Mafia 2 Review

Written by Joe Martin

August 24, 2010 | 07:58

Tags: #gangster #mafia-2 #nvidia-apex #open-world #physx #sandbox #third-person-shooter

Companies: #2k-games

Mafia 2 Conclusions

Unfortunately though, while the story doesn’t suffer for its lack of depth, the same can’t be said of the gameplay. Post-GTA IV it’s almost impossible to shake the feeling that Mafia 2’s world is a bit on the empty, shallow side – and the gameplay doesn’t take massive steps to disprove that.

The side-missions especially feel undernourished. There are clothes stores, bars, side-missions and the like to distract yourself with, but it’s all a bit lacking and tired. After stealing and selling a few cars you eventually always fall back to the storyline, where you’d assume most of Mafia 2’s meat to be, mainly because there’s nothing worthwhile to spend in-game money on. Guns and suits are a dime a dozen.

Unfortunately, the story missions mostly turn out to be gristle, getting chewed over again and again. Mafia 2’s combat is really fantastic when it works, with weapons that feel suitably lethal and a cover system that combines with the difficulty to lend the action a real tactical feel, but there’s nowhere near enough of it. Instead, the opening four or five hours focus almost exclusively on ferrying other characters around and truly terrible fist fighting.

Mafia 2 Review Mafia 2 PC Review
To win Mafia 2 you must beat me, Johnny 'Daikatana' Romero

Well, actually, that’s not entirely fair. The fist fighting system is actually quite good when you’re first introduced to it, working similarly to boxing in The Witcher or the inevitably comparable GTA IV. Light and hard punches are set to the mouse buttons, dodging to the Space bar and combos and counters formed by stringing the three together. It’s simple, it’s shallow, but it works well enough for the few missions that call on it and for when you want to just deck random bystanders.

The only real problem with fisticuffs in Mafia 2 is that it isn’t just relegated to optional content. It calls on your pugilism skills a lot more than that, with entire sections of the game devoted to it exclusively in spite of the fact that it quickly becomes dull and repetitive. Worst of all, the bulk of pugilism occurs in what could have otherwise been the most interesting part of Mafia 2; prison.

Increasingly, this becomes the problem at Mafia 2’s core; that while the style is there in abundance, it’s also edged out some of the gameplay. Empire Bay sums this up neatly, with 2K choosing to create a smaller city that the story allows you to experience during different time periods – one of the best things about the game, in many ways. On the other hand, while it’s lovely to note tiny changes to the city over the course of years, the flip side is that the city is smaller and less detailed as a result. Empire Bay provides a wonderfully pretty veneer, but peel it back and it’s plain old chipboard all the way through.

Mafia 2 Review Mafia 2 PC Review
Like we said; Mafia 2 looks good

There’s a lot to like in Mafia 2; the (gun) combat is excellent, the music slick, the graphics lush. Even the script, which we’ve already labelled as rambling on like a excited Ross Noble, is still worth sitting through if you’re patient enough. Mafia 2 is occasionally more of a film than a game, but at least it’s a pretty good film.

Mafia 2 Review Mafia 2 PC Review  The Wanted system too is worthy of praise, allowing the cops to chase you based on what they know; if you run over someone then your car will be wanted, forcing you to either ditch it for a new model or get it repainted. If they see you commit a crime then they’ll take your description, forcing you to change clothes. It’s inventive and occasionally a pain in the ass, but makes for some suitably desperate pursuits. Thankfully, you don’t always need to flee; minor offences only get punished with fines and you can often bribe your way to freedom if you want.

In the end though, slickness only counts for so much and, thanks to a reliance on samey missions and tired minigames, plus an overall lack of unique content, Mafia 2 ultimately ends up treading water, unable to either sink or swim. It’s wearing concrete shoes, but the water is only waist deep.

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