Mafia II Review – Welcome to the family

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It’s been 8 years since the original Mafia was released to the world. While it was reported to not be so great on consoles, the PC version was truly magnificent.

In my opinion, Mafia was grossly underrated, and flew under way too many peoples radar. It wasn’t the Grand Theft Auto clone that people thought it might be. It was, mature, told a great story and as far as games like this go, way ahead of its time.

So now, Mafia II has finally been released and as a big fan of the original, I delved into the world of the “Cosa Nostra” to find out if the sequel lives up to its predecessor.

Mafia II begins in the 1940′s and pulls you into the world of Vito Scaletta, a young Sicilian whose family moves over to America for a better life. Life carries on and before he knows it, he finds himself mixed up with all the wrong kind of people, and so the story begins.

Mafia II is set in Empire City, which is modeled on New York City in the 1940′s. The city is big and beautiful and really gives you a taste of what life in the 40′s was like, including the problems brought about by World War II.

While Mafia II may seem like a sandbox game at first, it isn’t. Yes, it is based in a large city, but instead of a gameplay type that would have you driving around in a “free roam” sort of way, choosing missions a la GTA, the story is the focus.

So then, Mafia II is a story-centric game, merely based in a big open world but don’t think that it’s a negative. You will still experience Empire City in all of it’s glory, and add seasons into the mix (such as snowy winters and rainy seasons) and you really have a big and beautiful visual city on your hands.

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If the story is the focus on the game, then we can all agree that unless it’s good, there’s a problem. The Mafia games aren’t about the big cities, or the action and don’t set out to merely take the best and cheesiest parts of the Hollywood films and put you in control. The idea put forward in Mafia is to give the gamer a way to experience the life of a Mafia family member in the old days, along with all of it’s twists and turns, and in that regard Mafia II delivers for the most part. While the story is interesting and worth playing for, I’m saddened to say that while most of the story is intriguing and immersive, it falls very flat in one or two very key areas enough to seriously make you forget about the good parts and feel let down with the bad ones.

While you will be exposed to some great action sequences using the new and solid cover system, there are a lot of missions that stay true to the experience, such as getting rid of bodies, sorting people out when they are misbehaving. Each mission isn’t an excuse to throw you into a firefight, but rather offers more true-to-the-material experiences that push the story along, sometimes leading to long, but worthwhile cutscenes and set pieces.

Most of the missions are laid out as highlights in Vito’s life, usually always starting with Vito waking up in the morning, and ending with Vito climbing into bed at night. While some people might find it a tad strange, it works with the pace of the game, and gives you a taste of what it was like to not know what each day may bring.

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  • http://Zapsonline.com Moody

    Awesome review Nick.
    Although I thought the story was great – almost as good as the first Mafia.

  • Sir James of Kotick

    Good review guys, I think I’ll give it a spin in the next few weeks.

  • http://www.designwave.co.za Nick de Bruyne

    I think the story is really great too, just let down by one or two little things that made a big impact to me.

  • eXp

    What are the elements that you constantly refer to that let you down? Apart from the Frame Rate issues, I can’t quite decipher what they are. That being said, I’m on so much Vitamin C and Flusine that I can’t really see straight. :whistle:

  • http://www.designwave.co.za Nick de Bruyne

    Sorry, it’s because it is a very story driven game and I am being very careful to not say anything I shouldn’t – but the elements are completely story based, but I dont want to say anymore

  • http://www.designwave.co.za Nick de Bruyne

    I have actually already found a few forum threads dedicated to the exact same issue that i had, some okes were lank pissed.

  • spargish za

    Awesome review man. Busy playing through it now and I have to agree the city is amazing, the change of season was the highlight for me.

    Im also enjoying the story, I have to say not playing Mafia I, I was expecting more of a sandbox game and was a little disappointed at 1st but not once I got into the story.

    Im hoping for a mafia III set in the 80′s and 90′s when the real last families fell

  • Jarred Milner

    Great review dude. Pretty much convinced me that it’s a game I must play, just not now :-)

  • G

    Have to agree. I also felt let down by 4 things in the story. I wont bring them up for the same reasons u didnt… But im really hoping they will be addressed in DLC’s, but only time will give us the answer to that.

    Even one step better would be to release a mission creator for the player to set out some things like they did in Fallout 3 or with with DAO.

    Cant complain about the gaming time it gave me, although I did feel a little ripped off as I maybe got about 8 hours of play before it was finished and done. Although I dont have all the achievements.

  • http://www.onelargeprawn.co.za Onelargeprawn

    Good review Nick although this sentence doesn’t quite read well – “While the story is interesting and worth playing for, I’m saddened to say that while most of the story is intriguing and immersive, it falls very flat…”

  • AC!D

    Just to compliment Nicks review: I played the PS3 version and surprisingly the frame rate was solid and better than GTAIV’S frame rate. Minor screen tearing only popped up in indoor environments for some reason. Outdoors nothing. The big grass issue debate i wont comment on because i didnt look at the grass much. I will say though that Empire city is stunning and like Nick says the changing in seasons looks amazing.

    The PS3 exclusive DLC The betrayal of Jimmy took me about 7 hours to complete with 40 missions. These arent like the story driven missions from the main campaign and feel like the side missions that Mafia 2 didnt have that every review complained about. Why they werent in the main game ill never know. They are GTA like missions e.g stealing cars, assinating targets, entering first fighting tournaments or shooting mup shops in chinese or african American gang turfs. Its got a minor story about Jimmy with two cutscenes to start and end but nothing note worthy that the title doesnt give away.

    These GTA like side missions do come with a twist though in that you have time limits and get ranked on time left for mission completion, headshots, drifting and many other factors to rank you on online leaderboards. Even if you dont get the PS3 version for this DLC i just thought id let you guys now because it sounds like the 2nd DLC Jimmy’s Revenge pack announced for all platforms is exactly the same in structure.

  • http://www.designwave.co.za Nick de Bruyne

    Thanks a lot for the extra input on the ps3 dlc, which I obviously didn’t have with this version. Seems like quite a lot of extra game time

  • Conor

    Really enjoyed this game only rented it though and nearly completed it. As you said Nick the story was great the changing season was a cool element but my favourite thing was the games radio stations the music was amazing “aint that a kick in the head” was my favourite song. Also charactors were easy to like Joe was really useful in mission I thought.

  • NiteFenix

    I on the other hand just have bad things to add…

    Stopped in at the CNA last night after watching a movie…buy the game, get home, start installing it on my PC and after downloading updates for nearly 12 hours, the game just didn’t want to start. Kept on freezing the Steam client. Going to try reinstalling it one more time and if I don’t come right, I’m just going to throw the towel in. Where are the days of installing and playing?

  • http://www.lazygamer.co.za Geoffrey Tim

    Thanks for reminding me why I became a console gamer.

  • NiteFenix

    Always a pleasure dude…I should have heeded your warnings…once I have the bucks, I’ll probably end up buying an Xbox…bleh

  • NiteFenix

    Ok so in the spirit of closure I decided to post my findings on the above mentioned problem, just in case anyone else runs into the problem.

    After e-mailing the friendly folks over at Steamworks, this was the reply I got:

    Hello Jonathan, Thank you for contacting Steam Support. Please follow the link below for information: Title: Installing from Disc instead of Steam Link: http://support.steampowered.com/kb_article.php?ref=5357-FSQM-0382 Once this process is complete, you will need to download the latest updates for this title directly from the Steam servers. If you have any further questions, please let us know.

    I’m happy with the answer, although, now I don’t have Mafia 2 anymore, I think I might go buy it again just to see if this works.

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