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Mafia II PS3 Review

I’ve been anticipating this game since I stumbled upon the website from 2K’s main page while looking for information on BioShock Infinite. I was surprised I hadn’t heard about it before, but I guess my agonizing waiting of L.A. Noire, and Rockstar’s little to no information about it made me pursue other games. It seems to be GTA 1950 with similar missions, cars and weapons in a huge open world, which looks pretty much exactly like Liberty City, except it’s not.

The city is Empire Bay, not related to the Empire City which had the crap kicked out of by a terrorist bomb and a dude who shoots lightning out of his hands in InFamous, and it looks exactly like New York City, even though the Czech dudes who produced the game said that Empire Bay was based off multiple cities in the United States, but mostly New York. Just in the trailer, you can see the Chrysler Building, Empire State Building and Brooklyn Bridge. All that was missing was the Statue of Liberty in the Empire Bay harbor.

However, it’s hardly open world. Sure, there’s a little free roam, but no side missions or random characters to meet make driving around Empire Bay boring after a very short while. So, already, 2K has swiped two things from two separate, excellent sandbox games, and then I find out my character’s name is Vito. “As in Vito Corleone?” I ask the game. No, Vito Scaletta. There are literally 12 billion Italian names to choose from, why did 2K Czech have to choose Vito? Vito is as synonymous with The Godfather books, movies and (terrible) video games as Somalia is synonymous with warlords.

Another correlation between The Godfather and Mafia II is that Scaletta has just been discharged from the US Military, just like Michael Corleone from The Godfather. The game starts by having you walk down the snowy streets of Empire Bay. Because I had been anticipating the game for so long, I was willing to forgive those two terrible ‘references’ and continue with the game. The worst part is, they have disgraced the Godfather, the Goodfellas, and other mafia movies. The game feels like, as another review put it, ‘like your watching scenes from 100 pretty OK mafia movies’.

Going into the game, I didn’t know what too expect. 2K has been very fickle with me, as I’ve hated almost all of their sports games, especially NHL 2K9, MLB 2K5, and the absolutely horrendous MLB Front Office Manager, which is a shame to all MLB video games and sports management sims alike, and should go down as one of the worst video games of all time; while I’ve loved both BioShocks. I guess judging a game based off it’s production company isn’t good, but who cares, people seem to do it with EA all the time.

Fortunately, it was good. Not the best sandbox I’ve played (Red Dead Redemption will likely hold that spot until Agent or LA Noire comes out.). The strange thing is, it’s about as much of a sandbox as Alan Wake was. You constantly have an objective, but how you get there is entirely up to you. After you’ve finished the objective, you’re free to roam around Empire Bay as much as you like, but don’t expect any side missions to show up, as most side missions or random encounters are scripted into your objective, and once you’ve finished that objective, you’re done with stuff to do, other than eating, tricking out your car, or buying new outfits.

Also, don’t expect to go on a GTA-esque rampages, as the traffic laws that are so fondly remembered from the original Mafia are back in effect in Mafia II, albeit more lax. But, if you speed or run a red light, the Empire Bay Police Department will be all over you. Also, any assault of Empire Bay’s fine citizenry will result in the EBPD coming down hard on Vito. Even so much of exposing a gun in Empire Bay will result in a cop attempting to arrest you. So, Empire Bay is much more anti-gun in the 1940s and 1950s than Liberty City is in 2008.

The previous game, Mafia: City of Lost Heaven, was released way back in 2002, and was acclaimed on the PC, but the XBox and PlayStation 2 versions were considered much worse. According to Mafia’s devoted fanbase, City of Lost Heaven is the greatest and most underrated game in the history of video gaming. Okay, so it’s no different than my Red Dead Redemption fanboyhood, (a group which I proudly belong too) but as a person who’s two computers are so terrible that the only software I install on them is the least expensive anti-virus software…I’m getting off track. What I’m trying to say is that I’ve never played the Mafia, so I don’t know all the blatant fanboyhood that is gracing the comment pages for any review website that failed to give Mafia II a 90 or above.

Amazingly, the cars in Mafia II handle worse than the cars in Grand Theft Auto IV. They feel like boats from GTA IV. Seriously. The driving is easily the worst part of the game. Drive a long, long, long way to the mission location in a car that feels like a boat, shoot some people, get in the car and drive a long, long, long way back to your house, and go to sleep. Then advance to the next long, long, long cutscene.

The cutscenes are easily the most enjoyable part of the game. And the lip syncing looks terrible. The people look like corpses, almost. The voice acting is solid, and the story is pretty good. The shooting is pretty good, too. But it’s nothing you haven’t done before. 1) Hide behind cover, 2) wait for a chance to pop out and shoot, 3) shoot, 4) repeat.

The graphics also got shafted on the PS3. The Xbox 360 and PC versions have realistic grass, and blood pooling, while the PS3 has neither. I know it sounds like I’m nit picking here, but the 360 version is clearly better than the PS3 version

The one potential redeeming factor is that the PS3 gets an exclusive mission pack, “The Betrayal of Jimmy”. It gives you around 20 more missions where you play as Jimmy instead of Vito. But it’s hardly worth it.

Overall, I give Mafia II a 65 out of 100. It shines in some places, but in others, it falls flat on it’s face. At most, give this a rent. Don’t spend 60 dollars for a short story with long, long, long tedious driving. If you must get this game, get it on the 360 or PC.

This review is based on a retail copy of the PS3 version of Mafia II provided by 2K Games.