Mafia II

Mafia II
Mafia II Cover
Platforms Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Windows
Genre Historical action shooter
MtAMinutes to Action 5
Keep Playing? Yes
Buy from Amazon

When someone talks about the mob, the first thing that pops into our head is probably a great gangster movie. Be it The Godfather Part II, Scarface, or Goodfellas, there are a lot of excellent mob films to land on. 2K Games would like to change that though with Mafia II, the sequel to the 2002 hit, Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven.

Can you even name a decent mob game? Sure, there have been Godfather games, a bargain bin full of Yakuza titles, or even the Grand Theft Auto series, but there has not been a standout mob game since the original Mafia. A game that flew way off my radar, but must have landed on someone’s as it received a lot of critical acclaim.

So here we are eight years later with Mafia II. Yes, the game has essentially been in development that entire time as it was originally slated to release on the original Xbox and PlayStation 2 (remember those?). Fans of the original are going to be expecting a lot of improvement over nearly a decade of development, and those who are unfamiliar with the series are going to be asking what sets Mafia II apart from the likes of Grand Theft Auto IV.

Mafia II was released on the Xbox 360, PS3, and Windows. The First Hour’s Xbox 360 copy was provided by 2K Games.

Minute by Minute

(minutes are in bold)

00 - I select The Story, and the first hour of Mafia II begins. First up is difficulty, just the three standard options, I go with Medium. A quote from a mobster on trial appears about wanting stuff from life, and then the title screen flashes by and the game begins.

01 - It’s a stormy night in the big city and a man is up late smoking a cigarette and flipping through some book. He introduces himself as Vito Scaletta. He’s looking at some pictures from Sicily, where he was born. His father brought his family to America.

02 - We get a gorgeous glimpse of what appears to be the New York skyline. A bunch of quick scenes of “Empire Bay” are shown, our man Vito is just a young boy at this time. Graphics look great, showing off how awful their apartment looks.

03 - As Vito grows up he starts getting into trouble with his friends, and is arrested in 1943 after robbing a store. Instead of jail, he chooses to go back to Sicily during World War II.

Mafia 2 Empire bay car

04 - Chapter 1 - Sicily - July, 1943. Vito describes how he was dropped in and I gain control.

05 - There’s a man about to be executed on some steps, I need to take out the soldier, I’m told to take aim and shoot. My first shot misses but starts off a huge firefight! Here we go!

06 - Haha, I’m killed as I linger in front of a door too long. A gatling gun ripped it to shreds! Guess I need to sneak through a window. The game features a cover system, not totally unexpected.

08 - I toss a grenade through an inner window and a pre-scripted cutscene plays of the grenade landing among some rockets and causing a huge explosion. A couple of guys run out of the room on fire.

09 - Unlike most games these days, it seems you can carry as many different types of guns that you want. The cover system also requires you to press A to break out of cover, a bit different than what I’m used to.

12 - A lot of fun scripted events are being thrown my way. I hop on a gatling gun and take out whole courtyard of bad guys with it. This is way too satisfying. The courtyard explodes in shrapnel and wood. A tank arrives and I jump off the gun, only to be surrounded by fascist soldiers.

Mafia 2 Vito Stick up

13 - A man riding another tank arrives and starts shouting stuff to all the guards, Vito says he is Don Calo, a local powerful mobster and everyone surrendered just because he told them to.

14 - Chapter 2 - Two years later in Empire Bay. Vito is back in the big city and Joe greets him. Seems like his old friend is doing pretty well for himself as he’s driving a nice car.

16 - I’m in the passenger seat of the car and am able to look around as Joe drives. Snow is falling hard and there’s a variety of stuff going on in the streets.

17 - Joe and Vito discuss the war, apparently even Joe knows good old Don Calo. They’re out of the car now and in a bar. Vito says he’s only back because he took a bullet, he’ll have to go back to Europe after a while.

18 - Once Joe hears this, he goes and talks to his people getting Vito out of the war altogether. Nice! Though Vito is a bit concerned, they drink to that. Vito’s eyeing up a girl in the bar and then grabs a cab for home.

19 - Back in control on the street now, Vito has a useful 40’s era GPS! A classic Christmas song is playing and the back streets are full of people. Some even recognize me.

Mafia 2 Empire bay Vito joe Cops

21 - The map guides me to Vito’s mom’s apartment. Vito, his mom, and his sister Francesca all hug and tuck into dinner. Vito’s father has passed, but doesn’t seem too phased.

22 - I talk with Francesca for a second, she’s got an office job, exciting. The kitchen is very detailed, all the items on the shelves and counter have labels. I head into Vito’s room and go to sleep.

23 - The next day... Vito wakes up and says he needs to find a place to stay. I put on his leather jacket and head out. Mama doesn’t like the idea of Joe helping Vito out, but now it’s time to go find a legitimate job. Let’s see how long that lasts.

25 - Ha, not long. I head outside and Francesca is being hustled. Vito steps in and I’m taught how to fight. B performs a light punch, A dodges, and Y heavy punches. There’s also combos, and pressing B while they’re stunned performs a bit of a finisher.

26 - Brutal fight. Of course, Vito’s family is in trouble with some loan sharks. Off to Joe for some help!

28 - Pressing back brings up the map, the game looks decently sized, but manageable. Hold LB to sprint, seems like Vito can run forever, that’s useful.

Mafia 2 Vito Tommy gun Whiskey

30 - I find Joe’s apartment building and after a bit of wandering fight his place. Some swing music begins playing and we head inside. Looks like Joe was having a bit of fun with a couple of ladies.

32 - Vito is not looking to get a real job, not since he needs to raise two grand quickly. Together, Vito and Joe head out to get Vito’s discharge papers.

34 - The pair talk as they leave the apartment, though I’m in control the whole time. Nice that they put all that conversation during the gameplay instead of one giant cutscene later.

35 - Vito begs Joe to drive, and he finally relents. The roads are definitely slippery, and Joe warns I shouldn’t go too fast. Is that a speedometer?

37 - We arrive at our destination and meet up with Giuseppe, who is undoubtedly an all around good guy.

38 - Well, he seems like a nice old man. Plus he’s got my discharge papers. Joe pays for the papers but I buy some lockpicks with my own cash. $7 for a set, putting me down to only $20!

Mafia 2 Vito Guiseppe

40 - I practice lockpicking, pretty easy mini-game, not like Alpha Protocol’s...

41 - Ha, we head outside and unlock and jack the first car we see. Of course a cop is right there to see us and now we’re wanted!

42 - Well, that wasn’t too hard to get away, I just drove straight for a bit. I’m curious how the system actually works though. Apparently the car is still wanted though and the cops see me again. We need to get to a body shop quick.

44 - We honk outside the body shop and a set of options is made available, including getting a new license plate, repaint, retune, and even new rims. I can actually set the plates to whatever I want!

45 - Apparently Joe is picking up the entire tab so I get the works. With nice new green paint and an upgraded engine I head back out into the wild streets of Empire Bay.

47 - On our way to our next destination Joe tells Vito some of his really corny pickup lines he uses on the ladies.

49 - We arrive at the junkyard and meet up with Mike. I’m really impressed by the attention to detail around the city.

Mafia 2 Shoot out car Explosion

50 - Looks like Mike is running a bit of a chop shop here. Today he’s looking for a Walter Coupe and is offering $350. Vito say $400. Deal. Joe knows where to find the car and hands Vito a gun. Just in case.

52 - I’m asked to shoot the tires out and then the gas tank. BOOM!

53 - Pressing the A button while driving triggers a speed limiter, stopping me from going over the speed limit. Very useful... but come on. Is this really necessary?

55 - Cars honk and flash theirs lights if you veer into your lane, and you can see cops outlined in blue on your GPS. They’re the only car that shows up on it.

57 - We arrive at our target car, Joe drops me off and tells me to break the window if I have to, but just make it quick. I have a feeling there will be some trouble!

58 - Yep! Some men see me acting suspicious and a small firefight erupts. I take out three of the guys, pick the lock of the car and head out of the lot. A few more Bombers shoot at me but I seem to have made it out without them following me. Need to take it back to Mike’s now.

60 - It’s an uneventful ride back to the chop shop and I deliver the car safely. Another mission complete and that’s the end of the first hour of Mafia II.

Mafia 2 Vito Shoot up Police car

First Hour Summary

Minutes to Action: 5

What I loved: Like I said multiple times throughout the hour, the attention to detail is amazing.  Everything in the game is there for a purpose and it was all carefully constructed to look historically accurate. The city lives and breathes, and doesn’t suffer from weird and random car accidents like in the Grand Theft Auto games. Whether I was in a building or outside, I was constantly impressed.

The voice acting cast is excellent, never drawing me out of the game. There is a ton of swearing and it is very raunchy, but if you’ve seen a mob movie, you know what to expect. 2K didn’t pull any punches. The collection of music I heard too is unexpected but great, except for the one song I heard three times... “baby it’s cold outside.”

Mafia II was a very linear first hour, not a bad thing though as it kept everything moving, including the story and introduction to all the gameplay elements.

What I liked: The cover based, third-person action is a nice fit for the open world game. It’s not done perfect, but it was good enough for a game with so much else to offer.

The only mini-game I encountered so far was the lock picking game, and it’s slipped right into the regular gameplay. No giant pop-up overlay, just a simple little box in the corner of the screen. Simple, but effective.

What I didn’t like: It’s very weird having to be concerned about going the speed limit, but so far it hasn’t been a major factor. I like though how there’s a speed limiter built into the game, locking your maximum speed at 40 MPH or whatever it is on the road.

Gameplay: I was worried beforehand what it would be like driving cars from the 40’s and 50’s, but they all control really well. Not too realistic like Grand Theft Auto IV, and not too arcadey like Split/Second. Though there is a simulation driving mode for those who want it. The shooting action was also done well enough for my taste.

Fun Factor: A great game to look at and play, driving is fun, and the city is a marvel to look at. I wouldn’t have minded a few more high stakes missions, but the opening chapter was really unexpected.

Graphics and Sound: Attention to detail off the charts, excellent graphics, great voice acting, a good set of songs. Yeah, I’m sold here.

Story: Nothing we’ve never seen before in video games or movies, but I like how it’s told with the opening chapter set during the war. Great opening action set piece.

Would I keep playing? Yes, this game has got my attention in a big way. If you’re a fan of open world games I think you owe it to yourself to try it out. Honestly looking forward to the rest of the game.