“As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster.” You damn right I do. But when you write for a blog talking about Microsoft Windows and all these other geeky technologies, one would hardly consider that “gangster” at all. But hey, that’s why we have video games right? I mean, who doesn’t dream about rising to power and having men cower at your feet who will do just about anything to earn your respect? Who doesn’t want to surround themselves with expensive and fast sports cars along with beautiful women? Well, enter Mafia 2 by 2K Games. For the majority of us, playing a character in a video game is pretty much the only way we get to escape the real world and join a completely different one. With Mafia 2, you’ll get to be that gangster you’ve have always dreamed about. Well, sort of.
You play as Vito Scaletta in Mafia 2. You’ve come back home from war to Empire Bay expecting the visit to last about a month or so before being pulled back into the military. However, things turn out quite differently once you get a surprised visit from your neighborhood friend, Joe. You’re broke, hate working a 9-5, and the fact that your family owes a large sum of money due to your dad pretty much sets the backdrop for you needing to earn some fast money. Joe knows the “right people”, fills you in, and the rest I’m pretty sure you can fill in yourselves. Some jobs go smoothly and some don’t. It’s usually the latter that sets up the story along the way throughout Mafia 2. Although this gangster story of Vito Scaletta (that name sounds too awesome) isn’t something that will blow your mind away, it still somehow manages to draw you in and force you to see it till the credits roll. One of Mafia 2’s main strong point is the story itself but it isn’t without its flaws.
One of the main disappointment I have with Mafia 2 is with the main character himself as far story progression goes. Throughout the game, you’ll no doubt take on many missions with your buddy. This order usually comes from a person in the crime family that has a higher status that you. That’s fine. I mean, no pain no gain right? Well, the problem here is, I experience a lot of pain but don’t gain much as a result. From start to finish, I feel just like another lackey for the higher up’s. Vito do this, Vito do that. Obviously, that has to be because its a video game! But throughout the whole experience, I don’t earn any true gangster status. I don’t have command of a group of lesser gangsters to accompany me to shoot out’s. I don’t get to make any decisions. What they tell me to do, I do. This is where many will think of Mafia 2 as a very linear game. It’s just you and the main storyline. No in between. While this isn’t a problem for me as I do love a game with a good plot, I just wished for more in the character progression department. The ending of Mafia 2 will hit you harder than a 100MPH fastball. Well, at least it did for me. I totally didn’t expect for it and was majorly disappointed. This could be blamed on the addicting storyline as I didn’t want the game to end right there and then.
If you’ve ever played a third person shooter before, then Mafia 2 welcomes you. Let me say this right now: Mafia 2 is a pretty difficult game. I’m playing this on Normal difficulty and although I’m no noob to shooting games, I died a lot of times during shootouts in the game. I even had aim assistant to help me out. Why do you die a lot? It’s mainly due to you not being able to take many hits. This is a good thing because it makes you actually feel mortal. You’ll need to take cover for most shootouts and even then, enemies have very precise accuracy and there are times where you can get capped even when behind cover. Some people may dislike this but in order to move out of cover, you’ll have to again press the cover button rather than being able to slide out using the joystick. It’s not that bad and you’ll definitely get use to it after a couple of fights. You’ll get to use an assortment of standard weapons such as handguns, shotguns, sub-machine guns, grenades and molotov’s. Oh and your bare hands as well. Going in gun blazing Rambo style in a shootout will not get the job done. I don’t even want to think how it will be like on the hardest difficulty. For players looking for a challenge, I recommend turning off the auto-aim assistant in the options menu.
As mentioned earlier, Mafia 2 is a linear game. The game is broken into several chapters. There are no manual saves in the game so you’ll have to note when the saving icon appears so you can exit the game knowing you’ll start at that point when you re-visit it next time. There really isn’t much to do in this big open world video game other than to follow the main storyline. It’s really a shame because Empire Bay is really big. Being able to drive through this beautiful landscape without being able to really do anything is similar to a really big tease. Look is fine but your hands are off-limits. Throughout the game, you basically drive around the city completing various missions. Literally, you drive down to meet with your buddies in a cafe, get the mission details, drive to the destination, perform your duties, drive back to a safe house, sleep, get awoken by a phone call asking you to come down to the cafe for another mission and it starts all over again. Heck even Vito realizes this during a phone call late in the game and takes a jab at this linear nature of the game.
Since you’ll spend so much time in Mafia 2 driving around, it’s good to know there are many cars to choose from. However, many of them are very slow in the first half of the game (you’ll know what I mean if you play the game) but during the second half, it’s a little better. You’ll occasionally drive around looking for that sweet convertible sport car to jack. You can either pick a car’s lock (which is very easy as long as no cops are around you) or bash the windows. Your garage will help you hold 10 cars but I find it very unnecessary as if I want a new car, I simply just steal another one. Driving recklessly (yes, excessive speeding counts as well) while cops are around will get you in trouble. You’ll then need to drive away and lose them which isn’t very hard as long as you have a fairly fast car.
One thing I do wish Mafia 2 would have incorporated into the game are imaginary way-point routes on the road. It’s a constant irritation to have to keep taking your eyes off the road to look at the mini map at the lower right corner of the screen to make sure you are correctly driving to your destination. Also, because there really isn’t anything else to do in the city, the location marks on the maps hardly matter at all. You’ll drive past food establishments, ammo stores and telephones all without any thought.
Mafia 2 is a very good looking open-world game. You really get the feeling that this game really does take place in the 1950s. From the environment, your clothing, the music, the way people talk and even the colors all do a good job of giving off that oldies styles feel to it. Drive around town and you’ll see people going about doing their own thing. Although this does give off some sort of liveliness to the city of Empire Bay, it’s such a shame that you really can’t interact with pretty much anything you come across (unless of course you’re trying to run people over with your car).
I had a blast playing through Mafia 2. I finished the game in just a little over 12 hours. The story was very engaging for some very strange reason I can’t seem to figure out. There are however many disappointments. For one, having such a big city to explore but without having the ability to actually do anything in it, it feels really pointless. This makes the game very linear as all you’ll be doing is completing one mission after another to advance the main storyline. This isn’t a huge problem for gamers like myself but once again, why spend so much time building such an advance landscape without giving the gamers any side mission of any sort? The shooting feels a little stiff at times but it’s nothing to complain about. The story is what you would come to expect from any gangster type movie or video game. Another disappointment is the abrupt ending. Gamers looking to get the most out of their money will be disappointed to know that there is no multiplayer component in Mafia 2. This might be a deal breaker for many and so if you are one of those gamers, I’ll recommend waiting for the game to hit the bargain bins or better yet, a quick rental.