Starting out with a game I wouldn’t normally play, Mafia 2 was the Games with Gold Game for the first part of May. Giving me the opportunity to play it through.
The game is best described as a GTA clone, set in a fictional city during and after WW2. You play as a mobster that tries to climb his way up through the world of crime.
In its core Mafia 2 is a GTA clone. Most of the game is played by stealing a car, driving through the city to a marked location on the map, shooting everything to pieces and driving back to the previous location. That said, the game had a very solid story which sometimes takes the player to a different setting where the cars disappeared and the game would become more of a third person shooter, or even an action adventure.
When I first started the game, for instance, it felt almost as if I was playing a medal of honor. And I was very surprised to suddenly land in prison, having to make a name for myself by boxing. (which was also a very clever way of inserting a new tutorial for a new move)
All in all, I believe these changes in setting and thus gameplay work because the separate aspects of the game are well worked out.
While brawling, you can use several different attacks, defend and counter. Certain combo’s can be made which give an empowering feeling when they are done correctly. It is a very nice minigame option for people like me who think murdering everything in one’s way is a bit much.
However, that is also all what brawling was, a clever minigame. The camera changes to focus on your opponent and give you a feeling of isolation from the rest of the game. This enables you to see your opponent more clearly and predict when to block or which attack to use. The screen prompts which combos can be made at what time and gives it almost a quicktime event feel.
Once I had learned the counter attack, I found myself always using the same tactic of defending and countering which made brawling even simpler.
The firefights are more diverse, depending on what weapon you use. While in a firefight, you can change weapons and can have different weapons of the same type, shoot while taking cover, picking up and managing ammo, checking you mini map for targets and health.
The game has a subtle auto-aim system, which also makes it playable for horrible shots like me, but it still pays off to take some extra time and go for a head shot as it takes more normal shots to kill an npc.
While playing with cars you have to open the locks by mini game to steal them, or just step into a driving one by pulling out the driver. Each type of car feels different to drive and the cars are a treat if you like the 40’s/50’s atmosphere.Sometimes you have a co-driver and he will make witty comments or shoot at pursuers. You are not able to shoot by yourself while driving, which is something I would have liked to be able to do.
The car visually displays received damage and you can save/store cars by putting them in your garage. I thought the speed limit lock while driving was a nice touch to ensure you didn’t have unwanted police after you and I often found myself abiding by the law and waiting for traffic lights because I didn’t want to damage my new car.
Controls are inconsistent:
The controls where the main problem for this game because all three sub games had different controls. It was almost as if each part was developed separately and patched together on launch. The problem with having different control schemes is that I found myself constantly searching for buttons to get the result I wanted. I often found myself shooting randomly in the streets when getting out of a car, because accelerating and sprinting are not the same button. Which then, in most cases, caused me to either go back to a saved game or to frantically try to escape the police who saw me firing my gun.
Having these different control schemes are the main thing I would have done differently and is what prevented me from being truly immersed into the game.
Solid setting but limited content:
Which is a shame, because the rest of the game is very solid in its setting. The music on the radio, the newsflashes about WW2, the characters, the families, the cars and especially the missions are all that make the setting complete.
This brings me to another observation about the game. Although the missions are very fun to do, there is not much to do around them. The game gives the impression of being open world but is very linear and limited. The cars and your outfit are upgradable, but there is very little incentive to do so. You can make money by selling cars or robbing stores, but again, for what? Maybe by adding a customizable homebase to the game I would have been more inclined to put more hours in it.
Player comes second to story:
It often feels in games, as if YOU are the main character. Therefore, everything that happens to the main character(Vito) also happens to you. However, sometimes I felt that telling Vito’s story was what was most important to the game developers. How the player feels about that story seemed to be a bit of an afterthought.
At around 2/3rds of the game Vito’s/your (big) house burns down and Vito has/you have to live in a sleazy apartment again. The game never gives Vito/you the opportunity to build back up and at the end of the game, there isn’t even an option for Vito/you to go back to the city and explore some more because Vito’s/your story had ended. This left ME feeling like I had wasted my time playing this game and got nothing in return. No cars, big house, status etc. And isn’t that what I was playing for?