Top positive review
100 people found this helpful
A very enjoyable 7-8/10 game, but with some glaring flaws.
on August 29, 2010
Opinions on this game have certainly proven to be as divisive as the initial reaction to the original Mafia in 2002, right down to the 4/10 Eurogamer review. It's understandable because while Mafia 2 does far more right than it does wrong, the wrongs are difficult to ignore.
Mafia 2 is a linear story-driven game set in the 1940s-1950s with an open world city as a backdrop for immersion purposes. This game is not a GTA4 clone and has never advertised itself to be one, any expectations for it to be so are entirely the fault of uninformed gamers. The city is about 10 square miles in size and highly detailed, it's a beautiful recreation of the time period and the devs use it effectively during certain story segments to give the impression of a city evolving with time. There are gas stations, clothing stores, diners, gun shops, body shops and a scrap yard/docking area to interact with throughout the game, along with different living residences depending on where you are during the storyline and locations that only open for missions. You will not find GTA-like mini games like throwing darts or anything like that, but that doesn't mean the open city is devoid of things to do. You can steal cars in multiple ways (breaking the window, picking the lock, or even shooting the lock) then take them to a body shop to change the plates and paint color to legalize it, then customize it further through engine upgrades for better handling and changing the tires for looks. You can pick fights with the various gangs that have established holds on various parts of the city, rob stores, or anger the police to see how long you can hold out. Just like the original Mafia, the city is all about creating immersion and giving opportunity for the player to create their own experiences rather than fill it with mini-games.
Mafia 2's story runs anywhere from 8-15 hours of game time, depending on difficulty level and how quickly you move through it. You play as Vito and are often accompanied by his childhood friend Joe, and spend most of the game in some state of proving yourself to one of the Mafia families in Empire Bay. My initial impression of the story wasn't a good one, but after playing it again it finally hit me what the story was about and my opinion changed drastically. Unlike Mafia 1, this is not a rags to riches story and this is not about the fall of an honorable man. Vito is not Tommy and he's not meant to be. Vito is a guy that is entirely driven by not becoming a loser dockworker like his father: he wants money, cars, women, the nice house, and the nice clothes. To him everything hinges on possessions and thus everything and everyone becomes possessions to him. It's the story of a destructive, selfish man who goes out and takes what he wants and how that devastates everyone around him. I really, really enjoyed the story, including the ending I originally found abrupt, once I realized that.
There has been some criticism leveled at Mafia 2 for racism and sexism, but most of it is not being looked at properly. Yes, the main characters are racist and sexist and there isn't anybody there to tell them off for it...because this takes place in the '40s and early '50s, from largely uneducated, ignorant, poor characters involved with the Mafia. Their attitudes were normal for the time period, social circles, and social stature. And as already said, Vito views women the same way he views cars and money; they are things to be obtained, not people to establish relationships with.
Yes, there are vintage Playboy covers/centerfolds as optional collectibles in-game and feature the nudity you'd expect from them. These have earned quite a bit of ire and are used as support for the game being sexist, but I -- as a female gamer -- don't agree with it. For one, they are completely optional and very easy to miss even if you're looking for them. They don't float above the ground and spin and glow and have a "CLICK ME!" sign above them like collectibles in other games. Instead, they're stashed on desks or half-under beds and other places you'd expect someone to leave them. They blend in perfectly with the environment and look only slightly different from other decorations...they're practically pixel hunts. They don't offer any kind of tangible reward outside of an achievement and completion percentage that would force you to collect them if you didn't want to. They also tie in perfectly with Vito's attitude...he's *exactly* the type of guy that'd grab some poor late night security guard's dirty magazine while robbing the place, and reflects his view of everything being possessions. It's just like the other collectible, the Wanted Posters. Vito would be just as inclined to yank down Wanted Posters as he would steal Playboy mags, there's nothing random or out of place about them. If they were required to unlock guns or cars or something from a gameplay point of view, I'd understand the furor over them, but as is I have no problem with their implementation.
For better or worse the difficulty is nowhere near the original's occasionally punishing level, and veterans of the first will want to skip right to the Hard level to avoid falling asleep. I honestly can't imagine who they tuned the Easy/Normal difficulties for, as I am nowhere near an amazing third person shooter player but even I blazed through Normal as if nothing was even shooting back before turning it up. On Hard if you don't make use of the cover system you'll end up very dead very fast, usually within three shots from a typical pistol. The cover system is standard fare nowadays, if you've played Mass Effect 2 or Gears of War you'll be right at home. The shooting missions all take place in unique areas of the city that you normally don't have access to and the set pieces are great, but just like Mafia 1 you will spend a significant amount of time driving to and from locations, doing escort missions, drop off missions, and so on.
The amount of time spent in the car is both a blessing and a curse, as the city and music is all a fantastic experience, but it also means you get a lot of opportunities to see the quirky AI at work and some people are going to be annoyed at having to obey the speed limit or risk the police. Yes, while they've removed the requirement to stop at red lights, police will still come after you if they catch you speeding. They've added a kind of cruise control to keep your speed under control this time around if needed though. Some of the AI for the other motorists can be very strange. I had one civilian car randomly decide to slam into me on a bridge and send me plummeting to my demise, while another didn't acknowledge my existence and slammed into me and caused the police to chase me for a hit and run. On the other hand, there have been some pretty fantastic moments just watching the AI interact. One occurred while I was stopped at a red light (habit), and one car rear ended another. The victim jumped out of his car to drag the offending driver out to start pummeling him...not noticing the police car that witnessed the entire thing, who also jumped out to break up the fight and issue fines/arrests. Yes, the AI has flaws, but it's worth putting up with it's quirks to have completely unscripted moments like this occur.
So that's been a lot of praise, what went wrong?
It's mostly down to what seems to be cut or just plain held back content. The story is pretty short and there is no option for an after-the-story free roam, so you have to load up previous chapters and ignore current mission objectives to do so, which causes problems with the saving mechanics (more on that soon). Not having a free roam available is pretty hard to forgive, as this was in the original and worked great.
There is also a complete lack of side quests in Empire Bay...but the introductions and NPCs for them are suspiciously still present, and even tell you to come back later for more jobs that don't actually exist. These side missions were either outright cut due to time or held back to release as DLC packs. There are at least four NPCs that are prime candidates for future DLC that the game desperately needed to begin with, and it doesn't stop there. There are shockingly few available cars to steal and clothes to buy in game, so that makes it hard to see all of the pre-order exclusives held back. It's even to the point that one of the car models (the Hot-Rod in the Greaser pack) appears once in-game, and there is no possible way for you to store that car in your garage...even if you go to pains to get both the mission related car and it's variant out into the open world by using one car to push the other out of the mission zone. It's perfectly drivable, upgradeable, and everything else, but if you don't have the pre-order pack, too bad. Which is a real shame and feels like a really cheap move by 2K.
They also cut public transportation and melee weapons, along with all sorts of little touches (sitting down on benches or chairs, newspapers, all kinds of interactive stuff). The melee weapons are especially missed, as the fist-fights often feel very anemic and simple without them.
The save/check point system is also problematic. It's pretty much the mirror image of Mafia 1, but this is something that was a negative back then, too. They didn't need to implement quick saves, but a more thorough auto-save feature would have been a huge bonus. As it is, one of the AI drivers randomly sending you off a bridge can result in a lot of lost progress. In addition to the auto saves being sparse, which can make trying to do a free roam game difficult all by itself, reloading a previous chapter wipes your current progress. There are no save slots, so you either continue from your last auto-save, load up a previously played chapter (thus replacing the auto save), or start a new game (also replacing the auto save). This, quite frankly, sucks. It wouldn't be so bad if there was a free-roam mode unlocked after finishing the story, but add that to the skimpy amount of auto save points and no free roam mode and it's a major oversight.
I also really dislike the health regen mechanic. I realize that this was mostly a change made to try and appeal to the Halo-generation, but in a lot of ways it makes the diners almost useless. Between the regen, the free food at your home, and the auto-healing between chapters, it's very rare that you need to use the diners or food stands unless you're doing some free roam mischief. And (yes, I am harping about it) since there is no free roam mode, this is pretty glaring.
As a side note, Mafia 2 does use Steamworks as it's DRM, so there is no getting around attaching it to the Steam client even if you buy retail and negates whatever used market that still exists for PC games. Steamworks enables some very comprehensive stat tracking (including an amusing stat for time spent looking at Playboys), a smooth DLC store experience (even though you'll likely end up angry at what ends up there), and achievements for the OCD to collect. I do realize that it'll be a dealbreaker for some even if it doesn't bother me at all, but that is something everybody needs to decide for themselves. If you're unsure or have never used Steam before, you can try the demo and see how it works...just make sure to delete your progress on the demo before starting a new game on the full version, as there's a progress-related bug with the save data.
Despite some (pretty major) complaints, I still enjoyed the heck out of this game and recommend it if you enjoyed the first or are just a fan of single player story-based games. I'd actually put the star rating at a 3.5 if possible, but rounded up due to genuinely enjoying the story and game despite the flaws.