Review | Mafia II
Just when I thought I was out…
Format: PC/Xbox 360/PS3 | Genre: Action Adventure | Publisher: 2K Games | Developer: 2K Games | Release date: 27/08/2010 | Price: £44.99
Steve K Peacock dons his Mafioso persona with MAFIA II.
I NEED to tell you a brief personal story before I review this game. It’s relevant, trust me.
A few years before I was born, my father was working abroad in one of the many Middle Eastern countries his job seems to have him frequent. One of these jobs had him closely befriending a man who, I’ve been told time and time again, was probably a member of the Mafia. I can’t confirm this to be true, but it ranks on the more believable side of the spectrum when it comes to my parents’ stories pre-me.
I bring this up because, being a nosy bugger, I wanted to know everything about him. Oddly enough, not once was crippling sociopathy and an innate lust for violence mentioned.
Mafia 2 is one of the most disappointing games I’ve played, made all the worse by the fact that it isn’t bad. The mechanics hold up well. Shooting is especially joyful, popping out of cover to introduce a couple of mooks to the afterlife is greeted with satisfying death animations, giving the guns weight. There’s a grittiness to the shooting that, at least until the later missions, lacks that Hollywood feel. The deaths are far from graceful, people stumbling and scrabbling to cover in a manner reminiscent of the best 50’s gangster movies.
The fist fighting too is suitable for its purpose, although it is far too easy. Blocking is done by merely holding a button and waiting until the enemy stops punching, then you smash his face in until he starts blocking or falls down. Lather, rinse, repeat.
But still, these are good things. Shooting and punching is the meat of any action game, and Mafia delivers on that front. What it fails to do is present a compelling reason why any of this should be necessary.
You take up the mantel of Vito Scaletta, juvenile delinquent and supposedly reluctant henchman to the Mafia. I use the qualifier there because, despite the insistence of the plot structure, this reluctance is pretty difficult to spot.
What do you mean funny, funny how?
The game opens with Vito home on leave from the war, pleased to be back but also dreading the day his leave expires. Here we have the first of many mixed opportunities to flesh out Vito’s motivations. He mentions, all of once, that he’s a little nervous about going back to the war and dying in a hole. Joe, his best friend, instantly sorts that out with a single phone call, securing Vito’s discharge.
It’s too quick and too easy. What we could have had here was a nice moral dilemma: Vito is scared of dying in the war, but is it worth throwing his lot in with a criminal fraternity to avoid that? It was that sort of thing that got him sent out there in the first place. A mission or two where he earns his papers, nothing major, would have given that seed time to grow. Ultimately, even once discharged he has the choice to go straight, but the foundations have been laid.
As it stands, following his miraculous discharge, Vito considers going straight for all of five minutes before a loan shark starts menacing his sister. Okay, I can accept that as a legitimate reason to turn to the mob. At this stage in the game Vito is very much a family man, the entire prologue video hammers home how much he loved his mother and sister and loathed his drunken deadbeat of a father.
Vito turns to the mob and from this point on never looks back. It’s also pretty much the last you’ll see of his family in any real sense. Vito signs up as a hood and in doing so becomes a pointless sociopath. The game constantly tries to provide motivation for everything he does, trying to back up his decisions with phrases like “look at all this money! Would you rather work on the docks?” but fails to provide any gradual descent into the life. There’s no journey for Vito as a character outside of the first half hour. Once he’s made the decision to sign on he belongs to the Family. He’s not his own man, he’s a poor approximation of one, doing what he’s told and liking it while the game tries to delude us into thinking he’s not.
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