Eight years ago, the original Mafia game came out and left a great impression on many people. It was critically praised for its storytelling but it didn’t reach the high level of popularity that Grand Theft Auto III received. Since then, the open-world/sandbox genre has evolved into something massive. For one, we expect a long game, a group of likable and memorable characters, a large city, and a variety of activities to do within that area. Mafia II achieves much of what the original did, but it didn’t leave enough sand in my box.
Mafia II introduces us to Vito Scaletta, an Italian-American immigrant with hopes of living the American dream in the city of Empire Bay. The story follow Vito in a time-frame of ten years, from his World War II military days in 1943 to 1951. Vito’s life is filled with enough drama and intense moments to make the story worth caring for.
The writing in this game’s story is outstanding. So good I not only cared for the main character but also his best bud, Joe Barbaro. He serves mostly as a comic relief character but the story is just that good that even I cared for this joke cracking wise guy. The voice acting in this game takes the story up another notch. It’s amazingly good how well this voice acting is in this game, because of it, it makes the characters seem believe and makes them feel as if they belong to the mafioso lifestyle.
Empire Bay is your humble abode, and what a great city 2K Czech has created. The amount to detail around the city is impeccable. Posters and billboards help capture the 1940’s vibe in Empire Bay. Everything about the look of the city stays true to the 1940’s era and I respect that immensely. It’s the main reason the TV show ‘Mad Men’ is my favorite show, I guess I’m an old soul but I digress. The only video game city that can compete with Empire Bay is Liberty City. The only downfall to the city is that there’s nothing much to do, ever. Sure you can buy clothes, food, and go to car shops but there’s nothing on the lines of activities. There has to be more to do for a mobster in the 1940’s besides killing people and looking at old Playboy centerfolds.
Like most open-world games, the gameplay is made up of driving from point A to point B and shooting everyone in between. For starters, I thought the driving mechanics were great and easy to get the hold of quickly. The gunplay was solid but at this point I feel like I’ve really seen it all before. You get behind cover and wait for the popping heads and shoot. Mafia II lacks a bit of variety in its mission structure, although some of the missions have their moments.
Writing this review has only reminded me of how much I liked Mafia II. The ten hours I spent playing through Mafia II were well spent and I might spend a few more looking for those hidden Playboy centerfolds. Though Mafia II lacks side missions and activities, the narrative and characters are worth a visit. Now I can only hope that it doesn’t take another eight years to see Mafia 3.