Saturday, 11 September 2010

Mafia 2

After 8 years since the first installment, the eagerly anticipated Mafia 2 hits the shelves. But is it an offer you can't refuse or does it sleep with the fishes?

There's nothing quite like a good old fashioned gangster flick, the moody men, the gratuitous violence, the guns, the women, the money and the dark underbelly of society we're all obsessed with. Well Mafia 2 has this all in spades. The game revolves around your character Vito as he lives the life of crime in a New York style city trying to evade the cops, climb the ladder and make some money on the way.

Let's start with the good stuff. Firstly the graphics are absolutely incredible, I heard the PS3 version had some problems but I was playing this on the 360 and it looked luscious. The city is a real living and breathing city and like Mafia did before it, raises the bar in terms of visuals; every little detail has been considered and it's remarkable what they've done here. The gameplay works well with a standard duck, cover, shoot style that is quite popular these days, a fisty cuffs button mashing and you've got your handy map, your speed limiter button (for the car) and a range of weapons at your disposal. The voice acting, direction and feel is completely authentic, you are always in the world of your favourite mafia films like Goodfellas and The Godfather and all the cliches, good and bad, are neatly ticked off. The music of the era is great to listen to and the plot is exciting, dramatic and full of enough twists and turns to keep you interested. So whassadaproblem?

The problem is the game is full of niggles. For instance, there is a LOT of driving; unlike GTA IV you can't hop in a cab and jump to the next point but instead your left to drive for what can be quite a while and if you bump into a police car and get arrested? Back to the beginning of the drive. But then this was the main problem of the game, not just the annoyingly underused 'checkpoints', but the fact it felt like a tame sandbox game. It had all the elements to be a GTA for the Thirties but it stops short on a lot of aspects. You can't really go anywhere special, you can hold up stores but it's more of a sidenote and you just feel that for something so seemingly open, there's a lack of freedom. The fact that once you complete the game and that's it - no free roam ending - shows that this game might have spent too much on the big picture without taking note of the steps other similar games have taken in the last 8 years.

Sure you can customise your car, get some new clothes, kill some random people, hold up a gun shop, but really that's about it. The game wants you to follow it's linear story which is fair enough but surely you can bust the game wide open at the end for people to do what they want? I also had a problem with the AI, it was OK but at some points was completely infuriating, as soon as you go to shoot them, they will duck which makes gunfights sometimes a lot longer than they need to be. I also ran into a massive glitch when my AI friend Joe didn't accompany me to a final gun fight, which meant the game wouldn't continue and I couldn't restart the mission properly. Somehow, after an hour and a half of just running about trying to trigger something, it went onwards for no reason, but this almost became enough for me to throw the thing out the window. Come on now, games shouldn't be getting these types of glitches anymore. There's also the fact that if you crash your car, even a slight bit, you can die quite easily; this might seem realistic but really it becomes annoying once your nearing the end of a massive drive and a little mistake means you go back to the beginning again. I could tear my hair out at some points.

The game also felt a little short, it didn't quite have the epic impact on me I thought it would in the short space of time I played it in (app. 9-10 hours), but the overall story was what made it majestic. The plot of Vito and the different scenarios and missions they place him in are incredible, you even find out you're the one that kills protagonist Tommy at the end of Mafia and Vito's strange moral compass makes his character more interesting than the cardboard cut-outs of the others. However, the whole thing was let down by a lacklustre ending that will either lead on to Mafia 3 or to the DLC that has been announced. Either way, it didn't help the original experience.

Overall the whole game feels like you're in an interactive mafia film and that's no bad thing. It has some of the best visuals yet, missions and cutscenes GTA can only dream of and a clear love of the genre and the subject matter has gone into this game. However, it just falls short on so many levels that it's just not the complete gaming extravaganza it could have been. I would go as far as to say I enjoyed The Godfather game (where you fight the different families and look after your businesses etc.) more than this - which is a shame because the story is so good. It's slick and swish but without the balls to make it a stand-out release.

As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster ... and this helped.

Rating: 7/10

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