2k games is mostly known for creating sports games that rival Madden, Live, etc. in today's world. Every once in awhile they expand their repertoire with an attempt at an unique story-driven game. A few years ago it was Mafia, now it's sequel is sitting on shelves. I wasn't really interested in getting this, but took the chance when I saw it for cheap on Ebay (already not a good sign when it was just released). Most modern story driven games seem to be nothing more than rip-offs of the well known 'Grand Theft Auto' franchise just like most MMORPGs coming out have tried to follow in World of Warcraft's gigantic footsteps.
The story follows Vito Scaletta, an Italian soldier whose entire family immigrated to America from Italy when he was a child. Now he's grown and through a long epilogue you see the pretty boy hooligan his poverty ridden American neighborhood has brought him up to be. Vito gets arrested during a robbery and instead of getting sentenced to prison they send him to the army to fight a war against his will (talk about owned). The game mechanics are simple yet stiff. You get to explore the city in the middle of missions instead of there being a plain free roam. This can be frustrating at times, especially when you see a car you want, but you have 3 people with you and the car only fits 2 or 1. A huge flaw in Mafia II is that it only saves right after you complete a mission objective so beware: if you've been running around for a couple hours robbing stores, collecting cars, etc. if you die (which will happen often) you WILL be start back to the last time you completed an objective or mission and lose EVERYTHING you've done since then.
What holds Mafia II back is the usual incompetence on the developer’s part. Your garage isn't marked on your map unil halfway through the game (then disappears after a certain point). Sometimes you can't enter a room because there's a glitch that occasionally happens when you open the door creating some sort of weird force field. Alot of your deaths in Mafia II will be accidental while driving. People say the cars in GTA IV drove like a block of wood. Well, Mafia II somehow surpasses the terrible driving physics in GTA by having the cars drive like a block of wood...on ice. Prepare to have you cars slip and slide all over the road even after the winter season and the fond memories of jumping out of your car just before you crashed during your adventures in GTA keeps coming to mind especially after you've gone headfirst into a pole or car for the fiftieth time and died. Mafia II underwhelms on all fronts, except maybe the story and voice acting (in some cases). While Vito and some of the main characters do just fine, you do notice when someone is obviously Italian yet has no accent. This phenomenon usually is evident with the older personalities. Mafia II, brings an essence of originality and realness to its cutscenes. The characters come to life as if Brad Pitt or Johnny Depp were acting them out personally. And then you get back to the game and it just doesn't measure up. Here's your typical mission in Mafia II. You wake up, answer the phone, stare at a wall for 3 minutes as you listen to the entire call, get dressed, walk down several flights of stairs to your garage, drive to the point that starts the mission (which is ALWAYS on the other side of town), shoot up things after starting the mission, then you're forced to drive ALL the way back home which hasn't gotten any closer, walk up several flights of stairs, maybe answer a phone call, then go to sleep. You tell me how much of this could be either skipped or gotten done with a simple cutscene. They might as well make you take a shower and brush your teeth. The gameplay is dragged down by forcing you to do unneccessary mundane tasks. I'm sure alot of kids that tried playing Mafia II opted instead to go around mindlessly killing people for a couple hours instead of driving 10 minutes to 'meet Joe at a bar then wait 30 more minutes before there's any real action...if there's any at all'. I swear after playing this game seemed like an episode of Family Guy at times. Someone would mention something and no matter how boring it was you'd have to see or witness it. In one mission someone mentions something about a dead body in the trunk so you go find a burying spot, then dig the grave (thank Tom Cruise there was no grave digging mini-game). Sooner or later you start looking for someone to say "Hey Vito, I forgot to go pick up my dry-cleaning"...and the adventure begins...
There are several perks for the pervs out there. These badboys come in the form of playboy magazines that give access to a pin-up of a girl dressed in 1950s clothing (most of them nude of course). You'll almost be fooled into thinking these were once actual playboy magazines until you realize they didn't have HD quality photos back then and problably didn't have color picture either. The other collectibles are wanted posters that depict the developers dressed in typical mob esque clothing, but lacking certain gangster qualities (such as toughness). Makes me wonder how many people were grumpy during the photoshoot after having to spend god knows what on a fancy suit that's more suited for costume parties than regular attire. Hopefully the company paid for everything. At the end of the day Mafia II is a game that will come and go, just like the last Mafia. Its underwhelming, with pretty much nothing new being brought to the table and everything else being done better.
The only things worth noting are story and voice acting. I wouldn't believe the hype around this game nor would I go out of my way to buy it. It's one of those game you buy just to have a game to play while you're waiting on a bigger, better one. Also, while there is little music in the game, the tracks it does have range from ok to great. The menu music is fantastic although it seriously doesn't fit the tone of the game at all. The menu music is this serious mellow-dramatic orchestrated melody while the game itself is mostly fun, goofy, get rich quick feeling until just about the very end which is where it tries to get really serious. This might not bother most people, but to me it just seems so out of place that it irks me somehow.