back then few games would do this. There were also some basic physics objects scattered around the world. Most were simply things like crates and trash cans but running over a phone booth to stop someone calling the cops would break into separate pieces. Its painfully simple by today's standards but back in 2002 it looked fantastic!
The story was standard mafia fare but it was handled very seriously, in stark contrast to the cartoonish style of GTA. Lots of the cut-scenes were just of meetings between the various mob family members which wasn't something you saw very often back then. The cut-scene budget tended to be saved for more action packed moments. This gave the story a certain level of maturity and made the tone of the whole thing feel very different from other open world crime games at the time. The missions were also nicely varied, going from assassinations to robberies to collecting protection money and keeping street thugs out of your territory. There were a few that were eye-gougingly hard such as one where you had to stand in for a race driver and win first place. I ended up having to find a trainer to beat it in my youth and I don't think I was the only person who struggled with it because all the trainers had options for beating the race mission. Also the first mission where you have to escape some pursuing gangsters is strangely difficult as well and took me about an hour to beat the fairly short sequence.
At the time I loved Mafia but it hasn't aged especially well. The cut-scenes that had impressed me so much are pretty wooden and the driving is a real chore. Much like Mafia II which came out in 2010 it really feels like the open world side of the game doesn't really need to be there and the map in the first game feels huge. This book ends most missions with some really dull driving, made even slower by the need to stick to the speed limit and red lights. The shooting feels slow and clunky by modern standards but is still the best part of the game. If you get the chance to play it I would probably recommend downloading a saved game if you can as the beginning is a really slow burn.