I am a huge fan of video games, even more of storytelling. I was recently presented with a chance to dive into both. I was sent a copy of Mafia II
by 2kK Czech team to review*. This game puts you into the body of one Vito Scaletta a young Italian immigrant returning from World War 2 after a minor injury. More specifically Vito finds out that his wise guy buddy Joe can get him an early release from the Army. The gritty world of Empire city looks wide and deep as you travel around the city. Go too fast and the cops pull you over, Bump into someone trying to make a getaway and the cops are on your tail.
The game has a great aesthetic. The whole world feels dirty, from the snow on the ground and the foggy city, to the run down parts of town where your character needs to end every day. A word of warning, the F bomb is dropped more than I cared to count, but it feels like it belongs. Everything else is intact from the time period as well, racial inequalities, radio stations and music. Stereotypes are not avoided in this game but rather thrown about like facts.
The artwork in this game is beautiful, from the Pinup girls on the wall the actual WWII propaganda posters. And the reading material, Mafia II partnered with Playboy to actually include vintage copies of the magazine as an in game addition. You would never guess there would be so many skin mags strew about town, but there are 50 different ones to collect. Just as a note the game keeps track of how much time you spend driving, walking, picking locks, and looking at the magazines too.
The controls of the game are based in your standard third person shooter. With plenty of chances to use the guns or resort to your fists to solve issues. The mechanics are rather simple, and sometimes the camera gets in the way of the fighting, but only rarely.
The voice acting in this game is fantastic, the characters all of which seem pulled out of the best mobster flicks sound the part without sounding cheesy or overdone. The characters seem to have depth and play their parts quite well. Another great aspect of the game is the lack of a health bar. Too often in story driven pieces I find myself watching the health bar instead of the action, seeing how much extra action I can eek out of one life. Here you replenish yourself with food and beer, and fight until you can’t stand anymore.
The story itself seems pretty good as well, if a little short. It follows one linear mission path with a chance to stop along the way to explore the city. But you are never distracted by side quests or random BS.
The music is fantastic, you are given three stations to play in your car and switch at your leisure, complete with old school war bulletin updates and period correct announcements of allied progress in the different theaters of war. The fine folks at 2K Czech also threw together a fun little Pandora Mix tape so you can get into the mood before you even have the game.
The pacing in this game is a bit too all over the map for me. You start the game being thrown directly into action fighting in World War II, only to be subjected to long cut scenes and slow simple tasks for the next half hour. Randomly throughout the game you have days filled with quests but the end of the chapter seems a bit forced having to go back to your pad and park the car, and crash on the couch.
Other than the overall pacing there are times when you wish the world was a bit more alive. The mission you are on is there, and if you play straight through it goes smoothly. The game feels like a Sandbox game akin to GTA, but never really gives you the ability to divert too far from the story. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not really bad in this aspect but it feels like there should be more depth to the beautiful world your character finds them in.
There is really only one major issue I had with the game as a whole. Sometimes the very lifelike models of people just seem a bit flat, particularly in extended dialog scenes. There are enough details in the models of the characters to actually see pores, bad skin, possibly a bit of stubble. But the subtle twitches in the faces aren’t there. The characters seem a bit wooden. This is a problem with a lot of the games with this level of detail, so I don’t hold anything against the developer.
If you are fan of the good old gangland movies like The Godfather, Goodfellas, and their brethren then you will love this game. It is gritty and dark. This game doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to language, violence or high speed automotive hijinks. It is well worth the ride in whatever vintage vehicle you choose to steal, wreck and otherwise enjoy. If that sounds like something you might enjoy, between whacking a couple deadbeats now and then, moving a body with a group of friends or boosting a swank little ride then you need to try this game.
I loved the aesthetic that the game put forth and really bought into the story, I was just left wanting more to do in Empire City at the end of the day. That aside, a little Walt Disney works here. “Always leave them wanting more”
The game is available on any of the popular gaming platforms Xbox 360, PS3 and PC
Bonus: There is an app for your facebook page that lets you build a hit list of friend who update too frequently. I havenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t tried this yet, mainly because I fear I would end up targeting myself! This is not the same as Mafia Wars or any other nonsense, so if you try it out please let me know!
The Trailer, like the Game is NSFW. But So Fun… Boom Boom Boom Boom
Disclosure: I was sent this game by 2K Czech at no cost for the purpose of review