As the line between games and movies blurs, the importance of narrative increases. Graphics and memory are not quite up to the standard of photo realism, but they are easily good enough to show emotion, if the script is good enough. There will always be room in the games industry for good old fashioned classic gaming fun, but there is now a new era or story based gaming e.g. `Heavy Rain'. `Mafia 2' combines the story telling elements of `Heavy Rain', but maintains many of the gaming aspects of the likes of `Grand Theft Auto 4', can the two mix?
You play as Vito Scarletta, an Italian American criminal who goes from being a soldier into the Mafia, via jail. The game is set in an open world city that mimics early 1950s New York, but unlike many games in the genre there are not countless mini games to play. Developers 2KCzech have obviously spent a long time creating the story and ambience of the game and want people to stick to the core elements of the game. The city becomes a character and I found the moments of quiet between missions some of the best. Just driving around listening to a combination of the original recordings of music and banter between the characters. You really get a sense of the characters and period.
The immersion levels surprisingly drop when the game actually becomes more `gamey'. The shooting mechanics are adequate, but not fantastic, and the AI of the drivers chasing you has a lot to answer for. It was strange that the worst part of the game `Mafia 2' was the game element. The story, characters and atmosphere were enough to make me love the game. I could easily have played 10 hours or so just being in an interactive movie. With this in mind the game may not appeal to everyone, especially action fans. But for a gamer looking for something with a little more heart and a relaxed pace, they will love the game.