Review: Mafia II (PS3)

Title: Mafia II
Format: Blu-ray Disc
Release Date: August 24, 2010
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: 2K Czech
Price: $59.99

Mafia II tells the story of Vito Scaletta as he makes his way through the Empire City underworld. The story is told with a lot of voice over by Vito reminiscing about the events of his past.  When you’re playing the game, you’ll feel as if you’ve seen a lot of this stuff played out in movies and TV shows before but it’s all stitched together nicely and the story is really the driving force behind the game.

Somewhat surprisingly, you start out in Italy in a World War II shooter. While it’s really just a disguised tutorial level, it works well to set the tone of the game and lay some of the groundwork for the story.  Eventually you make your way back to Empire City, meet up with your childhood friend and begin your life of crime.  Gameplay-wise it’s a sandbox style game with very little sand.  The city itself is based loosely around New York, to the point that it even has the Empire State and Chrysler Buildings in the skyline.

As a sandbox style action game you do have the ability to wander the city and do whatever you want, but there’s really not a whole lot to do outside of the story missions. This isn’t Liberty City or San Andreas where weapons are just lying around on the ground. Weapons and ammo cost money and there are really very few ways to make money in the game.

Mafia II tends to force you down a path with one mission leading directly into the next as a way to push the story along. There are a few times after missions while driving back to your apartment that you can wander around but again, there’s not much to do. There are all kinds of store fronts and such, but only a handful are actually accessible and they tend to be somewhat important to the game. Causing havoc and running from the cops doesn’t really pay off like a GTA game so you’re better off just sticking to the story. You can make money outside of the mission structure but really only a couple of ways and they all tend to be more trouble than they’re worth. You only have one game save so it doesn’t encourage trying out different things with multiple saves.

The point of the game is really the story, and story is where it excels.  You won’t have much time to look at the sites as you go from mission to mission trying to earn your way up the ranks of the Empire City Mafia.  The missions feel varied and natural in their progression and each helped to tell another piece of the engaging story.  I actually found myself wanting to continue on to the next mission as soon as possible just to see what would happen next.

The PS3 version includes a download code for a free add-on called The Betrayal of Jimmy.  This puts you back into Empire City as a character much like a “Cleaner”.  It also changes up the gameplay in a big way, making it much more like a Grand Theft Auto with online leaderboards.

You’re given a task to complete in a finite amount of time.  How you go about it and how quickly you complete it will determine your score.  You can string together multipliers along the way to up your score as you try and climb the leaderboards.

It’s a neat diversion and it’ll give you more opportunities to explore the city at your leisure since you decide which missions to take and when.  It appears that 2K has several of these add-on packs lined up so the shelf life of the game will certainly be extended if this is something you’re interested in.

I don’t usually notice screen tearing and minor graphical glitches so if there’s something there, it really has to be big. The PS3 version of the game definitely has some graphical issues. I did get to see the game on a PC at the Mafia II Event in New York so I was able to compare the two.  While I didn’t expect the PS3 version to look as strong as the PC, the screen tearing is really bad in places and while draw distance is generally good, there tends to be a lot of pop in of assets like trees, textures, cars and pedestrians.

Shadowing also gets really weird in some places. At times there’s a big line across the ground like you’re in the shadow of a building but there’s nothing around you to actually cast the shadow. The character models tend to get re-used to the point that the hot red head you meet early on in the game is walking down every sidewalk everywhere in the game. I saw a number of character’s body parts inside the environment even during cut scenes at times. In general however, the cut scenes tend to look great with a really nice level of detail in the faces and backgrounds.

Despite the glitches and problems, the game does look really good overall. The cars, the clothing, the architecture and all really put you into the 40’s and 50’s. While it all tends to be a minor distraction, the strength of the story helps overcome it.

The sound in the game is generally excellent. It really gives you the feeling of being in a bustling city but with cars and crowd noises but it also works against it when bugs pop up. I ran into a pretty nasty bug late in the game that pretty much emptied out the streets. There were no pedestrians and just a random police car every now and then yet the crowd and car noises were all still present making it even more obvious that something was wrong.

The music is straight up awesome.  2K really did a great job licensing songs of the time period hitting a lot of the popular tunes along with some more obscure titles but it all fits great.  Even the music in the menu/pause screen is subtle and somewhat haunting giving an almost bittersweet vibe that fits nicely with the story.

While Mafia II has it’s share of graphical glitches and even a few bugs that locked up my PS3 twice, it’s still a solid third person action game with a great story. The inclusion of hidden Playboy magazines with real Centerfolds from the 50’s is a neat touch along with hidden Wanted posters around the city featuring the development team but they tend to be a minor distraction and no real incentive to play through the game again.  The DLC is certainly a nice addition and it provides an interesting change of pace extending the life of the game in a fun way.

If you like third person action games, this is definitely worth at least a rental, maybe even a buy, if only for the fantastic story.


Written by Josh Langford

Josh Langford

Josh has been gaming since 1977 starting with the Atari 2600.
He currently owns 26 different consoles and 6 different handhelds (all hooked up and in working condition) including all consoles from the current generation.

Josh is currently the US PR & Marketing Manager for Fountain Digital Labs and has recused himself from any involvement on PS Nation arising from posting or editing any news or reviews stemming from FDL.

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