The Definition of a Bad Port
Unless you've been living under a rock for the past two years, you've heard of the great PC game called Mafia featuring a 1930's Chicago-esque city where you play as a man (Tommy Angelo) who gets drawn into working for the mob. Times are tough during the depression and desparate men like Tommy will do just about anything to support their family. Well, close to two years later we now have the PS2 version of the same game...or is it? Many games don't port very well from PC to console, and this is certainly one of them. The game starts off with a quite beautifully done cinema, but sadly, the actual game isn't as pretty. The 1930's style city is wide-open much like we've become acustomed to in games like GTA, but unlike GTA, the cars just aren't fun to race around in. The game isn't terrible, but it is definitely a let down considering how great it was on the PC. If you haven't played this game, and you think you really want to, check the local store's PC bargain bin and steer clear of the PS2 version.
The character faces really look great, but the facial animations don't come anywhere close to syncing up with the words. This is acceptable in games that have been redubbed from Japanese, but Mafia doesn't fit that category. The city itself is quite bland not counting the cutscenes, and although the cars are quite detailed, the aliasing issues of the PS2 rear their ugly heads quite a bit here. The power lines and trolly car wires are simply horrendous. Not to mention the framerate isn't up to speed, especially if you're a PC vet of Mafia.
For a game where you spend the large amount of your time driving, the driving sure does suck. The cars are slow and clunky, and they fishtail in about any turn you try to make above 20mph. I guess 1930's cars were pretty slow, and they were trying to be realistic but the driving is so loose that I really doubt it. Once you actually make it to the point where you can get out of your car and pick up a gun, the first thing you'll notice is the very PC-like 3rd person movement style. This will probably take most GTA vets some getting used to. And once you're used to moving around, you'll spend quite a while failing your mission while you figure how to effectively shoot enemies with a console controller. It's not exactly Halo quality targetting.
Other than the presentation, the sound in Mafia is the high point. The voice acting is great, which is rare in games recently. I was afraid it would be really cheesey New Yorker gangster accents, but do not fret. The storyline that the characters present is actually good if you can force yourself past the game's other problems to actually experience it. Another plus was the music. The early 20th century jazz music while driving around is a nice touch, and somehow the rap music in the intro video actually works.
There are some extra play modes that might keep this disc in your PS2, but don't bet on it. Free ride is pretty boring, and Racing these piece of crap cars is just short of mind-numbing. The Carcyclopedia is simply a showroom of all the different cars of the era...great! You'll play through the storyline once and then either trade it in, or file it on your game shelf as a permanent dust collector.
Three words...hellacious load times. Seriously, I haven't seen load times this bad since the first generation PS2 sports titles. You can literally go get something to drink while your mission loads. It's that kind of loading screen where it sits at 100% done for another 30 seconds before getting you into the game, but not even then do you get to play because it has to auto-save first. This load screen will become quite familiar since any time you cross a bridge you'll see it agian...and again...and again. You take a turn too fast and accidentally hit a pedestrian with your taxi? Well now you have to wait 3 minutes to try again. It's annoying as hell and destroys any chance of you really getting into the storyline, which obviously destroys the fun.
*** This review was written for Flamevault.com shortly after the release of the game. ***