Mafia II – Review

Game Review: Mafia II
Release: August 24, 2010
Genre: Action
Developer: 2K Czech
Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Players: 1
MSRP: $59.99
ESRB Rating: Mature

Mafia II sends players back in time to the mid 40’s and early 50’s. Back to a time when cars started getting more sporty, rock n’ roll was on the rise, and the mafia was still in control. Vito Scaletta is a fine young man who grew up with the hardships of an immigrant family trying to live the “American Dream”. He doesn’t want to just get a job like his old man. He wants a better life. Lucky for him, his best friend Joe just happens to “know some guys”. So starts our tale as Vito rises through the ranks of the mafia to become a made man, only the ride isn’t as glamorous as what he dreamed it would be.

The game is your standard open world action game that takes place in the fictitious New York City clone, Empire Bay. There’s plenty of story missions to do and lots to see. You collect money that can be used to buy new threads and weapons. There’s a nice collection of vintage cars that you can customize with multiple colors and rims, upgrade the engine, and even change your license plate to get rid of your wanted status. Gas and food can also be purchased to fill up your car’s gas tank (yes you can run out of gas) and your tummy (replenishes health) respectively.

Sidequests do not exist in the world of Empire Bay. You can do a couple of simple car thefts for cash and there are two collectibles in the form of wanted posters and Playboy Magazines (which have real centerfolds… oo la la). When I completed the story, I clocked in around 17 hours. Add in a few more hours to get all of the achievements and you’ll get a decent length game to play.

There are 15 chapters in the story. Each one consists of lots of “drive to point A, kill lots of guys, drive to point B” missions but 2K throws in enough variety to keep each chapter fresh. They will have you robbing a federal building, selling cigarettes, collecting funds from workers, sneaking into danger, and much more. The story helps to keep each chapter fresh and exciting.

Ah yes, the story. I loved it. It’s an awesome tale that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the bittersweet end. There were plenty of “OMG I can’t believe they just did that in a game” moments and a lot of laugh out loud dialog. Now this is where the true star of the game shines, the voice acting. Mafia II sports an all star voice cast that do a fantastic job of bringing the characters to life. The story wouldn’t be as good without the great dialog, which in turn wouldn’t be as good without the awesome voice acting.

One of my other favorite features in the game is the 40’s/50’s time period. 2K Czech did a great job with making the game a true to life retro time machine. The cars are spot on imitations to real cars from that time. The clothes have the right look and the whole city just looks perfect. But what really sold it for me was the music. Oh boy what a great soundtrack that can be heard on the radio. You have crooners like Bing Crosby and Dean Martin, R&B like Little Richard and Fats Domino, Blues from John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters, and good ol’ Rock N’ Roll by the likes of Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly. I thoroughly enjoyed just cruising around in my car, listening to the radio.

As much as I enjoyed Mafia II, there were some minor things that could be fixed if we are lucky enough to get another sequel. For one, the melee fighting got pretty boring rather quick. When you fist fight in the game, it throws you into a boxing like mini game. You get a quick jab, a strong swing, and dodge. That’s it. The strong swing was pointless as I barely ever connected with it. So all I was really left with was to dodge then quick jab then repeat. This could have been more exciting with more freedom to my control. How about a grab, kick or some weapons?

One other gripe I had was with some of the missions feeling a bit cheap. There’s this one where you are going after a higher up in the mafia world. You chase him into a warehouse to find that he is on the upper landing so he has a better advantage point than you. Fair enough I guess, but what made this really suck was he has an infinite supply of molotovs to throw and he’s relentless with them. Add to that a small army of guards firing down on you at the same time and no safe place to hide so you can fight back and you have one sucky situation that I found myself repeating over and over and over again until I finally got lucky. The kicker to this whole mess was that I had a good 5 minutes of fighting before I even got to this “boss” fight because of where the last autosave started me at. This was by far the worst example of these cheap moments but it was needless. A better solution would have been either a save at the warehouse entrance so I didn’t have to repeat the fight before the warehouse, or at least one safe place to hide behind so I could make my stand.

Brian’s Final Say: Despite the before mentioned gripes, Mafia II is a solid game. The story, dialog, and voice acting are top notch and more than make up for any short comings the game has. While it would have been nice to have more to do, I was sort of glad that 2K Czech kept the game straight and to the point. I just don’t have the time to dedicate to another 100+ hour GTA style game. If you are in the market for something with a great story packed with lots of action and isn’t overwhelming in length, then Mafia II is the game for you.

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