Mafia II Review

It’s difficult to really play sandbox titles without being a little overwhelmed with how much detail can be added into the world that the player is entering. In the case of Mafia II, the World War II era, New York inspired Empire City is a bit different from other sandbox titles in that the city is recognizably structured, but there are still instances where it’s easily possible to get lost.

Where Mafia II excels is the story of its main character Vito and how he quickly becomes drawn into the world of Empire City’s Mafia and how far he is willing to go. From the start of the title, the character is established as a man who looks out for his family, but is willing to do less-than-honest jobs to get the money he needs to rise above the day laborers around the city. His quick rise and story past that are what will draw players in because the plot of the title feels familiar, but the experience of living through these events are what make the title interesting.

Mafia II is a deep title, as characters are defined and portrayed different. With an ample amount of voice acting, thankfully none of the characters sound too stereotypical, though it does start waning listening to characters talk with a “tough guy” tone.

On the visual side, the title does carry a bit of a one-off reality, main characters are defined well, and even secondary characters have a good amount of detail. The city itself is a bit more difficult to pin down because the 1940’s architecture takes some time to get used to and a lot of the city feels like the same area. Driving to different locations is a bit difficult without the mini-map.

Though through the the gameplay, much of which is traveling from one point of the city to another, trying to steal a car is one of the more difficult portions of the title. With the older setting, deciding on which car might be faster is a bit difficult because the models all have a different feel to more modern cars. It usually is the flashier cars that have better acceleration and handling, but like other sandbox titles, they’re not always around when needed.

Combat takes shape in two forms: hand to hand and weapons. Hand to hand combat is interesting because those instances are more scripted and use a different mechanic. Much like a boxer ring, players move in a circled area with weak and strong punches and a dodge. Using various combinations lead to finishers, but a lot of the time, it’s biding your time until a combination can connect. It feels a little weak most times because the fights are confined.

Using guns is similar to other titles, though the aiming function of Mafia II threw me off. To aim, a shoulder button has to be pressed which keeps players in the aiming mode, and to zoom, holding the same shoulder button is necessary. Rather than having a shoot from the hip aspect, this more direct mechanic took a little time to get used to and in the small milliseconds it takes to go from unarmed to armed combat, a few gunshots can be taken.

But the variety of 1940s weapons is one the best parts of the title. Shotguns, tommy guns, and a variety of pistols as well as World War II machine guns make appearances in Mafia II.

The title is a long haul to complete the story mode and all the side missions, but the experience is worth it. Rather than create a surface level title, 2K Games have released a title that is big on pseudo-history and the plot quickly draws players in. If only it didn’t take so long to get from point A to point B by car.

For fans of organized crime it’s perfect, but it takes an investment for anyone else.

Review copy provided by publisher