by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
Back to Empire Bay
Mafia II is my favourite of the three games in the Mafia series. The characters, the settings, the story, and the gameplay are superior to the others. It has been almost ten years since it was released, so it is beginning to show its age though. Mafia II Definitive Edition aims to change that, by giving the original a lick of paint and bring it up to speed for a new generation of gamers (and consoles).
For those of you who have not played the original game, Mafia II follows the ups and downs of Vito Scaletta in the 1940s and 1950s. When he was young, his family moved from Italy to settle in the city of Empire Bay. His family struggled before Vito gets in with the wrong crowd and is caught stealing. As someone who could speak Italian, he was given the option of heading to jail or to war against Mussolini’s Italy. After heading off to support the US in the war, Vito gets injured and is sent back home to recover. It is only then that he finds out that before his father died, he had borrowed a large sum of money that his sister and mother were trying to pay back. To score some quick cash, he meets up with his best friend, Joe who sets him up with some more unscrupulous work.
“The working man’s a sucker”
The world of Empire Bay is open for Vito to explore, although you are guided along a somewhat linear path that somewhat discourages you from doing so. There is a sameness to many of the missions, as they involve going from point A to point B, completing set task, and then driving back to point A. By the time you hit the final missions, you could ditch the GPS-like navigation and find your way to each destination on memory alone. Getting around town is a joy though. Each of the vehicles that allow you to get about the city are lovingly detailed. The 1940’s and 1950’s gas guzzlers each handle differently, and have their own unique feel and sound when driving, whether it is the Jefferson Provincial that you start with in the Forties or the Smith 34 Hot Rod of the Fifties.
Missions will normally involve Vito use one of his three main skills – lock-picking, fist fighting or the skill he gained in the war - shooting. His lock-picking skills will help to break into cars – which he can use to drive around in, or sell for quick cash - and safes, which have valuables inside. Fistfights can get Vito out of strife when he is without a weapon, a particularly handy skill for a stint in the slammer. Hand to hand combat requires Vito to find an opening in an opponent’s defense, with a quick series of punches after a foe throws a haymaker.
Shootouts come with the territory of being part of the Mafia. The shootouts controls are simple, with a basic cover system that allows Vito to hide from gunfire. Enemies too will often hide behind boxes, vehicles, and other large items and take pot-shots at Vito and his allies. Shooting is as basic as it gets. Aim at an enemy and shoot. A zoomed-in crosshair allows a more precise shot, with single headshots often being enough to take down foes.
Of course, it is not just other mobsters that Vito and his compatriots need to deal with. Their illegal dealings will mean that they are often confronted by the local police. Often the best way to deal with the constabulary is to simply outrun them and hide until everything blows over. Continuing to confront the cops will cause you to become a wanted man and will raise awareness, making it harder for you to escape or go about your business.
Mafia II contains some wonderful era-appropriate music. It will not be to everyone’s taste, but it certainly helps to immerse you into the setting of the Forties and Fifties. The soundtrack of wartime tunes from the Andrews Sisters and classics like The Chordette’s "Mr Sandman" interspersed with war-time radio commentary is certainly a feature. Combined with the architecture, the clothing styles, and the range of vehicles that you can ‘borrow’, and Mafia II gets gamers fully engaged in the time period.
Booze, broads, and bullets
The characters and their fully voiced dialogue also fit the age, with each discernible from the next. Some such as Joe like to think of themselves as ladies’ men, picking up women whenever they head out. And some of the locales and their actions would not be considered appropriate in today’s society. Those were different times. Indeed, one set of collectibles in the game are Playboy magazines that feature Playboy bunnies of the era in all their glory.
If you have played through the original, this edition adds nothing new apart from the new glossy coating. But if you have not, then the Definitive Edition would be a worthy addition to your collection. There is an R18+ age rating (due to the Playboy Magazine collectibles I believe, and not the violence), which means that it will be inappropriate for many. But Vito’s story as well as the gameplay is as enjoyable and captivating as the original. Driving across town can occasionally be a tad monotonous, but the simple shootouts and fistfight controls make sure that the main story flows smoothly for the entire game. And the music and visuals capture the setting beautifully allowing gamers to be fully immersed into The Family.
Wonderful story, fully immersive soundtrack and locations
Apart from slightly better visuals, it is the same game