Customer Review

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mafia II - GTA4 meets Goodfellas?, 11 Jan 2011
= Fun:3.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Mafia II (PS3) (Video Game)
Plenty has been said about this game already but I wanted to take a closer look at some of the key PROS and CONS, also in light of the fact that many have referenced Grand Theft Auto 4 as an example of what a sandbox game should look like. Having completed Mafia II it seemed like the game tried its best to improve on the GTA4 gaming experience, with some (in-my-mind) useful features. Below I want to summarize those and some general observations, hence beware that spoilers will follow:

PROS

- Music: As GTA4 taught the industry a lesson on the worth of original licensed music, Mafia II walks the same line with a great soundtrack. Dean Martin, Fats Domino, Bing Crosby, John Lee Hooker, Little Richard, Chuck Berry - The list goes on and on. Over 100 original songs; several radio stations to choose from (during the 40s era even with WW II news updates from Europe - nice touch).

- Cars: From the get-go I had the feeling of being teleported back into the 40s/50s with the authentic look and feel. The cars (as in GTA4) are based on counterparts (though some look strikingly close to the real original - Example: Shubert Frigate / 1953 Chevrolet Corvette). The fact that you can collect up to 10 cars in your garage is a nice bonus (instead of the GTA4 parking-infront-of-the-apartment option; with reload sometimes certain cars being gone). Local body shops allow you to tune the performance, repair damages, purchase different sort tires, change the color of your car or even change the license plate. When driving you can see your speed-o-meter and even have a deceleration button to quickly shift down to the permitted speed limit (very handy when wanting to avoid cops). The cars handle differently, especially when it has snowed or rained. All these features are a welcomed upgrade to GTA4.

- Cops: The AI of the local police is far more advanced than of GTA4. Want to steal a car and are being seen? Dispatch puts out a warrant for your arrest and you need to hide and change your clothes. Accidentally drove too fast or ran over some pedestrians? Dispatch announces your license plate to all units and you need to ditch your car or have your license plate changed. When you are running from the police (given your wanted level), the police will aggressively follow you, chase you down and shoot at you. Speeding off like in GTA4 is not enough - Getting away from cops will take skill and patience - A nice challenge.

- Guns: Squeezing off a few rounds on a legendary Thompson or an MG 42? The game makes it possible, offering over a dozen authentic pistols, shotguns, submachine guns, rifles and machine guns - You even get to throw some grenades in certain missions. While I have never shot any of these guns in person before, each gun does have a unique sound to it. When using a Thompson Model 1921, you will know what I mean.

- Graphics: The city, the cars, the people - It looks beautiful. Especially inside buildings (mall of Jewelry robbery, meat factory, Joe's apartment building, observatory at the end) it all looks amazingly rendered onto the console. I cannot claim it is more stunning than GTA4s Liberty City but at least it is equally as beautiful. Driving through Empire city is a real joy.

CONS:

- Playing Time: A lot of people have complained about it and it too is a thorn in my eye. The game is completed in under 10 hours. Playing it a 2nd time you also realize how many cut scenes there are in the game. It reaches a point where (similar to Metal Gear Solid 4), you can spend almost as much time 'watching' the game as 'playing' it. The cut scenes are great and obviously a lot of time and effort has been put into them but after a while they disrupt the pace of the game and you find yourself skipping them. A `less is more' approach on the cut scenes would have been useful.

- Gameplay: Most missions can easily be summarized with: `drive somewhere, kill/beat someone or drop someone off, drive home, sleep, next chapter'. Maybe the hope was that the repetitiveness of it all could be disguised with the amount of cut scenes involved but as others have highlighted, the game is in dire need of some side-missions. Especially, since after having completed the game, you cannot go back and continue your saved game. Though you can re-play individual missions, this is highly unsatisfactory. Furthermore, certain missions in the game make little sense (example mechanic Mike Bruski - Joe invites me to see him whenever I am looking for a job aka stealing cars for him - After the initial auto theft; there are no other missions to be had - Why bother building a whole cut scene/story around it if I can only get 1 job from him for the entire game? Seems rather pointless and there are other nuances that leave you scratching your head too: turn lights/faucets/fans on and off; why include that option if it is not utilized in the story? Or having phone booths across the entire city, which are only being tied into the story ones). All these features are rather strange and unfulfilling.

- Storyline: While Mafia II again learned from GTA4 and included likeable and less likable characters in the story (Roman Bellic / Joe Barbaro anyone), the finale of the story must feel like an utter anti-climax to most people: broke and no money, best friend getting killed, living in a rat-hole of an apartment. The fact that I cannot drive the cars I collected and explore the city in more depth, because you can not continue a complete game, adds insult to injury. The marketing of this game left me with the impression that I would work my way up to the higher ranks of the Cosa Nostra. In reality, even infamous Henry Hill walked away with more to show for than my character Vito Scaletta. Sure, it leaves all sorts of scenarios open for Mafia III, but I felt short-changed to say the least.

Summary: My bottom line verdict is 3/5 stars. This game had a bunch of great, new ideas, how to extend on the GTA4 gaming experience and add more depth to the whole gameplay. The whole setting in the 40s/50s is a nice experience. Unfortunately, the game falls short in playtime and gameplay. Overall, I am interested to find out how Vito's life continues, maybe with a great setting in the 60s/70s, potentially elevating him up to being a boss but certain changes will have to be made to the game, before I would commit to buying Mafia III.
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3.9 out of 5 stars (78 customer reviews)
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