The Latest

Family Ties- Mafia II Review

Much like the armed forces, it would seem that life in the mob is dictated by rigid protocol. Beyond a unmistakable hierarchy and expectation of self-discipline, both agencies are governed by an inflexible code of rules- like when lethal force can be applied. With such an unyielding structure, it seems unlikely that games which center on organized crime would allow vocational flexibility. Yet, that’s precisely the type of diversion offered by syndicate-themed titles such as Grand Theft Auto 4, Yukuza 3, and the Godfather series.

Despite the game’s open-world setting, Mafia II presents players with a decidedly linear storyline. Although the game’s fifteen missions task players with driving across the game’s urban sprawl, there’s a surprisingly small amount of extra-curricular activity to be found, save for the purchase of a dapper trench coat or the upgrade of a stylish sedan. Gamers expecting a sandbox which can accommodate their aspirations of becoming a family don might be disappointed. Mafia II‘s devotion to plot restricts the scope of the game- you’ll be regulated to a middle-management position throughout the title’s trajectory.  However, this dedication to a central narrative also means players are rewarded with rich characterizations and an opulent cinematic enticement absent from many open-world titles.


The crew express their displeasure when the diner runs out of cannoli.


Arguably, Mafia II presents players with one of the most skillful mise-en-scene since The Saboteur‘s Parisian playground. Early in the game, players steer through the snowy boulevards of Empire Bay, a stand-in for New York City in the mid 1940’s, complete with lofty skyscrapers and a sweeping suspension bridge. On the in-game radio, Dinah Shore and Dean Martin croon, sporadically interrupted by news reports from the European theatre. As time passes, the snow surrenders to Spring, and players are jettisoned into the 50’s, where rock and roll riffs fill the air, cars drop their excess steel, and fashion evolves realistically. On some of the more brutal missions, the skies swell with ominous storm clouds, evoking a somber tone to foreshadow the imminent bloodshed.

Although driving seems to take up an inappropriate amount of protagonist’sVito Scaletta waking hours, his exploits also include a robust amount of third-person shootouts, fisticuffs, and the occasional stealth-based heist. Of these three illicit activities, ballistic exchanges are the most gratifying, due to a largely competent cover system and brawny arsenal. Unfortunately, Mafia II‘s fights are both simplistic and repetitive; players will likely find themselves dispatching successions of foes in similar ways. Although the game does present a three button system with a smattering of combos, brawls are never as gratifying as Yakuza 3‘s fisticuffs. Although Mafia II’s clandestine segments deliver a modicum of tension, they seem underdeveloped due to the game’s simple  mechanics. Like so many other action titles, Mafia II‘s stealth engines seem shoehorned in just to add a bit of diversity to the game.


“They’re not gonna catch us. We’re on a mission from God.”


While some might find that the title’s narrative borrows a bit too freely from the Coppola/Scorsese Cosa Nostra canon, I would myself enjoying the cinematic references. Unlike the cascade of characters thrown at players in most open-world games, Mafia II‘s cast is gradually introduced and are allowed to develop- as such, characters are undeniably intriguing.  Part of this charm emanates from the game’s convincing voice acting, the other from the construction of Scaletta’s character. Having the protagonist move from the dangers of combat in war-torn Sicily to an equally dangerous domestic setting could have been a clichéd concept. Here, the battle experience of the main character helps forge a sympathetic anti-hero, even when Scaletta is committing some heinous acts.

2K Czech’s decision to abandon the fashionable open world, emergent gameplay motif is certainly commendable. It’s hard not to admire a developer who forgoes the near-requisite multiplayer competition and supplementary material to focus on a well-crafted single player game. Yet, beyond Mafia II‘s deftly developed characters and settings, many of the game’s other components feel uninspired. Ultimately, Empire Bay and a handful of its maligned inhabitants are worthy of a rental, but only diehard fans of the genre will want to commit themselves to the brotherhood.


“You’re never heard of Jill Valentine? She’s the MASTER of lockpicking!”

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert 'DesertEagle' Allen is Tech-Gaming's resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.

56 comments

  1. I knew from the demo this was going to be just OK.

  2. AN OFFER I MIGHT JUST HAVE TO REFUSE.

  3. I hear it runs a bit better on PC than on console. Ill get it eventually.

  4. most sites are saying the PS3 version has the edge with the DLC. Wil it come out for 360?

  5. fair review. I played through the first 7 mission last night.

  6. There’s a billboard by my house. One of my buddies thought it was a movie.

    Hopefully, the game’s storyline will rival a movie. Enough so that the game might interest him.

  7. Is the framerate demo than the demo?

  8. I see what you did there.

  9. bottom line its got to be better than Godfather 2.

  10. the military is like the mob? You’re crazy. They pay way more in the mob! HAHAHA.

    Great review, deagle.

  11. “emergent gameplay”

    Oh gawd, you went all Garnett on us, didn’t ya?

  12. this will fall from the $60 point quickly.

  13. Thats more Ngai honestly. Just means you create your own things to do in the game.

    Some thing is lazy developers, other say it gives freedom to players.

  14. I plan on renting this one. I heard it a quick game, over in 6-7 hours.

  15. yeah, EA really disappointed me with that one. Youd think with all the money spent on the license, they’d make sure the game was rock solid.

  16. Roscoe Pepperspray

    I’ll have to wait for this to drop. Reviews on this one have been mixed.

  17. nice captions!

  18. My problem with these games is controlling a sociopath, who kill hundreds of people. I didn’t like Niko, or my Saints Row character, and I’m sure I won’t like Vito.

  19. is Alex P. keaton a unlockable character?

    (crickets)

  20. Game Informer gave this a 9/10 and Castlevania a 8.5/10. Man, those guys really inflate some scores.

  21. Shopping Samurai

    I now I noticed that Metacritic tracks this now. I saw GI had a “64% higher than the average critic” rating.

    I’m really surprised they aren’t assaulted for that more often. With their ties to Gamestop, it makes it look like they are just pushing games.

  22. If were going to talk review scores let’s talk Jim Sterling.

    Deadly Premonition – 10/10
    Alpha Prototypical- 2/10
    Kane & Lynch 2- 1/10
    Assassin’s Creed 2- 4/10

    Why is this hack still reviewing? For that matter, why is Dtoid still around? If you’re not a 10 year old troll I’d say the site has almost no credibility anymore.

  23. Ok, I bought this yesterday, and I’m playing but I’m just not enjoying myself, like I (think) I should be.

    It’s all well-told, like the review said, but it just fells forced. I think the linear style really hurts the game.

  24. Thanks for reviewing this. I really liked your point about the single player experience at the end.

    I’d love to play another BioShock (the first one), or Fallout.

  25. really? Harping on Jim Sterling is like making fun of the kids on the short bus. It’s beneath you. He’s a perfect vehicle for the (godawful) site, someone who constantly begs for attention. Real gamers don’t take his views seriously, and if he didn’t have a funny accent, no one would listen to him either. I guess the same could be said for Yatzee for that matter.

  26. I swear, I’ve seen Deagle use that lockpicking joke before.

  27. this was mentioned by Shipwreck recently- Sterling ‘rewards’ or ‘punishes’ games with his review score.

    That’s why I rate him as a negative 5 😉

  28. whats the point of having a really fancy city, if there’s nothing to do in it?!?

  29. are you crazy? This is so much better than Red Dead Redemption its not even funny? That game you kill the same three dudes on horseback a hundred times. riding a horse is never good. but that game gets a A rating and this gets a C? Your full of it.

  30. Can’t wait for this game to ship from Amazon! Grr.

  31. Dude, I totally like the military comparison. All I want to do in Mafia 2 is have fun, but the game orders me to drive all the damn time, do this and kill that. I feel like I just paid $60 to enlist.

  32. really you like the script deagle? racist parts and all? Killing the African-Americans in car stealing mission took me out of the game.

  33. After reading this review I am a little bit disappointed. I used to play the original on PC for hours.

  34. screw side missions. I get tired of driving around looking for orbs, manuscript pages, gold, and fuckall. I’m tired of being everybody’s slave. From now on, I’m yelling “Do it your goddamn self” at my TV.

    I feel better now.

  35. JessicaSimpsonisHavingmyBaby

    I picked up the game last night. The game has C+ written all over it. I couldn’t agree more. Rent don’t buy people.

  36. Maybe it’s me, but I don’t like how the characters move indoors. Also, I keep getting hit when I’m in cover.

  37. you guys should have done a two person review on this one. This seems to be getting controversial. IGN is filled with hate for Miller’s review, which seemed pretty decent.

  38. thanks for the review, desert.

  39. another connection- you have to clean urinals in Mafia 2.

  40. those graphix look sick!

  41. I probably have, and I reserve the right to keep using it 😉

  42. Racism was prevalent in the 1940’s, and I don’t see much harm in the game conveying that. I’d be much more bothered if they didn’t address the issue.

  43. I like the Blue Brothers reference, even if no one else got it.

  44. what game doesn’t address racism? What do you mean, they don’t put minorities in a game?

  45. looks like a great game

  46. It should be arriving today.

  47. This game seems good even though I’ve never played the first.

  48. really skip the first one, especially for consoles. move right into this one.

  49. good review. thanks.

  50. I am not sure if this will eclipse the first Godfather game for me (I actually enjoyed that game) but I’m looking forward to playing the demo to get a feel.

  51. I think most people agree the first game was solid, but the second one was lacking. From what I’ve heard they won’t be making any more 🙁

  52. I’m sure I’ll get this one eventually.

  53. No surprise Deagle likes Yak3 more. He’s just another Japanabe!

  54. Wow, that’s crazy.

  55. Never heard that term, is that like Otaku?

  56. Good review. I enjoyed the game as well but felt disappointed I was unable to interact sandbox style to make the gameplay feel less repetitive.