13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
A flawed masterpiece!,
This review is from: Mafia (PS2) (Video Game)
As a huge fan of both Italian-American gangster movies ('The Godfather', Goodfellas, etc.) and gritty action games (like the outstanding 'The Getaway'), I thought this game was a match made in heaven. Although it has its odd flaws, it's still a absolutely cracking game.
'Mafia' is a game based on the life of Tommy, who was high up in one of City of Lost Heaven's mafia families. The present day in the game is actually 1938, when Tommy is reviewing his life to a cop/journalist, and using flashbacks, the action levels take place in the early 1930s, when Tommy moved from a humble taxi driver to the right-hand man for the Don.
Firstly, the negatives. The game does have an annoying feature when it has to load up every time you cross over from Central Island to the east side of the city to cater for the heavy detail - strange really, considering 'The Getaway' had even greater detail (of London) yet didn't need additional loading-up. Also, the controls aren't the easiest to get used to - I suppose this is personal preference, but up-down-left-right are not combined into the L3 button, which just gives more work for your fingers. The health issue is also a minus - there are occasional health boxes situated on the walls of some buildings in every level where you improve your health meter, but it would have been better to adopt 'The Getaway's' approach and gain health by leaning on a wall. This would have been more realistic, but when you die after spending ages on a level, it gets a little frustrating.
However, with the flaws come the plus points. The story is fantastic, sort of like a 'Goodfellas' storyline as it follows one man's rise and fall in the mafia, and our hero has a conscious, unlike many of his counterparts. The individual levels are never boring, combining everything from setting cars on fire to defending a pretty broad against some punk kids; from stealing classy 1930s sport cars to assasinating a senator in public. The detail is also worth a mention - the City of Lost Heaven is clearly based on New York, with its different sections clearly distinguished (Little Italy has a 'Bronx' feel to it, while the typically WASP area on the east side reflect the posher area just outside New York). The cars aren't as quick and easy to manouvre as on 'GTA' or 'The Getaway', but this is the 1930s!
I really enjoyed 'Mafia', mainly because it aims to be a realistic game and succeeds. The story is constantly appealing, throwing in unexpected twists and turns, and at the end of the day, it's more satisfying being on the Mafia's side rather than on the side of the law! Once you accept its flaws, you can sit back and indulge in fighting for the Mob. Buon Appetite!!