RETRO – Ever wanted to be the hero of a classic gangster movie like the Godfather or Goodfellas? Always had secret dreams that involved unloading a Tommy gun into the guts of policemen or other gangsters? Or have you often imagined yourself leading the underground as the Don of a criminal organization? We’ll make you an offer, you can’t refuse…
“Live fast, die young, and leave a good looking corpse” – the famous phrase once uttered by actor John Derek could be the motto of Vito Scaletta in Mafia II as well. The young gangster is up for every mission, which could eventually lead to his untimely demise. The shadow of the death or at least many years in prison is always lurking behind the hero of Mafia II…
Have a seat and grab some coke and popcorn
This film noir ambience is reinforced by the fact that we actually care about the fate of Vito Scaletta. Not only is he a sympathetic hero, but also the cinematic aspect of the game is very professional. From the opening sequences to the very end of the game it’s clear that Mafia II is more about delivering us a cinematic experience than say the first episode or even any Grand Theft Auto game for that matter.
There are tons of cut scenes in the game, and many of them are similar to the acting and storyboards of Martin Scorsese’s gangster classics, like Goodfellas or Casino. The entire story is told by Vito Scaletta himself and in the same manner as Ray Liotta spoke about the events of Goodfellas. The missions are also different from the usual “go there, kill that, collect that” formula. There are some really surprising tasks, where we have to dig up corpses, or sell stolen cigarettes, or do other things that rather belong to a classic gangster movie than a free-roam action game. Fortunately, this movie is excellent – so much in fact, even Martin Scorsese would vouch for it.
Ah, those affordable fifties!
Cinematic feeling aside, Mafia II is of course very similar to the Grand Theft Auto games, the major difference is the era represented, and boy, the 1950s look absolutely awesome in this game! Every building, street, poster, clothes, and radio song makes you feel like you’re in the US of that era. The detail is top-notch in the apartment Vito lives as well: there are colourful coffee boxes and an old school fridge in the kitchen, boxes of laundry detergent lying in the bathroom.
In the streets, there are gigantic advertisements of retro radio stations and giant neon signs light up the old city streets by night. The clothes people wear are authentic as well, and of course, the cars that we’re constantly stealing also reflect the automobiles of the 1950s. Speaking of cars: the 2K Czech didn’t miss the opportunity to make beautiful old school cars, as the makers of Godfather missed it.
The models are absolutely gorgeous and you can’t resist stealing one just for the thrill of driving. Of course, for all this, you need a robust graphics engine and with the latest technology implemented.
Just follow my orders
Ok, so the game looks fantastic, but what about the gameplay? If we compare Mafia II to Grand Theft Auto IV, the gameplay is noticeably more linear than in Rockstar’s classic. While in GTA IV and other GTA games you always had the opportunity to choose between different mob leaders, here Vito is always told what to do and where to go.
The variety is rather in the missions themselves: instead of the usual “go there, kill this, rob that,” we must take part in a variety of gangster activities, like selling illegal gas stamps to gas-station owners, or selling stolen cigarette packs, and even funnier or more unusual ones. Since the beginning of the game Vito is low-ranked gangster, sometimes he’ll have to take on some humiliating tasks, and it’ll take him a while before climbing up the food chain. All this brings realism into the game, which is a keyword for the whole Mafia experience. While in Grand Theft Auto games the police only punished for the craziest of actions, here you must take care not to hit other cars or pedestrians, and you should even be careful flashing your gun in public, otherwise, the police will be right behind you.
Machine Gun Kelly
Speaking of firearms: the combat in Mafia II is not only very cinematic, bloody and realistic, but it’s also extremely fun. The cover system is pretty good even if it’s not as precise as in GTA IV. The weapons are a joy to use: they all behave and sound true from the Magnum that Clint Eastwood used to the Tommy guns of Dick Tracy. Since Vito is a gang member, he fights rarely alone, and just watching the furious gunfights between his allies and the enemy makes you feel that you’re taking part in a cinematic gunfight, not just leading the hero of a computer game.
The only aspect of the game which is less realistic than Grand Theft Auto IV is the behaviour of the citizens of Empire Bay. Usually, they only walk away in the streets, sometimes they read the newspaper or make some other typical actions, but the overall feeling of the city and its citizens feels less lifelike than in Rockstar’s Liberty City.
Crime does pay
With all its little shortcomings and design fault, which could be nitpicked, Mafia II is still an impressive gangster game, with gorgeous graphics, an excellent story, and cool fighting sequences. It’s arguably not the cult classic Grand Theft Auto achieved to be, but if you want to take part in a cool story-driven gangster game, you won’t be disappointed.