gamingsurvival's Mafia II (Xbox 360) review

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Mafia 2 Second Opinion GamingSurvival Review

By - Richard J. 
 
It has been a few years since the original Mafia turned heads on the PC, PS2, and Original Xbox. As one of the first mafia focused open world games, many gamers were in awe by what it accomplished. Now, 2K Czech is ready to get fans excited again, this time staying on the PC and upgrading to the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. Can Mafia 2 break the knees of its competition, or end up swimming with the fishes?

In Mafia II you play as Vito Scaletta, the son of an Italian immigrant who is just getting out of the army and settling in America. After his father leaves Vito's family with a debt of $2000, he dives into the seedy underworld of organized crime to get the money. However that small taste leaves him thirsty for more as he and his friend Joe make their way to becoming made men.

If you are a fan of "Mobster Movies", or any films that depict Italian American members of organized crime in a 1950's era, there is a good chance that the story in Mafia 2 will appeal to you. It is such a "by the book" definition of a good Mafia story, it becomes bitter sweet. On one hand, the story is fantastic. But on the other hand, it takes so much from other great Mafia stories that it looses its identity, along with some of its enjoyment. Personally, I enjoyed the story -- especially the ending -- but its lack of identity hurts it by making it feel boring and generic. It's nothing spectacular, but does a good job of holding together the linearity of the gameplay.

Yes, that's correct, the gameplay is Mafia 2 is very linear. For a sandbox style, open world game, this sounds like an oxymoron, and it is. Mafia 2 completely lacks any sort of side missions or even choice when it comes to the single player. That is unless you count finding 50 Playboy pin-ups, and 159 wanted posters, a side mission. Most open world games give you some kind of freedom in how you play through the game. In Mafia 2, you always only have one big red star to drive towards. This star represents the area you must travel to in order for the mission to continue. It goes without saying that it is strange to drive through a beautiful city to get to the star, but not being able to interact with it through missions. You can rob stores and buy weapons and clothes from certain stores, but this gets old really fast. Not to mention that "robbing" a store simply consists of you acting like a pissed off employee by shooting everyone within site, then taking money from the register and running away.

You can also get chased by the cops, but running away from them is very simple. Preventing yourself from getting chased is also easy. Driving at high speeds will cause the police to chase you for speeding. To avoid this, each car has a speed limiter to avoid speeding and keep your car safe. The odd thing is, you can use this feature to quickly avoid detection by cops. If you are speeding, simply turn the feature on when you see a cop car on your mini-map. No matter what speed you are being propelled at, if that limiter feature is turned on, the cops won't bust you. This small fault by the developers actually becomes very helpful for the player and improves upon the experience. Apart from this, driving is surprisingly good. It mixes realism and arcade-y fun quite well. Speeding in fast cars will have you fish tailing, and driving with the limiter on will give a nice feel of safety and control.

Combat in Mafia 2 is a mixed bag. It does cover based, third-person shooting well, but not quite perfectly. Most of the weapons work well for killing goons and other enemies, but some work better than others. The biggest problem with the weapons is that pistols are plentiful, but only headshots for pistols are effective. Machine guns work much better than pistols, and are able to kill enemies quite effectively. Shot guns also work well, but not as well as machine guns. The other problem with the overall combat is cover. Snapping to cover is good when you snap to where you want to be, but can be horribly frustrating when you end up somewhere else. Worst of all, sometimes the enemies are either able to shoot through cover, or curve their bullets à la Wanted: Weapons of Fate. This doesn't occur often, but when it does, it is horrible.

What makes it really terrible is the awful placement of checkpoints in the game. It seems as though the game was made to eat your quarters in an arcade. If you are about to fight a bunch of enemies through a building, the game will give you one checkpoint out side of the building. This means that if you die anywhere in the building -- even on the top floor -- you will have to start again from outside of the building. If you have to drive across town, the only checkpoint will be at your garage where you got the car. I bet you can guess exactly what will happen if you die on that trip across town. There is one example in the game that stands prominent in my mind. This is during what I like to call "The Warehouse Scene" towards the end of the game. The difficulty suddenly ramps up to being unfair inside the warehouse, plus any death inside the warehouse puts you back outside the warehouse where you must fight through goons all over again. I could rant about the checkpoints in the game all day, they are that bad.

Exploring the city and fighting through waves of goons let's you realize just how good the graphics are in Mafia 2. The environments are beautiful, especially when you see the comparison between the Winter environment, and the Fall environment. Both are very beautiful, and their beauty is magnified by how 2K Czech was able to put both in the same game. Buildings, cars, pedestrians and everything else in the Mafia 2 world look fantastic. For the most part, characters models look great and move fluidly. Although walking up and down stairs realistically seems to be something that wasn't programmed. It seems odd when everything moves great -- largely due to the Nvidia PhysX engine -- except for characters walking down stairs. While not game changing or unique, Mafia 2 does look great.

Those long car rides around the city can become extremely boring, especially with the speed limiter. Thankfully, Mafia 2 has an oustanding soundtrack that captures the true essence of life in the '50s. All of your favourite songs and artists from the era will blast through your speakers as you cruise toward that red star. In an ironic turn, you don't have any choice for missions, but you have a ton of choices for which radio station you want to listen to. In retrospect, it's pretty sad that the game is more linear than the radio.

Voice overs and dialog are also really good in Mafia 2. The stereotypical Italian-Americans are truly complete with their near offensive dialog and voices. Jokes aside, the voice over cast is very strong. Through playing I got the sense that the cast thoroughly enjoyed what they were doing. Whenever a voice over cast enjoys what they are doing, it adds quite a bit to the game in my opinion.

Where the wheels really start to fall off for Mafia 2 is its replay value. As I wrote earlier, Mafia 2 is incredibly linear. With no side missions, or multiplayer of any kind, Mafia 2 has very little replay. The saving grace for Mafia 2 is the ability to replay any story chapter. With no competitive reason to do so, players will only do this to experience any great moments in the game again. Replay value is a real misstep for Mafia 2 and hopefully 2K Czech will not make this mistake again.

In the end, I really enjoyed Mafia 2. While I was playing it, I got pretty bored and wasn't too fond of it by the end. However, when I sit down and look back at what I had done, my opinion of the game had greatly improved. While the gameplay may not be all -- especially with the linearity -- the rest of the game is easily enough to warrant a playthrough. I would even highly recommend a purchase of Mafia 2, just at a slightly reduced price.

PROS

  • Good story
  • Great gameplay with a few faults
  • Beautiful graphics
  • Fantastic soundtrack

CONS
  • Terrible checkpoint system
  • Incredibly linear
  • Little to no replay value
 
RATING
   - 8/10

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