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Mafia 2
Mafia 2

PC | PlayStation 3 | Xbox 360
Genre: Action Players: 1 (2 Online)
Official Site:
Publisher: 2K Games Classification: MA15+
Release Date:
27th August 2010
Mafia 2

Genre: Action
Players: 1 (2 Online)
Official Site: http://www.mafia2game...
Publisher: 2K Games
Classification: MA15+
Release Date:
27th August 2010
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Mafia 2 Review
Review By @ 11:08am 24/08/10
There's a fine line between scope and scale; vision and execution; quantity and quality; and, greed and satisfaction. From a critical game design standpoint, all of the above is very relative to Mafia II and this review; it's interesting then that that fine line also fully works when talking about the fictional world of the game's mobsters and their exploits as told within.

So there has been some concern and question over exactly what kind of game Mafia II actually is. Is it an open-world sandbox game in the vein of GTA? Or is it similar to a plethora of other mob games of recent years that employ you to climb the crime ranks, take over areas of the city and eventually run it as the number one Don? Is it a third-person cover shooter? Or is it a driving game?

The truth is, it's a tiny little bit of all of the above, but first and foremost, this is a character-driven crime drama. Story is paramount in Mafia II, and it drives every other element of the game, from the ambiance of the city functioning in the background as its own living, breathing character (right down to simple things, such as radio DJs or pro-American war propaganda), to your own growth as an individual amongst a myriad group of misbegotten, misguided juveniles dressed up as grownups playing mobster - Mafia II lives and breathes through its living and breathing personalities, and it couldn't possibly work any other way.

So what this means for videogame players out there is you're not getting the full experience of any of the aforementioned gameplay styles or directives you might think, or expect. What you're getting are compelling missions that drive the story, and its players, forward through the decade-long narrative growth period. You'll do a host of missions built around revenge, intimidation, greed, pride and loyalty, among much, much more, and if you've ever seen any kind of gritty crime drama in the realm of film or television, or even read about it in novel form, there's going to be nothing new here.

That isn't to say Mafia II is a derivative affair. It goes above and beyond to make its own narrative path in the midst of any and all crime-related media that has come before it, and it's 2K Czech's respect to the source material that helps the game stand-out in that regard.

Where a game like Grand Theft Auto IV is more about the all-encompassing elements of its sandbox design, Mafia II utilises missions, environments and gameplay as page-turners; interactive reasons to keep the story's forward momentum constantly doing just that: moving forward. But with the added value of telling a story first, the game's pacing is set at just the right speed, with dips and pikes added at just the right moments - 2K Czech are in charge here, you're just along for the ride.

If we were going to talk about gameplay though, Mafia II's strongest in that department is definitely the driving. This is helped because the city is an open one with fully reactive AI around you to keep gameplay mildly emergent, and therefore less predictable than anything else you end up engaging in. Each and every car has been painstakingly crafted to reflect those of the era, and given there was a fundamental design shift in the automobile industry between the 40s and 50s, Mafia II also serves up an ever-changing manifest of hulking monstrosities for you to litter the roads of Empire Bay with.

Physics and handling are all handled with aplomb, though if you're going to play on the PC (which I did), and have a game pad handy, I'd recommend giving up the single-increment input of your keyboard for the full analogue control a game pad offers. These cars are heavy and often unpredictable, and while there's an option to turn on an assisted driving mechanic (that keeps you under the speed limit to avoid being pursued by police or causing too many accidents), it's just not as fun.

Obviously other elements that come into play are shooting (replete with a rather tidy cover system), hand-to-hand combat, stealth and a handful of mini-games relative to actions being performed (like lock-picking), and while all of these are handled with great care in the design department, they're not making any new ground.

Shooting, for example, is a very familiar affair that is almost always served up in corridors (with most outside exceptions being in car combat). Cover works quite well, and you can sidle along anything you're taking refuge behind (making it easy to find a good spot to duck out and kill the bad-guys). There's a proper headshot system that means you can drop enemies with one hit, and if you're close (and using the aforementioned game pad), there's a slight auto lock-on that doesn't feel wrong to use (ie you're hand isn't being held, it's more logical than that). Your friendly AI is pretty good too, they don't die (or at least never did for me), and they react dynamically to the fire-fight events at-hand. Enemy AI will also dynamically react to your gunplay, but if you need to restart a checkpoint, they basically come out in the same order, and from the same place as before.

There's very little in the way of culmination too. Most missions feature a little taste of the small gameplay variances on offer - you might drive to a location, sneak in through the back, stealthily take out a few guards, pick a lock and then leave in a fire-fight for the ages, but they always seem too short and sweet. The best missions are the ones that focus solely on the mechanic they're built around, and a lot of missions are truly memorable, while many others aren't.

But that's one of the fine-lines Mafia II balances itself on - this long-ass narrative needs interactive points to keep players engaged, otherwise they're just watching a Kojima production, and while the cut-scenes and characters are *almost* engaging enough to warrant this, it's definitely not a selling point. The problem then is a lot of stuff between cut-scenes feels arbitrary. Filler. A more emergent experience could have helped keep the narrative and linearity in check; a triforce of design that ultimately swept gamers off their feet, but we might have to wait for the inevitable sequel for that.

You can interact with the game-world in your own way too. And often Vito is almost forced to take a breather at the end of missions by being told to go home. This gives you a chance to start from your house and move to the next mission in your own time, but really, there isn't enough outside of narrative-specific missions worth doing. You can rob places, buy new clothes, steal cars (and have them compacted for cash), but you rarely need to spend money, and being caught doing any of the above means you're annoyingly wanted by the police (and recognised throughout the city until you change up your appearance or car), so there's no real compulsion to go off and do your own thing.

Which brings the experience down to its narrative, which isn't a bad thing in this case, because the game's dialogue, voice-acting and story are all very cohesively put together. It's not often in this generation of games you can point someone to a title because of its story over visuals or gameplay, but Mafia II is a rare breed, and works because of this. You'll get close to a solid 10 hours out of it, depending on how you play, and by the end it is very satisfying (though there are some characters I wish the game could have explored more). There's the added bonus of going back in just to collect all the hidden Playboy magazines (doing so gives you a high-res look at some bare bewbage), and thankfully there's the announced DLC on its way too.

Mafia II is a very enjoyable experience for different reasons than most games, which should be a warning to those of you who don't really dig story in games, or lengthy narrative, or act as an invitation for gamers craving something more to bite their teeth into. It does a great job of recreating its source material in interactive form, and is not afraid to deliver it with the kind of mature punch it needs - polished, well executed and thoroughly respectful of its overall direction.

For more on Mafia II, be sure to check out our game page which features links to interviews, screens and video.
What we liked
  • Lengthy, deep narrative that spans a full decade
  • Excellent recreation of the era
  • Living, breathing city makes for a unique background in this kind of game
  • Driving is excellent and cars have been handled spectacularly
What we didn't like
  • Fairly linear overall
  • Side missions or activities lack compelling reasons to engage
  • Too many characters to explore, not enough time
We gave it:
Latest Comments
Posted 12:26pm 24/8/10
Nice writeup.

Awating Kane and Lynch 2 review.
Posted 01:29pm 24/8/10
This might be worth a whirl actually.
Posted 02:04pm 24/8/10
Nice write up Steve. Can you throw in an ATI card like a 5870 and let us know what differences in game play you notice?
Steve Farrelly
Posted 02:16pm 24/8/10
haha if I had one, I would ;)
Posted 12:59pm 25/8/10
i managed to get it to average 10fps on a 5970 with the physics up high. (how that works i dunno, i always though it was a nvidia thing, perhaps i missed the memo on what it is??)

Anyway, i ran the ingame benchmark thing in the demo with everything on max and just changing the physics eerr thing? and got on average:

No physics = 120ish
medium = 70ish
High = 15ish

Ill turn off AI tonight and give it a whirl again to see what it performs like with a 5870 for ya
(who knows might be better?)

I enjoyed the demo. Driving is a b**** with the keyboard though. I might see if i can use the controller just for driving
Posted 01:16pm 25/8/10
yeah i played the demo on playstation 3 the other weekend, i might have to get this

i like that it's a bit more story driven like red dead redemption. i've also started playing gta4 and you feel a lot more isolated because the story doesn't really drive the game

collect all the hidden Playboy magazines (doing so gives you a high-res look at some bare bewbage

there is one of these in the demo that i found :D

last edited by paveway at 13:16:07 25/Aug/10
Posted 10:24am 26/8/10
My Collector's Edition arrived this morning at 7:55am :-) Just need a new computer to play it on :-(
Posted 10:30am 26/8/10
i managed to get it to average 10fps on a 5970 with the physics up high. (how that works i dunno, i always though it was a nvidia thing, perhaps i missed the memo on what it is??)

Anyway, i ran the ingame benchmark thing in the demo with everything on max and just changing the physics eerr thing? and got on average:

No physics = 120ish
medium = 70ish
High = 15ish

what gives?
Posted 10:35am 26/8/10
just re-clocked mafia (the original) in anticipation. can't wait.
Posted 10:29am 27/8/10
There is no need to switch between the controller and the keyboard (at least in the demo). If you pick up a controller (I used an Xbox 360 controller) and start using it it will work, in fact the on screen prompts will always be relevant to the in use controller regardless of the control system you are using.
Posted 11:45am 27/8/10
Has anyone who purchased on steam having problems with download speeds? Mine is fluctuating between 100/k to 500 k. I don't have any steamwatch or anything installed either so it's not that.
Posted 11:10pm 27/8/10
The physics setting is really ONLY for nVidia cards people. Doesn't say it in the menu, but its designed for PhysX.
Posted 12:18am 28/8/10
Game is quite short.
Posted 12:20am 28/8/10
^^^ Really ??? I'm %48 through it and it feels like its taken me a while so far. The story alone has kept me playing it non stop.
Posted 08:43pm 29/8/10
Game ended at 60% for me, quite short.
Posted 09:35pm 29/8/10
pretty good game so far, nice story.

graphics are insane.

ive got 4gb, i5 2.4, nvidia 1gb 330m.

get like 35-40 fps average on medium on that benchmark thing (with vsync on)

average of 40-50 with vsync off

last edited by Sc00bs at 21:35:28 29/Aug/10
Posted 09:33pm 29/8/10
Just finished in under 10 hours, % complete was 73 i think, game was alright.
Posted 08:26am 30/8/10
There is a free roam ride mod for it now, can choose which season you want to play and I think every car is available and every weapon from the shops.
Posted 07:46pm 31/8/10
i can't get into the bugger right now since i updated steam. keeps going non-responsive when i click "play mafia ii"

Posted 07:52pm 31/8/10
They Should really call this Mafia II: Courier Adventures
Posted 09:32pm 31/8/10
Where's the mod?

The only thing that really annoyed me was that the story was pushing for it to be completed and there's not much room for roaming around. The game and story however was enjoyable but not as memorable as the original. Here's hoping they push out some good DLC's as a lot of the city was left alone and doing certain things (like using a phone) was relatively pointless (you have nobody to call...).

Eagerly waiting on DLC.
Posted 04:42pm 02/9/10
Posted 05:14pm 02/9/10
Open world missions, it sounds like stuff that should have been in the original game?
Posted 06:09pm 03/9/10
Well yeh, is anyone having issues buying the original on steam? I want to buy it but can't apparently, any help?
Posted 07:25pm 03/9/10
is it the same city as the original? only upgraded? I've played the first but only the demo of the second and a few sections looked familiar to me.
Posted 07:32pm 03/9/10
If it is the same city, then it makes a certain scene around the middle of the game pretty stupid.
I mean hiding out from the mob a 5 minute drive away, nice one witness protection. It was a nice nod to the original though
Posted 12:55am 08/9/10
Jimmy's Vendetta is out for those who give a s***. I'm reading a lot of negativity on the 2k forums about content that was cut and the game missing out on a lot.
Posted 01:00am 08/9/10
What's the price on this DLC?
Posted 01:05am 08/9/10
After conversions from USD (12.99) it ends up being around 15 AUD
Posted 01:20am 08/9/10
I'm reading a lot of negativity on the 2k forums about content that was cut and the game missing out on a lot.

Welcome to the new age of gaming. Release unfinished games and then charge for the same cut content as day 1 (or soon after) DLC.
Posted 06:34am 08/9/10
So is it worth getting the DLC then?
Posted 07:16am 08/9/10
For having created such a ridiculously detailed city you really visit bugger all of it through the missions. I was hugely disappointed with the lack of variety in mission locations and tasks.

8.5 is way too high imo
Posted 09:16pm 09/9/10
Posted 11:40pm 09/9/10
Just finished this game. Wtf @ ending
Posted 12:42am 10/9/10
That youtube video could only have been better if they'd used that downfall video instead. I lol'd.
Posted 09:49am 16/9/10
Seems Mafia 2 hit the world record for most F-Bombs in a game. Check this:

Gonna throw out a strong language warning, this is incredibly hilarious though.

Edit: Should mention a spoiler warning too.
Posted 12:14pm 19/10/10
this game is f*****g awesome.

one of the best games ive ever played, such great detail in the city, A1 voice acting, great story.

wish it was much much longer!
The GuVna
Posted 02:10pm 19/10/10
It does feel like the end of the game has been cut out of it, they'll probably DLC the rest of the game. The gameplay in the game is brilliant, its downfall though is just the mission styles & the constant driving between the action is dated dull(that said, the fast DLC car is awesome, specially on ice :) ) They have this detailed city & they just don't put it to good use, they treat it as just background mesh.

San Andreas is the best example on mission structure for 'sandbox city' type games.

Hopefully the game does well enough for a Mafia III... which would be bliss if it were to have co-op... :)
Posted 08:40am 21/10/10
ive grabbed the dlc now, will see how that goes

i personally really enjoy just driving around the city, the way the different cars handle, im loving finding new cars and seeing how they go

and just generally exploring how big the city is
Posted 07:44pm 23/11/10
Joe's Adventures is out now, for $12.99US. Download is approx 1.4gb. This might redeem some upset from the community or fuel it with this DLC in terms of content.
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