Home
Twitter
RSS
Newsletter
Denny Markovic
24 Aug, 2010

Mafia 2 Review

PC Review | Make sure to bring a piece.
When it comes to excellent games involving story driven tales about gangs and organised crime, there aren’t many when you think about it. While games such as Grand Theft Auto and Saints Row offer some fairly decent story, they’re mostly revolving around the sandbox element, where you can do just about anything you want and screw around to hearts content, ignoring the story elements pretty much entirely. In fact, the only recent excellent crime story that we know of is Mafia which some widely consider to be one of the best narratives in gaming, period. So now that the highly anticipated sequel Mafia II is just about to hit us in the face, how does it fare amongst the plethora of high budget, high-octane action games out there, and does it deliver what we’ve wanted from it; a superbly crafted storyline?

In short, we’ll just say yes to that straight out, as Mafia II indeed tells an intriguing tale. On the long side of things, you play as Vito Scaletta, an ex-war veteran and son of a poor Sicilian family trying to make it big in the world. After being sent back home due to an injury, Vito reunites with his family and long time best friend Joe Barbarosa and comes to realise that though his family is in decent health and he’s happy to be there, he needs to make it big some way, somehow. So from here on Vito tags along with Joe, meeting contacts and forging alliances to eventually get in on booze, cars and women, doing jobs ranging from assassinations to robberies all in the quest to be somebody.

Mario and Luigi back in the day.

Mario and Luigi back in the day.
Close
Vito’s tale is both tragic and dark, with absolutely stellar character development and many shocking moments throughout. The story progresses over a decade, from the end of World War II all the way into the 50s, where rock n roll and greasers become the new trend, and with this come many revelations throughout the narrative. Each character that you meet throughout the game has personality and their own level of history, which adds so much to a game that already has a very interesting main cast. It’s sharply written and well paced, with good breaks from the darker and moodier moments with fantastic humor and charismatic performances. The ending is also absolutely superb and incredibly memorable, serving as a powerful message in the midst of the events of Mafia II.

But an excellent story requires good progression in its gameplay to succeed, and Mafia II does a pretty solid job in achieving this. Contrary to popular belief, Mafia II is not a sandbox game with a story element; it’s a story-based game with a sandbox as a bonus. And with that, there is a fair bit of linearity when it comes down to the core of the game. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though as everything is so compelling that it feels right rather than forced. The simplistic run and cover mechanics in the shooting aid this well, as it keeps things fast, smooth and transitions brilliantly between sections of the game. The added destructibility of the environments also gave us a very F.E.A.R kind of vibe, where combat was just pure intensity from the get-go and minor mistakes can kill you quite quickly.

Let it snow let it snow let it snow.

Let it snow let it snow let it snow.
Close
It isn’t all run and cover though like some hardcore shooters. There are lot of moments that completely shift the flow of the game, from some small stealthy sections to epic car chases and then the random stuff which adds a lot of life into the world of Empire Bay. Stores can be walked into freely and held up, allowing you to steal whatever you like and then hopefully get away from the police that are likely already on the way. Killing store owners also shuts the store down later on as you progress, so though the free-roam element is not as profound or over the top as other games, it adds a level of authenticity and subtle realism that immerses you into the game world much more than you first realise. There’s a lot more to the game than just these sections we’ve mentioned, however for spoilers sake, we’re not going to talk about them as they’re certainly worth seeing for yourself (some even fairly significant to the story and offer an enormous shift in gameplay).

If we are going to nitpick on one thing however, is that Mafia II tends to have some odd difficulty spikes, primarily in the form of hit detection. Gunning down enemies is not difficult whatsoever and guns feel both powerful and lethal. However, from time to time you might be well on your way to kicking a whole lot of ass, only to be stopped by some random stray bullet that hits you and kills you instantly. While this is somewhat realistic, what’s odd is that it happens often when you’re behind cover and the millimetre of your head that is poking out of cover is hit; and it’s not even with a lot of enemies. Perhaps it was just unlucky positioning or solid AI aim bots, but it was sometimes a little frustrating to gun down about forty enemies (we totally exaggerate our numbers) only to be shot in the face from twenty metres away by the random last surviving guy behind a crate.

You even get to do some blow jobs.

You even get to do some blow jobs.
Close
In terms of presentation, we’re pretty confident in saying that Mafia II is one beautiful game, both aurally and visually. We played through the 10-15 hour game on a fairly high end PC with panoramic resolutions, and many a time we were simply in awe at the attention to detail the world has been given. It’s almost obsessive in detail, as snow will slide off of cars as you turn a corner fast, specular highlights reflect at the most perfect angles, and each area feels very much alive. Physics work wonderfully even without PhysX technology enabled, with gunfire tearing entire rooms to pieces with glass shattering and wood chipping apart. The only disappointment comes in the form of animation, where though most of the walk cycles, expressions and storytelling moments are well done, the facial animation work and a few sections of the game feel far too stiff. Animation can be jarring and lack proper timing, which can likely be attributed to the game being of multiplatform status and being limited in animation data because of it. It’s not necessarily very bad, but what is there could’ve certainly been made better with a little more time spent on it. We had no problem with the sound in any way, as the game sounds wonderful in music, sound effects and especially voice acting, which is absolutely fantastic and perfectly fitting for Mafia II.

If we were to compare Mafia II to any recent games, it’d probably be Uncharted 2, as both share the same concept of delivering a well told story through a very linear game. That being said, Mafia II comes with a free-roaming element that while it isn’t as crazy or stand out as something like Grand Theft Auto IV, it’s there to serve the purpose of making the world feel alive, and it delivers this in spades. Mafia II is pretty much what most adult gamers have been looking for in quite some time; a very mature, very well told story driven game that is both memorable, highly entertaining and proves that games can be pretty serious business when it comes to their storylines too.
The Score
Mafia II is a superbly told, mature and adult game that will entertain, shock and blow you away time and time again.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Mafia 2 Content

Mafia 2 Preview
20 Jul, 2010 Extended hands-on with a Made Man.
Mafia 2 screenshots
24 May, 2010 Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.
Switchblade fun: New Mafia 2 screenshots arrive
21 Aug, 2009 You call that a knife?
28 Comments
3 years ago
SO reading through, its the same as the first one, and thats OK with me.Is there any truth to the console versions being gimped with framerate issues etc. (which was also true of the original port)?
3 years ago
Game sounds interesting but no way is my PC gonna do it so any chance of a console review please??
3 years ago
In the interests of getting the review up on time, we only had access to the PC version. However, I should be getting the console version either today or tomorrow, so I'll post impressions in due course.
3 years ago
one thing that always bugged the fuck out of me with rockstar games stories is it introduces a whole bunch of interesting charecters, then completly drops them when they introduce the next lot of charecters.

Please tell me they don't do this in Mafia?
3 years ago
Hrmm.. you mentioned GTA and Saints Row as comparitive games.. but not Godfather/Godfather II? Would have thought these games would be more relevant to compare against even though I can understand why you are comparing GTA/SR..

What difficulty level were you playing? I've heard that the police are a little bit too random.. sometimes all you need to do is hide behind a crate, stop and wait for them to get out and then drive off, or just do a u-turn to avoid capture... and yet other times, as I found in playing the demo.. they can be quite fearsome in their pursuit. I found the hit-detection/taking damage in the demo to also a bit frustrating..

For example, at the end of the demo when you're making your get away, the first time I did it without any problems and took almost zero damage nor were the pursuing police ever really that close to me.. yet on each subsequent play-through, I found them to be much more aggressive and actually died a number of times from gunfire. While the random/dynamic side of this issue is actually a good thing for replay value, which is another possible downside of the game due to it being a linear story, the randomness of it is frustrating.

I have no regrets in pre-ordering and am 100% sure I will enjoy the game thoroughly.. just making my own observations..
3 years ago
Not a bad review, but that first caption is borderline racist and fairly immature.
3 years ago
Oh, come on. If you're going to complain about immature, at least pick the blow job caption. That first one is just fairly typical gamer humour.
3 years ago
1) Can you change your hair at a barber? this would be great at escaping police
2) Is it one save slot, limited or unlimited?
3) Can you replay missions?
4) When it finishes, do you have to load a save game to free roam?
5) Can you hit, shoot or run anyone down?
6) Any custom radio station function? Would be great to have my own 1940s/50s music. Elvis, Nina Simone, etc. And ones from Back to the Future like Johnny B Goode and Mister Sandman.
7) When driving can we do it with the radio OFF?
8) Are children, teens and babies in the game? Not interested in shooting them, it would just add an extra level of realism GTA lacks
3 years ago
JP2daMC wrote
Not a bad review, but that first caption is borderline racist and fairly immature.
Just because you make a comment based on someones race doesn't automaticly make it racist.
3 years ago
No but if you have Italian friends, ask them what they think of being called Mario or Luigi or Gueseppi if that's not their name. It's commonly used by Australians to condescend to Italians.

Benza - Also note that I called it borderline racist because it's more of a Mario Bros joke, but it still plays on that stereotype.
3 years ago
Toneiiblue wrote
5) Can you hit, shoot or run anyone down?
Yes! icon_twisted.gif hehehhehehhehe
3 years ago
Being an Australia Italian I feel I can comment on the first caption; no it is not racist and no it is not immature. He is simply pulling the piss. Time to get off our high horses people. The game is about the American Italian mafia in an era stereotyped by the likes of Al Capone and other hoodlums; if that caption is racist then the entire game is.

Anyway, back to the game. Looks good so far. I hope it's like the original Mafia and nothing like other sandbox games.
3 years ago
JP2daMC wrote
Not a bad review, but that first caption is borderline racist and fairly immature.
What a crock of shit.
3 years ago
Benza wrote
one thing that always bugged the **** out of me with rockstar games stories is it introduces a whole bunch of interesting charecters, then completly drops them when they introduce the next lot of charecters.

Please tell me they don't do this in Mafia?
Doesn't happen. A lot of characters make a re-appearance throughout the game and remain important all the way through.

emech wrote
SO reading through, its the same as the first one, and thats OK with me.Is there any truth to the console versions being gimped with framerate issues etc. (which was also true of the original port)?
Jeremy will confirm it, but from what I've seen comparing the demo's, it's quite gimped compared to the PC vers. That being said, it's not horrific and still functions well.

light487 wrote
Hrmm.. you mentioned GTA and Saints Row as comparitive games.. but not Godfather/Godfather II? Would have thought these games would be more relevant to compare against even though I can understand why you are comparing GTA/SR..

What difficulty level were you playing? I've heard that the police are a little bit too random.. sometimes all you need to do is hide behind a crate, stop and wait for them to get out and then drive off, or just do a u-turn to avoid capture... and yet other times, as I found in playing the demo.. they can be quite fearsome in their pursuit. I found the hit-detection/taking damage in the demo to also a bit frustrating..

For example, at the end of the demo when you're making your get away, the first time I did it without any problems and took almost zero damage nor were the pursuing police ever really that close to me.. yet on each subsequent play-through, I found them to be much more aggressive and actually died a number of times from gunfire. While the random/dynamic side of this issue is actually a good thing for replay value, which is another possible downside of the game due to it being a linear story, the randomness of it is frustrating.

I have no regrets in pre-ordering and am 100% sure I will enjoy the game thoroughly.. just making my own observations..
I didn't compare to GodFather mainly because I never really played them and there are constant mentions of "this game has no free-roam elements" from a lot of people and reviewers, so I figured I'd clear it up by making a distinct comparison to a game that IS a sandbox, and why Mafia differs. This and GTA/SA are more well known.

Difficulty was on medium, and the police were very rarely random. Usually they jump down my throat when I shoot up civilians or something and yeah, they can be insanely aggressive. Really depends on positioning in the city too, because some areas have more cops around so you'll just get demolished. The only frustration was the weird hit detection stuff, made some areas really oddly difficult for no reason.

JP2daMC wrote
Not a bad review, but that first caption is borderline racist and fairly immature.
It's borderline so I guess I'm okay then. Also yeah, gamer humor and all. I don't think on racist terms, I have colour TV.

Toneiiblue wrote
1) Can you change your hair at a barber? this would be great at escaping police
2) Is it one save slot, limited or unlimited?
3) Can you replay missions?
4) When it finishes, do you have to load a save game to free roam?
5) Can you hit, shoot or run anyone down?
6) Any custom radio station function? Would be great to have my own 1940s/50s music. Elvis, Nina Simone, etc. And ones from Back to the Future like Johnny B Goode and Mister Sandman.
7) When driving can we do it with the radio OFF?
8) Are children, teens and babies in the game? Not interested in shooting them, it would just add an extra level of realism GTA lacks
1) Nope, though at one point your hair does change a bit because of something.
2) I'm pretty sure there were plenty of save slots, unlimited I think. I'll have to double take that.
3) Yeah easily.
4) Yep, actually have to load a mission, so it shows how focused on story it is rather than free-roam.
5) Yes. Tested this myself. I wanted to see how the physics play in a park with a hot rod.
6) No custom music, just the soundtrack they give you. Would be interesting to blast Infected Mushroom 60 years before they existed though.
7) Yep.
8) Now that I think about it, nope. At the beginning of the game there are some kids, but otherwise you can't sho--err see them.
3 years ago
JP2daMC wrote
Not a bad review, but that first caption is borderline racist and fairly immature.
I lolled.

Nice review Denny, might pick up the PC version. icon_smile.gif
3 years ago
>1) Nope, though at one point your hair does change a >bit because of something.

Shame. While I did not count on having the ability to have blue mohawks, jheri curls and Afros on my Italian mobster, it would have been funky to go get a cut and have the barber yammer on about sports, the War, women he's dating or something for 15-20 seconds. Or maybe you could sit there for the entire cut with an option to Skip :P

>2) I'm pretty sure there were plenty of save slots, >unlimited I think. I'll have to double take that.

Sounds good. Does the city change much physically aside from the seasons/decade? I'd make sure I had slots after everything though. It would be good to pick between the two distinct times/settings.

>3) Yeah easily.
Just through reloading a saved game or do they have a Replay menu in a similar vein to GTA IV (sorry, I mentioned it! icon_razz.gif)/Chinatown Wars?

>5) Yes. Tested this myself. I wanted to see how the >physics play in a park with a hot rod.
Excellent. Adds some longevity then since we can roleplay a bit. Wish you could date some 'dames' though after the story missions had been finished though. Not to the extent of having them ring up all the time annoying you but given the period this is set in, it would be a heck of a lot more fun than doing it in the relative soullessness of Liberty City or the rather empty San Andreas.

>6) No custom music, just the soundtrack they give >you. Would be interesting to blast Infected Mushroom >60 years before they existed though.

Aww. icon_sad.gif I guess it's that thinking that had them leave the option out, so the integrity of the environment was maintained. But I would have kept it to period music. I actually have mostly different user tracks for San Andreas to the ones in GTA IV - and nothing that wouldn't have existed at the time! I'll just mute the in-game radio & have a couple of playlists set up on my laptop iTunes instead.

8) Oh well. At least this way the game isn't banned anywhere.
3 years ago
Palgn Review wrote
Contrary to popular belief, Mafia II is not a sandbox game with a story element; it’s a story-based game with a sandbox as a bonus.
Cannot be stressed enough. It's absolutely essential people understand this before trying the game! Going in with expections that this will be 'GTA: Mobtown' will only end in tears. There are games that cater to that kind of experience. This is not one of them nor is is trying to be.

Thanks for putting that in there Denny. Great review btw.
3 years ago
^ Realise that but just curious on some points. I'm writing a gangster film which is actually a film noir (black & white, femme fatales, Mafia, corrupt cops, private dicks, car chases, shootouts and betrayals) so will play this for getting into the right frame of mind. And it sounds like they've nailed the atmosphere so the game will be good for this purpose.

La Noire would be more useful LOL but I bet I finish the script before that comes out haha
3 years ago
Quote
Aww. icon_sad.gif I guess it's that thinking that had them leave the option out, so the integrity of the environment was maintained. But I would have kept it to period music. I actually have mostly different user tracks for San Andreas to the ones in GTA IV - and nothing that wouldn't have existed at the time! I'll just mute the in-game radio & have a couple of playlists set up on my laptop iTunes instead.
Buy it on 360, don't all 360 games have to support user soundtracks?
3 years ago
Don't have one. Anyway, like I said it'll be easy enough to just play iTunes on the laptop right next to the desktop icon_razz.gif
3 years ago
Benza wrote
Buy it on 360, don't all 360 games have to support user soundtracks?
I haven't checked in a while, but I think it's more of a recommendation than a requirement. The OS supports music playing whilst gaming anyway from memory.
3 years ago
GooberMan wrote
Benza wrote
Buy it on 360, don't all 360 games have to support user soundtracks?
I haven't checked in a while, but I think it's more of a recommendation than a requirement. The OS supports music playing whilst gaming anyway from memory.
I was always under the impression that it was a required thing to do to release your game on 360?
3 years ago
This game is awesome so mug detail. Also the frame rate issue hasn't been a problem on X360 running the full game off hdd
Add Comment
Like this review?
Share it with this tiny url: http://palg.nu/4eN

N4G : News for Gamers         Twitter This!

Digg!     Stumble This!

| More
  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  27/08/2010 (Confirmed)
Publisher:
  Take 2 Interactive
Genre:
  Shooter
Year Made:
  2008

Read more...
Currently Popular on PALGN
Australian Gaming Bargains - 08/12/11
'Tis the season to be bargaining.
R18+ Legislation
R18+ Legislation
Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations Preview
Hands on time with the game. Chat time with the CEO of CyberConnect 2.
PALGN's Most Anticipated Games of 2007
24 titles to keep an eye on during 2007.
PALGN's Most Anticipated Games of 2008
And you thought 2007 was populated.