Mafia II – The PS3 Attitude Review
Thinking of picking up Mafia II? If so, you’re no doubt torn by all the reviews you may have seen thus far. Some love it and some hate it. Today, we’re going to bring you our humble opinion with hopes that it will be the one that pushes you over the edge to a definitive decision.
The question is, which edge are we trying to push you over?
We’ll get this rolling by saying that there’s one thing you need to immediately do before even considering giving Mafia II a shot: wipe your expectations completely clean. You’ll be quick to find out that this game is not what it seems.
On the outside, it looks like an open-world sandbox game where you can do whatever you want at your leisure. To an extent, that description is true – but when someone mentions a game that matches that portrayal, what do you think of? If you’re like most of the gaming community, you probably think of Grand Theft Auto. If there’s one thing you should take away from this review, take away this: Mafia II is not Grand Theft Auto. Easy, right?
The story begins with the protagonist, Vito Scaletta, getting in to a bit of trouble. He’s young and when you’re 18, robbing a jewelry store seems like a good idea. The police thought otherwise, however. Lucky for him, it’s 1943 and there’s a war going on. Uncle Sam offers Vito a chance to redeem himself by joining the army rather than going to prison. Vito accepts and quickly finds himself in Italy.
Upon his return to Empire City (modeled after New York City) a couple of years later, he finds that things are not as he left them. Vito’s father is in trouble with the loan sharks and the worst part is, he’s no longer alive to deal with them – which leaves only his family to bear the financial burden.
Stuck with thousands of dollars in debt, Vito turns to his friend Joe. Joe is involved with a few deals that can earn Vito some quick cash but aren’t exactly legitimate. What starts as an honest attempt to do right by his family and pay back their balance quickly turns Vito down the path of becoming a made man.
The plot in Mafia II is one of its strongest selling points. With over 2 hours of cut-scenes, 700 pages of screenplay and some very confident voice acting, you’ll rapidly find yourself becoming attached to Vito and his actions. It’s extremely well written and while some may get sick of the mafia clichés, we thought they fit right in with the old-school American gangster story.
How this game differs from that of GTA is the story itself and how 2K chose to tell it. Each chapter has an exact time and setting the developers scripted. Instead of starting each mission at a random time of day, you do it in the exact way 2K wants you to do it. We found that this really helped the plot unfold and progress in just the manor they were going for.
The on-foot mechanics are solid but definitely not supreme. Other than some minor cover issues, we liked how the game handled. Running felt natural and the ‘pop and shoot’ cover system is about the most you can ask for in a game like this. You won’t always just be popping and shooting, however. There are multiple stealth missions and hand to hand brawling stages that keep things from becoming stale.
The driving – much like the on-foot segments – is competent but not entirely fantastic. Figuring out whether or not you like how the vehicles drive is a big step towards figuring out if this is the game for you, because you’ll be spending a lot of time behind the wheel. The good news is there are two different driving settings to choose from and both have their own feel.
Graphically, we walked away quite pleased. Those few patches of grass that are missing from the PS3 version do very little to hamper the game. Assuming you can put up with a fair amount of screen tearing, you’ll probably enjoy the wonderfully themed visuals.
The ambient sounds of the game and its soundtrack are hands down the high-point of Mafia II. The tones of the city, vehicles and weapons really enhance the 1940’s/1950’s experience, but they’re not the best part. The best part is the soundtrack. We’re not kidding when we tell you that the soundtrack in this mob-story is one of the best we’ve ever heard… ever. Without it, the atmosphere and feel of the game’s setting wouldn’t have been nearly as enjoyable.
Perhaps the most surprising part of Mafia II is its length. Staying with our ‘this game is not GTA’ theme, we’ll tell you not to expect a game you can put 50 hours in to. You could put that much time in to it, but you’d run out of things to do about 30 hours before you got there – and that’s including finding all the collectibles. Main story lasts about 10 hours and there’s not much to do beyond that, assuming you don’t want to hunt for wanted posters.
The only gripes that come to mind when looking back at Mafia II are the long periods of driving from point A to point B. At the same time, we loved the music so much that it never once bothered us to cruise around Empire City listening to the latest tunes.
Overall, we can’t find very many motives to not recommend this game. The story and voice acting are rock solid, the production values are respectable and just about every function in the game was enjoyable – or at least practical. So long as you don’t go in expecting a game you can dedicate the next 3 months of your life to, we see no reason why you shouldn’t come out feeling quite pleased.
We say play it. Just don’t go in supposing this to be another Rockstar clone. Mafia II is its own game and easily stands on its own feet.