Mafia 2 Review
By - Craig H.
The original Mafia game was highly praised and it took nearly 8 years for a successor to see the light of day. 2K Czech, formerly Illusion software, developed the original Mafia game and are back on-board for the second installment. Mafia 2 is a single player outing that looks to bring a cinematic feel to the game and immerse players into the mafia life of the 1940’s and 50’s.
The story begins with the introduction of you, Vito Scalleta, and your best friend, Joe Barbaro. The duo gets separated after a heist gone bad that lands Vito in the armed service in order to avoid jail time (Joe got away). Vito is sent home after being wounded in combat and reunites with his old friend upon arrival. While Vito was overseas, Joe chose a life of crime and is trying to be accepted into the Clemente mafia family. Joe, being the good friend he is, offers to put in a good word for Vito with the Clemente family. Vito quickly gains the respect of a few made men within the family and he begins his rise through the ranks. The tale outlines greed, betrayal, clashing families, and just about everything you come to expect from a Mafia story. The game unfolds like a movie and you genuinely care about Vito and begin to root for him as you play. The story does borrow from classic Mafia movie plot points but it’s hard to complain when the story (even if cliché) is delivered this well.
The presentation and atmosphere of Mafia 2 is superb. 2K Czech did a beautiful job bringing the players into the world of the 1940’s and 1950’s. The backdrop to the story is the fictional city of Empire Bay, a city that is a mix between New York and San Francisco, which is rendered perfectly. The city has suburbs, high rises, a china town, construction sites, swanky hotels, and many more locations all of which Vito gets to explore. The voice acting is top notch and is expertly delivered from the beginning to the end. The cutscenes are detailed and fluent, and are also a joy to watch (with over 2 hours worth you will be thankful for this). The highly polished main characters tend to overshadow the other “unimportant” characters that are not nearly as polished. Most of the cutscenes are private meetings that only feature the main characters, so this is usually not an issue. The games soundtrack only furthers your immersion into the game and features a huge list of licensed tracks from the era. You can’t help tapping your feet while you play.
Mafia 2 is an open world game that’s on a linear path. This sounds like an oxymoron but the game strays from what people come to expect from an open world game. Mafia 2’s storyline has one distinct path. The game has no side missions of any kind and the only “extra” you have are collectibles. This may be a positive for some and a negative for others. Having to grind through mundane side missions in other open world games is grueling but not having any at all makes the world feel a bit empty at times. The game has a specific story to tell and does not want to add fluff that does not belong to the direct narrative.
The weapons stay true to the era and features Thompson submachine gun’s, MP 40’s and Berretta 39’s among other post WWII weaponry. All the guns have a distinct feel and use. Trying to take out enemies with a pump-action shotgun at long range will not have any effect. The aiming works well and an auto lock-on feature helps with obtaining headshots. At times the aim reticule can get a bit wonky and cause you to fire at the cover instead of at the enemy. Most of the gunplay will be handled while behind cover. The cover system is effective and is essential to your survival. Quickly popping up and disposing of an enemy only to return behind cover is the name of the game. The cover is destructible and even concrete column will chip away from gunfire.
Vito is a good boxer thanks to a decent melee system. Unlike most open world games, where melee means swinging wildly hoping to connect, Mafia 2 implements a separate melee combat system. Once you engage an enemy in a fight the camera swings in to a side view angle. Once here you can evade, light punch, heavy punch, and counter punch. The system itself is rudimentary but it goes above what other games have had. After beating up on your enemy enough you will be prompted to perform a dynamic kill. The kills are usually a three hit combo that can use environments if close to objects. The camera does tend to fight with you when the characters begin to circle but is easily corrected with a flick of the analog stick.
The cars in the game stay true to the era and change from large model cars of the 1940’s to hot rods and convertibles of the 1950’s. This keeps the driving fresh since you have new toys to play around with. The cars do take a bit of getting use to when you hop into a new set of wheels. The cars in the beginning of the game are much heavier and require you to slow down tremendously in order for you to cleanly make a turn. Later in the game the cars are better tuned, lighter and can be driven with more precision. One interesting feature while driving is the ability to cap the speed to a “legal” limit. The game put a speed blocker on the car so that you cannot accidentally speed past cops and garner unneeded attention. This feature comes in handy while traveling through the city. The streets are compact and the speed cap will keep players from flying out of control. The speed cap feature can be toggled on and off at anytime.
The game has several difficulty settings but one thing needs to be made clear…this game is hard. Enemies have very good aim and it only takes a few shots to put Vito down for good. Enemies will attempt to flank you and force you to sprint to new cover. If you come around a corner too quickly one shotgun blast will spell the end. Only the most hardcore should even attempt the highest difficulty setting. The game does feature some cheap deaths throughout the campaign. At some point during a firefight you will just die from a gun blast from a ghost enemy. One minute you are in perfect health the next you are restarting from your last checkpoint. Trying to figure out where it came from is just a waste of time. To add to the difficulty the checkpoint system is not always your friend. At times you will have to drive back across town because you did not quite make it to the save point or you get killed halfway through a gunfight so you have to repeat it all over again. One especially frustrating point is toward the end when you have to fight your way through a bunch of goons to reach a warehouse to kill a particular individual. The warehouse battle is especially hard and if you die during it you have to replay the entire section again (goons and all). A simple save point after fighting your way to the warehouse, but before entering the warehouse, would have been enough from keeping this part from being infuriating.
The game does suffer from some pacing issues. Before a chapter is complete, Vito is required to drive back to his house and go to bed. This happens on almost every chapter. This is a completely unnecessary task. Towards the end of the game, Vito will need to steal cars or rob businesses in order to raise enough cash for a few missions. Stealing and selling cars for $400 a piece in order to raise an additional $2000 really kills the flow of the game. This is really a shame because the game really starts to hit its stride right before you have to complete these tasks.
Once you complete the main story mode you have the ability to replay any of the games 15 chapters. Trying to go back and collect all 50 Playboy magazines or 159 wanted posters will take a considerable amount of time. The lack of any multiplayer does hurt the game’s replay ability and will leave a lot of players in a one-and-done situation. The developer has already released plans for 2 DLC packs (with 1 being exclusive to the Playstation 3 version of the game and a free add-on for those who purchase the game new) that will help add to the staying power of the title.
Overall, Mafia 2 has a great story, though cliché, and has you anxious to see what happens to Vito next. The story has a several plot twists and memorable moments. Not having any side missions to complete has the world feeling a bit empty but it also keeps players from being bogged down with mundane tasks. I enjoyed my time in Empire City and the 11-12 hours the campaign offered. Those looking for a great story driven mafia game need to look no further.
- Great Mafia Story
- Genuinely fun game play
- Presentation is top notch
- Surprisingly good driving
- Melee combat system goes above just flailing punches
- Game soundtrack is a joy to listen too
- Voice acting is excellent form beginning to end
- Good cover mechanics with environmental destructibility
- Bunch of collectibles to collect (50 magazine covers, 159 Wanted posters)
- An open world game that does not feel very open
- No side missions what-so-ever
- Checkpoint system could have been better
- Some pacing issues, especially at the end
- Slight camera issues
- Limited Replay Value