Mafia 2 Impressions

The two missions we got a chance to see were both set near the beginning of the game, which is set in the 1940s and casts players as WWII veteran Vito Scarletta, who comes home on leave after being injured on the front lines. Upon arriving home he starts to fall in with the wrong crowd, discovering his family is drowning in debt and that his old friends have become small-time racketeers – thus begins Vito’s journey.

The story itself promises to be a long tale, set over many years and throughout the New York- and Chicago-inspired Empire City, which covers 10km2. By the time Vito’s tale reaches it’s conclusion it’ll be the mid 1950s and players will have seen the after effects of both the war and their own actions – but that’s all end-game stuff that we didn’t get a chance to see.

In fact, most of what we got a chance to see was based in one small area of Empire City – the train yard. It was here that, in the section we played, Vito and his friend Joe followed some greaser thugs who had burned the stolen cigarettes they had been selling off the back of their lorry. After having failed to chase down the greasers themselves, Vito finds a phone box and calls for help from the underboss who gave him the job in the first place. Soon enough, back-up arrives in the shape of four wiseguys and six tommy-guns.

*Mafia 2 Hands-on Preview Mafia 2 Impressions

After a quick visit to the bar that the greasers are known to loiter in, it’s down to the train yard for a brutal fire-fight that sees Vito and Co. having to push through the train yard section by section. It was this level which took the longest to complete, with many deaths and reloads along the way. Mafia 2 is never unfair though, and it was clear that the combat was well balanced even at this stage, but the pace of battles tends not to be what you expect from previous sandbox titles. It’s not simply a case of quick blind-firing before you hop back into the car; it’s a slow, almost strategic process. Vito can only take a bullet or two before he dies and while his health does regenerate, it only does so to half capacity.

When we’d finally managed to get through the fire-fight, we were still left with the problem of recouping the lost money, so it was a case of taking stolen cars down to the docks to sell off. After that, we were free to explore all that Mafia 2 had to offer.

In some ways, this exploration was the most disappointing part of Mafia 2 – not because the world was short on charm (it has it in abundance), but because the elements which were being pointed out to us didn’t represent anything truly new or interesting.

*Mafia 2 Hands-on Preview Mafia 2 Impressions
Vito and Joe love to debate Aristotelian philosophy and the role of randomness in the universe

The option to go into a bar and get drunk on whisky, the chance to stop off and buy clothes (or rob the store) to change your appearance, or the fist-fighting mini-game that saw us getting whooped by an octogenarian? These things are fun, but they aren’t new ideas and can trace their lineage back to GTA IV, if not before. Given that many also appear in Red Dead Redemption, it’s hard to say the appeal of these features is as strong as it was. They were only novelties to start with, after all.

Or maybe I’m just grumpy and disillusioned as, I have to admit, that even during my preview time with the game I spent a bit of time investigating these bits. I drank more than 20 whiskies in a downtown bar, which probably puts Vito ahead of Commander Shepherd when it comes to a drinking competition, I had many brawls and I spent ten minutes just deciding which colour overcoat looked better. I may dismiss these actions as nothing more than distracting nonsense, but I can’t deny that I played them and that, for a little bit, I enjoyed them.

So, if there are people like me doing these things, then surely they must be a good feature for the game, right? Maybe, but they are also shallow and pretty pointless when you look at them objectively. While they definitely bring something to the game, I’m still not sure if it’s something that’s actually meaningful or worth getting excited over.
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October 14 2021 | 15:04