Ever wonder what it would have been like to grow up in the 1940s and ’50s? Ever thought you would have made a great addition to large Italian family making offers people can’t refuse, or wondered what it would be like to live the life of a true Original Gangster? 2K Czech has tried to answer these questions with the release of its latest development efforts.
Mafia II explores the life of Vito Scalleta, who has returned home to Empire Bay after receiving an injury during a mission in World War II. The veteran Scalleta discovers that his mother and sister have been struggling to pay a loan of his father’s. Shortly after meeting with his old pal Joe, Vito begins to set things right for his family and becomes the newest star in one of Empire Bay’s crime families.
The story of Mafia II is a tense 12-hour tale full of intrigue, betrayal and jaw-dropping twists. The narrative unfolds with beautifully rendered cutscenes and drives the player to continue playing. Gripping and as engaged as players will be, the hardest part of Mafia II is putting the controller down and getting some sleep (4 a.m. comes fast). As I played the game, I was so compelled by the actions of Vito and Joe that I didn’t want to put the controller down, in much the same way that once I start watching The Godfather that I must watch the entire series.
Unfortunately, because I was so engaged in the story of the game, I actually missed a few key achievements and side missions. In a sandbox-style game, I don’t have a problem with missing things, as normally it isn’t a difficult proposition to just go back and replay the mission or engage the action leisurely. Now, you can go back and replay missions and redo elements of a level to obtain achievements in Mafia II. The problem I had was more of how the story advances and drives the player deeper into the game without much of an opportunity to explore the world. So, when side quests or activities do pop up, the player may not notice them and MUST go back and replay the mission at a later time. It is a bit of a nuisance to go back through an entire mission to obtain something that could have had more attention drawn to it. For instance, there are story-driven elements in the game that require the player to obtain money, but other than the missions that need you to have some cash, there isn’t really a demand to find any. Therefore, achievements like selling cars to the exporter Derek may be easily missed, especially if the game advances too far.
Even with this minor flaw in the focus on certain game mechanics, Mafia II is my absolute favorite game. The controls of the game are easy and comfortable to understand. The shooting and cover mechanics are mapped naturally on the controller and are so intuitive that as you play you may forget you are holding a controller. Each weapon has a different feel, as do each of the automobiles when you drive them. The physics of Mafia II keep the game feeling realistic, which helps players become immersed in the game world.
Lastly, it has to be said that the Mafia II soundtrack is without a doubt one of the most amazing compilations of ’40s and ’50s music ever assembled. Listening to The Andrew Sisters, Bing Crosby, Bo Diddly, Buddy Holly, Doris Day and the other great artists of the time playing on the radio was so immersive that after completing the game, I had to load a completed mission just to drive around.
Mafia II and the story of Vito Scalleta and his rise in a crime family is a well-written, well-balanced game that will appeal to action-gamers as well as fans of other sandbox games. It may not provide 100 hours of gameplay, but the 12 hours (or so) it takes to run through it will be an experience filled with artistry, whether technical or aesthetic. The team at 2K Czech should be proud of its achievement, for this is an amazing take on mafia life.