By Punkgasm 0 Comments
I'll open as smoothly as I can -- I am more than a little bit disappointed with 2K's latest open world game. I wasn't very much impressed by it's predecessor, either, but I had somewhat high hopes for this one, given that it was being developed for the consoles alongside the PC version, instead of being a watered-down port. But alas, I am left with an empty feeling after playing through Mafia II's demo offering.
The demo is divided up into two distinct parts: open-world exploration and the missions, which makes it feel almost like two completely different games. I realize that the Mafia games aren't intended to be played like Grand Theft Auto, but in today's market, if you're going to be an open world game, then you're going to have to be ready for comparisons to be made whether you like it or not. But instead of just comparing, I'm going to go through each issue I had with the game.
I had very little idea of what to expect when going into Mafia II, other than it was an open-world mafia simulator. I had seen all of the story trailers showing the chunky, poorly animated characters walking through a contrived rip-off of every mafia story ever. However, I can make do with poor storytelling if the gameplay is engaging. Seeing clips of the combat in the game, it seemed like a competent cover-based third-person shooter. But that wasn't solid, either.
After a flashback cutscene, I was set loose in Vito's pad, which was full of pointless interactivities (it's a word now) such as toilet flushing, wardrobe changing, Playboy-reading, cola/beer drinking and sandwich eating. It felt like a glorified tech-demo just showing off all the little things they put in the game to make it feel "authentic". Great job guys, now let's see how the world looks from outside.
When I went outside, I first ran over to the garage, which magically holds three cars, even though there's only room for one. It's a regular vehicular vending machine. I took to the streets in my sleek maroon jalopy, immediately getting a sense of the driving physics by driving headlong into another car. This wasn't my fault, mind you, but rather the car coming towards me decided the best way to avoid me was to steer straight into my grill. In my frustration, I sped away, but not before splattering a civilian all over the pavement. It wasn't my fault, he was just standing in the middle of my lane. The police took notice, and said "Hey, stop that guy!", then turned around and left me alone with a wanted poster. I came to a traffic light behind another car, which stopped in the middle of the intersection for no reason and refused to budge. I got out of the car and shot him in the face. Then about five black men with guns swarmed me on the street, which freaked me out more than a little bit. What, the only civilians I need to worry about packing heat are black people (that look strangely modern)?! I had to get out of there. I eventually made my way to the marker on my map, and the screen inexplicably went black and initiated a cutscene.
The guy talking to me said he was from Sicily, but he sounded like the most American Italian I had ever heard. Therefore, I knew not to trust him, which luckily Vito did as well. There was a lot of dialogue, but through the visuals alone (panning across sketchy guys on the street below, looking up into our window, Vito mounting an MG 42 on the windowsill), I knew that amounted to little more than "blah blah blah kill people." So I shot up the cars, which exploded quite nicely, then proceeded down the stairs and across the street. It was then that I felt that this had turned into a completely different game, one that felt distinctly Gears of War-inspired (cliche but true), and poorly executed as well. Controls were clunky, and I couldn't get a handle on what I was supposed to be doing, other than shooting people. I died repeatedly at this segment, and grew quite frustrated. The targeting was distracting, with a big white cross in the middle of the screen that actually made me miss my targets more than I felt I should have. Clunky is the name of the game here.
It's also worth noting that although the game did look genuinely great in places, it was ruined by sloppy texturing and there was a lot of screen tear that hurt to look at some times. These graphical hiccups I found to be very distracting, and took away from the already largely mediocre experience I was having.
Mafia II feels like a game that is trying to appeal to too wide of an audience and stepping way out of its comfort zone. On the one hand, it's attempting to one-up the detail and authenticity of the original (which next-gen hardware allows them to do), which they largely succeed in, Playboy spreads notwithstanding. But they are also shooting themselves in the foot by putting so much emphasis on the shooting and action in the game, which feels sloppy and empty. And that's what the demo left me feeling: that this was a hollow shell of a game with good ideas but poor execution. Granted, I know this is an early demo, and I'm sure some of the graphical issues can be ironed out, but it's most definitely too little too late.Read the original post on my blog!