by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
Setting high standards
With Mafia II, the team at 2K Czech has a lot to live up to. The standards set by Mafia movies such as The Godfather, Scarface and Donnie Brasco as well as TV shows such as The Sopranos mean that the bar needs to be set high to keep up with the Mafia pop culture experience. Even the original Mafia (by Illusion Softworks Ė which formed 2K Czech) video game was well received by critics and gamers.
In Mafia II, gamers take the role of the Vito Scaletta, a handsome man of Italian heritage, whose family has struggled since arriving in America (or the fictitious Empire Bay to be more precise). In his youth, Vito is caught stealing by police and rather than spend time in jail, decides to head off to Italy as part of Americaís World War II effort. He returns to find his family in desperate financial need. Before dying, Vitoís father had borrowed money from a loan shark and the family is struggling to repay the loan. Vito then sets out to earn the necessary money however he can. With the help of his childhood friend Joe Barbaro, Vito enters the world of the Mafia. He will certainly have his ups and downs as he progresses through the ranks.
Welcome to Empire Bay
There is a lot to do in Empire Bay and the city is fairly large. Indeed, unless you feel like training for the Boston marathon, you will be doing plenty of driving. Whether you are going home, visiting Joe, or heading to your next mission, there will be plenty of driving opportunities. In this regard, Mafia II plays out much like the classic driving game Driver. The only difference is that instead of driving 1970ís muscle cars, you are stuck driving the tank-like vehicles of the 40ís and 50ís. Well, they arenít bad, but some of the early models go from 0-100mph in 10 minutes with turning circles like the Queen Mary. You do get used to it though, and the fact that the police have limited speeds as well, means that you can still make the get-away when required if you drive well.
After the action car chases, many of the chapters lead to some FPS style missions. These play out rather well. The simple cover system allows the gamer the option to hide before shooting at enemy gunmen as well as creeping along walls in an attempt to conceal yourself from enemy gunfire. Going in all guns blazing certainly wonít pay off, especially in the later missions, as you can only take a small number of hits before you will begin sleeping with the fishes. The health system works well too. Taking a hit or two will lower your health and you will then have to regenerate your health over a period of time. Again, the cover system often gives you the chance to hide away while you recover. Guns and ammunition can be bought from gun shops or found littered by the bodies of fallen adversaries.
Of course, there are times when you have no ammo or indeed no weapon at all. In these cases, fist fighting is the order of the day. Hand to hand combat is a simple affair Ė keep blocking whilst you wait for the budding pugilist to take a swing at you, then hit him with a combination of jabs. If you happen to have the combatant in real pain, you can then perform a finishing move on the poor guy. For much of the time in prison, Vito hones his boxing craft as there are a number of inmates that are too friendly with him. On the other hand, there are also a couple of guys that would like to get to know Vito a bit better, but Vito isnít into back-door shenanigans and so further sharpens his skills with his bare knuckles.
Audio really sets the 1940ís and 1950ís scenes beautifully. Interesting main story and cut-scenes.
Not much need to divert from the main story path. Occasional graphical glitches.