I wonder what this game is about
Alright, introductions out of the way. Mafia 2 is the sequel to Mafia, a 2002 Grand Theft Auto clone that was actually pretty good, even if the driving was pretty frustrating at times. It was developed by Illusion Softworks, now known as 2K Czech. Mafia 2 has you playing as Vito Scaletta, the son of Sicilian immigrants. After being caught robbing a jewelry store, Vito is given a choice between jail and serving in the American Military during World War 2 in 1943. After being sent home in 1945 because of an injury, Vito starts working for various crime bosses in an effort to join a crime family.
Ambition is a fickle thing. If your game is extremely ambitious in one area, yet weak and shallow in another, it highlights it to a point that makes it so much easier to criticise, sticking out like a drag queen at Liberal party gathering. That’s Mafia 2’s problem in a nutshell. Its problems overshadow what is a well presented, yet poorly plotted and badly paced story.
With every cutscene, the game drives you to keep going. Even with bad pacing and a fairly weak story, great direction will enthrall you and keep you coming back for more. But the dynamic that Mafia 2 creates is probably less than desirable. The gameplay is the stuff is what you put up with in order to get to the next cutscene. You become a cutscene addict, keen for that next hit. “Come on, man, just one more cutscene. I’ll do a long driving section after, I promise! You know I’m good for it!”
Mafia 2’s presentation is great, but the main problem is that it’s mostly confined to cutscenes. Outside of the cutscenes, during the part that, you know, you’re supposed to play, there isn’t much at all. I’m not saying that there should be more side missions or mini games, any of that open world gameplay bullshit, what I AM saying is that what gameplay we did get should have been deeper. Mafia 2 is essentially your typical linear 3rd person shooter, but with a living and vibrant city, rather than a set of levels that you move through. But this highlights yet another huge problem with Mafia 2.
Once you’ve gotten your hit of that sweet, sweet cutscene, often you’ll get sent on a long ass drive to one of 2 places: where your next mission takes place, or your apartment. A lot of the time the drive to your apartment is completely, 100% unnecessary. As you complete your mission, Vito will say “Ok, I’ll see you later” or something to that affect, and you’ll have to drive all the way back to your apartment, walk up the stairs, open the door, find your bed, then it’ll fade to black. How about “Ok, I’ll see you later” then fade to black as Vito starts driving away? The player will assume you’ve driven back to your apartment, without actually having to do it. If it fades back in with you getting up from bed, there’s only one conclusion that the player can make. You’ll do this so often that the familiar banality of real life will start to set in. But this is a game; real life can go suck a dick. And what’s the deal with the radio stations? There’s so little music on each channel that songs start to repeat really quickly. You’ll end up driving in silence most of the time.
There isn’t much of note with the action levels. It’s standard poop’n’shoot stuff here, don’t expect anything different. Surprisingly, the shooting sections actually take up quite a small part of the game. Looking back on it, it’s way less than 1/3 of the game. It’s roughly 9-10 hours long, and I wouldn’t be surprised if these levels took up less than a couple of hours.
The action levels can get pretty grueling at times. Checkpoints are quite far apart, and getting shot in the head or bum-rushed by a dude with a Chicago Typewriter is a pretty common occurrence. It never really gets overwhelmingly difficult or frustrating, which is welcome, although it does feel like a kick in the head when you’re sent back to the beginning of a level when you’ve been shootin’ bitches for over 15 minutes without interruption. It completely breaks down any momentum you’ve built up.
SMGs and shotguns kick some serious ass in Mafia 2. A well placed burst of rounds in a guy’s chest almost always sends them crashing to the ground. It’s incredibly satisfying. Nailing a guy as he’s going back into cover with a shotgun is probably the fondest memory I have of Mafia 2. It goes both ways though, so if you’re caught out of cover against a guy with an SMG or shotgun, you can kiss your ass goodbye.
There’s a sort of fistfighting mini game for sections where you’re unarmed. It’s quite shallow and it’s difficult to ascertain the ‘rules’ of it all. One hit will connect and another will completely miss, it’s just a toss of the coin really. It’s such a small and insignificant part of the game that I struggle to write any more about it.
Now that I’ve got all that mechanical crap out of the way, it’s time to discuss the story. After all, it’s most likely the number one reason anyone will play Mafia 2. I have some pretty serious issues with it. It suffers from something I call “and then syndrome”. The story doesn’t seem to be building to any sort of crescendo or satisfying conclusion, each mission is just “and then this happens, and then that happens”. There’s no overall moral or big reveal or anything. Towards the end of the game, I was so attached to the story because although it was presented well, I just wanted something to happen. I kept playing expecting everything to fall into place. But it never did.
Vito, as a protagonist, is so shallow that I ended up hating the guy by the end of it all. His motivations towards mass murder, robbery, theft, whatever, never amount to anything more than not wanting to be like his father, a poor, alcoholic dock worker, and that being poor sucks. So what? I don’t give a shit. Vito will constantly agree with other characters murdering people right in front of his face for the flimsiest of reasons and will kill people himself without question. Vito isn’t an anti-hero, he’s not vying for revenge, and nothing important or sympathetic drives his motivations forward. He just wants money, power, women, and respect. In other words, he’s a selfish psychopath that you will, and should, end up hating.