- Buy the Game
Reviewed by Rich DeWester
he 1940s: The era that brought us "For Whom the Bell Tolls" and "It's a Wonderful Life." The era of Cary Grant, Fred Astaire and Clark Gable. This is the backdrop for 2K Czech's "Mafia II," the sequel to their 2002 title. The protagonist (well, as far as the story is concerned) is Vito Scaletta, a son of a Sicillian immigrants.
After an introduction to Vito, you take control of him during an operation in World War II which returns him to his family's homeland. While this Sicily stage is short, it's still decently well-designed, and begins to show you how much effort was put into the details. After the war, you return home to your family and your old friend Joe; you also return home to your deceased father's debt. The story – and everything else – snowballs from there.
Most of the story is spent on the streets of Empire City (one of the many New York City references within the game) going through the game’s story missions. This is because there isn't very much to do outside of the story – well, besides the typical stealing cars, buying guns and clothes. It's a good thing that "Mafia II's" story is really good. The missions have a good amount of variety to them, from bum rushing a local greaser gang hangout to using stealth to infiltrate a rival family meeting.
Graphically, "Mafia II" is far from top notch, but far from awful as well. What they do well is ambiance – the game has a great presence, and as you walk the streets of Empire City it's hard not to feel immersed in its vision. One of the standouts for me was the vehicles. I only wish there was more variety; of course, you can always head to the mechanic and get yours tweaked a bit to your liking. Sadly, the PlayStation 3 version of "Mafia II" is a bit inferior to the Xbox 360 version, due to some frame rate issues and just overall weaker graphics, but chin up – Sony 2K is kicking in a free exclusive DLC to help bribe you to look the other way.
2K does step outside of its authentic feel and gives you some arcade-like boosts such as a garage that stores up to 10 cars (a similar idea to "Saints Row 2"). They also give you unlimited endurance for sprinting, which really helps get from place to place when just starting out the game and rids the tedious feeling of taking 20 minutes to get your virtual guy somewhere while you sit on your couch. But there is a bit of contradiction to this, as you must obey almost all traffic laws or the cops will chase you down (and Empire City seems to have the largest patrolling police force I've ever seen). At times, it felt as if every other intersection was a red light, with a cop right there waiting to see if you're feeling lucky.
After following the story to its conclusion, there isn't anything really to do; there are three difficulty settings and a ton of collectibles to round up, but without any online or co-op the game gives you very little reason to revisit. Though there is DLC eventually planned, it's still more money to shell out. "Mafia II" would have been a great title to tide you over till "L.A. Noire" if they hadn't pushed the game back, but either way, 2K is certainly out to prove the Geto Boys right, 'cause damn, it does feel good to be a gangsta.