Mafia II fails to fully deliver on its immense promise
- Empire Bay is a fantastic embodiment of the 1940s/50s, really sharp cinematography and mostly solid voice acting, well-built experience with a handful of notable moments
- Most exciting moments in game are seen and not played, superficial narrative fails to explore briefly mentioned themes, streamlined campaign lacks side missions or exploration
With a beautiful and interesting setting, a likeable cast of characters and a decent dose of action, Mafia II had the potential to add a new and exciting layer to the established myth of the American mobster. But even though it offers some worthwhile moments, it unfortunately squanders most of its vast potential on a heavily scripted experience that doesn't take full advantage of the compelling world around it.
Price$ 109.95 (AUD)
Mafia II hits all the bullet points you'd expect from a modern action escapade. It's set in a fantastic city called Empire Bay, a lively metropolis influenced by New York City and San Francisco; it features some of the best cinematography I've seen in a game; it perfectly captures the spirit of its era--the 1940s and 50s--through smart use of imagery and music; and it has more than its fair share of violence and about as much salty language as you can reasonably fit within a twelve hour campaign.
But while Mafia II offers up a polished and well-constructed package, it never fully delivers on its immense promise, as the linear adventure and superficial storyline fail to give any real weight to the actions and emotions of its antiheroes, or even dig very deeply into the mobster mythos. It's a pleasant and finely crafted experience, but the only emotion it was ultimately able to instil in me was ambivalence, both towards the events I took part in and the characters I met.
2K Czech has done an impressive job of building a world with a sense of life, and Empire City shines throughout the multi-decade affair, with period-era imagery and a fantastic array of licensed songs like "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition" and "In the Still of the Night" further increasing the level of immersion. Unfortunately, Mafia II's complete lack of side missions and extra activities makes the polish and grandeur of Empire Bay feel like a missed opportunity.
The game is laser-focused on its 15 campaign chapters, with each task directly related to the next until your adventure is complete; as such, you're never given a great chance to fully explore the bustling city's wonderfully distinct neighbourhoods. It's such a compelling and well-built world, yet cruising around yields no discernible benefits or consequences. Even police chases--a riotous and entertaining staple of Grand Theft Auto and other games of this ilk--aren't worth the effort here. Cops will shrug you off in a heartbeat if you disappear from view, and you can often just drive to a secluded area and introduce them to your shotgun without the fear of retribution from police back up.
Most of Mafia II's memorable moments come from the cinematics and not the actual missions, which consistently lack exciting gameplay opportunities. Cover-based gunfights dominate much of the action, with occasional stealth segments, but the action feels very rote and familiar, and doesn't stack up to the combat found in other titles. You'll also be forced into fistfights at various points, but the stiff and simplistic controls feel underdeveloped, making these encounters feel like a chore. And though the game is loaded with era-appropriate vehicles (including boat-like cars and sweet little coupes) that can be customised and stored, Mafia II only features a handful of chase sequences.
The storyline and character development never lives up to its end of the bargain, either. Main protagonist Vito Scaletta is a man haunted by his past, the regrets of his fallen father, and the struggles of one's loyalty to his birth family and criminal organisation, but all too often, these potentially fascinating threads are left undeveloped, lingering in your thoughts only for a brief moment like superficial bits of window dressing.
I don't expect every mob portrayal to have the weight and depth of character of The Godfather or The Sopranos, but Vito's familiar tale of greed, betrayal, and tragedy neither makes you feel remarkably powerful nor offers any particularly important insights. Every revelation is a fleeting thought, quickly drowned out by gunfire and expletives. Even the ending lands with a thud, capping off twelve unsatisfying hours spent vainly hoping that the next chapter would ignite something in the middling tale. This is especially disappointing considering the stellar cinematography and solid voice work present throughout.
That's a common theme with Mafia II: it's competent and occasionally strong in nearly every area, but it never lives up to its full potential. The immense allure of Empire Bay and its trappings help make up for Mafia II's missteps, but the game fails to add anything meaningful to both the mobster mythos and the genre as a whole.
Join the PC World newsletter!
Gadgets & Things
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 Finally! LG OLED TV 2016 range review
- 2 Google Daydream View VR full, in-depth review
- 3 Google Pixel XL full, in-depth smartphone review: Phones just got smarter
- 4 Apple iPhone 7 Plus review: including Portrait Mode
- 5 MSI GS70 laptop review
Latest News Articles
- Dead Rising 4 impressions: 'Tis the season to BBQ zombies with your flaming sword
- This week in games: Free Titanfall 2 weekend, Star Wars Battlefront meets Rogue One
- Every new game revealed at The Game Awards 2016, from Guardians of the Galaxy to Zelda
- Watch Dogs 2 PC impressions: A smooth-running romp through meme-filled San Francisco
- Hearthstone fans now have a dedicated Skype chat room to challenge its best players
GGG Evaluation Team
First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.
For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.
The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.
The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.
My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.
- The top 10 best and worst tech gadgets and products of 2016
- TV of the year award 2016
- Best phone of the year 2016
- What's the difference between an Intel Core i3, i5 and i7?
- Laser vs. inkjet printers: which is better?
- FTSecurity AdministratorVIC
- CCProject Management - Infrastructure projectsVIC
- FTGuidewire Developer - Billing's focusSA
- FTSoftware Sales & BDMNSW
- CCData Surveyor, Data Analyst, Electrical backgroundACT
- TPProcess Business AnalystVIC
- CCSenior Java Developer | WebNSW
- CCOrganisational Change Manager - Wealth ManagementNSW
- FTLevel 2 Service Desk AnalystQLD
- CCAutomation TesterNSW
- CCBusiness AnalystNSW
- TPSenior System Engineer - WintelVIC
- CCMainframe Developer (with ASP.NET)SA
- CCERP LeadWA
- FTSite Acquisition ManagerSA
- FTPractice AdvisorACT
- CCSAP CRM Technical LeadACT
- CCLotus Notes DeveloperNSW
- CCAPI DeveloperSA
- FTSenior Project Manager / Program ManagerNSW
- FTSolution DesignerVIC
- FTEnterprise Architect - BusinessQLD
- FTWeb Developer/ DesignerWA
- FTJava DeveloperSA
- CCTest Manager (HP Quality Centre / Kronos)NSW