Cruising down the snowy or sun heated road made me wish I were born in the 50’s, because the cars really had personality back then. Instead I have to imagine how it was, and it’s pretty easy when you’re playing a game as good as Mafia II. Though, the missing technology and bullets flying past your ears by millimeters curbs that anticipation.
I like how the story develops, but I must admit I felt like I was thrown into the middle of the game (not that it’s a bad thing) – this goes for the first mission only. You are then introduced to your good friend, Joe which I ended up liking quite much. Your (Vito, red.) mum is a loving and caring, very Italian woman, with a big heart and good manners – the fact that the voice behind the character has accent, is just adding to the games authentic feeling.
In the first mission, you are in the middle of World War II, dodging bullets and fighting for the people’s rights against Mussolini. Getting hit by a bullet, Vito – your playable character – is sent back to America, after a long visit to the hospital. From there, in spite of the fact that Vito wants to fulfill his mothers wishes for Vito to have a legal, decent job, Vito is swirled into the mob life once again – if not for the money, then for the survival in the underground 40’s and 50’s America.
What I like the most in this game, is the story and change of environment, making it very authentic – the story extends over a decade, so in particular the cars and the music changes. The game is all about the story – the cut scenes are long, but they are really well done, and the voice acting is flawless and fun. The story turns unexpectedly a few times, and once or twice it changes the gameplay for an amount of time. I love the gameplay and how the developers did choose to make it mission-to-mission, so when you finish a mission, you are starting on the next. This has it’s good and bad sides. I like when games have a certain feel of pace – but it’s still allowed for you to fool around, shooting people and drive like a maniac – you know, the stuff you aren’t allowed to do in real life. If you just want to fool around, the goal and the route on the map in red might get to you in due time.
Mostly, you are driving from point to point, get involved in fist- or gunfights and only on a few, rare occasions you will get to do something else. There could be more minigames and variable missions, where you have to do something else than shooting and driving – but the story is so good and intense, that I didn’t care for the minor repetitive feeling I got once or twice while playing the game (other than the trial and error problems I had in a few occasions).
There’s a lot of covering and shooting going on, and it works really well. Even if you are in cover, a bullet might graze your arm or leg, and you lose a bit of health – and your opponents might even be able to destroy the very thing you are covering behind – if you are hiding behind certain materials, like a wooden table, bullets will still go through, shatter the wood and hit you.
Driving physics might feel a bit sluggish at start, if you are accustomed to arcade racing games, but the cars are heavy, and doesn’t have a lot of horse power, so the cars are supposed to have this feel, they aren’t the super modern sport and racing cars, that we know from the high speed racing games. It is possible to upgrade your cars and customize them a bit, like paint them, change the registration plate and so on. It’s pretty easy to die in the car when crashing and the car can run out of gas.
Not only your character is able to get a wanted level – the cars are able to as well. Driving a wanted car will get you a wanted level when spotted by the police, and you can paint the car or change the plates to remove the wanted level on the car.
I had so much fun playing Mafia II. I got through the story relatively fast, but I was playing intense – it took me three days intense playing, barely 20 hours (and that was including some of the oddball achievements, like drive 125 mph), on hard – which meant 3 or 4 of the missions was trial and error for a few hours, dying heaps of times. I still need to go after the last few achievements, but they don’t seem to be too hard. I would say that’s a wee bit short for a big title as this is, but I am actually relieved – most newer big title games can be quite hurtful to work through, if you are going for all the achievements.
If you are expecting another GTA IV experience, you have to look somewhere else, as this game is different – not too different, but still different. Driving, shooting and movie sequences is basically the same, but the atmosphere and environment is so much different. If you love to shoot, drive and enjoy a great story/movie, you really shouldn’t miss out on this particular title.