Mafia II fails to fully deliver on its immense promise
- Empire Bay is a fantastic embodiment of the 1940s/50s, really sharp cinematography and mostly solid voice acting, well-built experience with a handful of notable moments
- Most exciting moments in game are seen and not played, superficial narrative fails to explore briefly mentioned themes, streamlined campaign lacks side missions or exploration
With a beautiful and interesting setting, a likeable cast of characters and a decent dose of action, Mafia II had the potential to add a new and exciting layer to the established myth of the American mobster. But even though it offers some worthwhile moments, it unfortunately squanders most of its vast potential on a heavily scripted experience that doesn't take full advantage of the compelling world around it.
Price$ 109.95 (AUD)
Mafia II hits all the bullet points you'd expect from a modern action escapade. It's set in a fantastic city called Empire Bay, a lively metropolis influenced by New York City and San Francisco; it features some of the best cinematography I've seen in a game; it perfectly captures the spirit of its era--the 1940s and 50s--through smart use of imagery and music; and it has more than its fair share of violence and about as much salty language as you can reasonably fit within a twelve hour campaign.
But while Mafia II offers up a polished and well-constructed package, it never fully delivers on its immense promise, as the linear adventure and superficial storyline fail to give any real weight to the actions and emotions of its antiheroes, or even dig very deeply into the mobster mythos. It's a pleasant and finely crafted experience, but the only emotion it was ultimately able to instil in me was ambivalence, both towards the events I took part in and the characters I met.
2K Czech has done an impressive job of building a world with a sense of life, and Empire City shines throughout the multi-decade affair, with period-era imagery and a fantastic array of licensed songs like "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition" and "In the Still of the Night" further increasing the level of immersion. Unfortunately, Mafia II's complete lack of side missions and extra activities makes the polish and grandeur of Empire Bay feel like a missed opportunity.
The game is laser-focused on its 15 campaign chapters, with each task directly related to the next until your adventure is complete; as such, you're never given a great chance to fully explore the bustling city's wonderfully distinct neighbourhoods. It's such a compelling and well-built world, yet cruising around yields no discernible benefits or consequences. Even police chases--a riotous and entertaining staple of Grand Theft Auto and other games of this ilk--aren't worth the effort here. Cops will shrug you off in a heartbeat if you disappear from view, and you can often just drive to a secluded area and introduce them to your shotgun without the fear of retribution from police back up.
Most of Mafia II's memorable moments come from the cinematics and not the actual missions, which consistently lack exciting gameplay opportunities. Cover-based gunfights dominate much of the action, with occasional stealth segments, but the action feels very rote and familiar, and doesn't stack up to the combat found in other titles. You'll also be forced into fistfights at various points, but the stiff and simplistic controls feel underdeveloped, making these encounters feel like a chore. And though the game is loaded with era-appropriate vehicles (including boat-like cars and sweet little coupes) that can be customised and stored, Mafia II only features a handful of chase sequences.
The storyline and character development never lives up to its end of the bargain, either. Main protagonist Vito Scaletta is a man haunted by his past, the regrets of his fallen father, and the struggles of one's loyalty to his birth family and criminal organisation, but all too often, these potentially fascinating threads are left undeveloped, lingering in your thoughts only for a brief moment like superficial bits of window dressing.
I don't expect every mob portrayal to have the weight and depth of character of The Godfather or The Sopranos, but Vito's familiar tale of greed, betrayal, and tragedy neither makes you feel remarkably powerful nor offers any particularly important insights. Every revelation is a fleeting thought, quickly drowned out by gunfire and expletives. Even the ending lands with a thud, capping off twelve unsatisfying hours spent vainly hoping that the next chapter would ignite something in the middling tale. This is especially disappointing considering the stellar cinematography and solid voice work present throughout.
That's a common theme with Mafia II: it's competent and occasionally strong in nearly every area, but it never lives up to its full potential. The immense allure of Empire Bay and its trappings help make up for Mafia II's missteps, but the game fails to add anything meaningful to both the mobster mythos and the genre as a whole.
Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!
Linksys AC5400 MU-MIMO Gigabit router
Samsung portable 1TB T3 drive
UE Boom 2 Bluetooth speaker
Epson EcoTank Expression ET-2500
Epson WorkForce ET-4550
Smart LED Bulb LB130
Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive
Everki ContemPRO Roll Top Laptop Backpack
Epson WorkForce DS-360W
Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive
3SIXT Ultra HD Sports Action Camera
Acer Swift 7
Belkin MIXIT Metallic Lightning to USB Cable
Huawei Mate 9
Google Daydream VR headset
Logitech G403 Prodigy mouse
Lexar® Portable SSD
Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive
Blade 28 backpack by Arc’teryx
HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450
Garmin Fenix Chronos smartwatch
Surface Pro 4
Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones
HP Pavilion x360 13”
Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards
Dell Inspiron 5000 series 2-in-1
Dell XPS 13 laptop
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 Star Wars Death Star Bluetooth levitating rotating speaker review
- 2 Finally! LG OLED TV 2016 range review
- 3 Fetch TV Mighty review: Better than Foxtel
- 4 Fetch TV Mini review: Make your TV a smart TV
- 5 Panasonic Viera DX900U UHD 4K smart TV review
Latest News Articles
- You can download Nintendo's Fire Emblem Heroes for iOS and Android today
- Nintendo's Fire Emblem Heroes looks sharp, but will it survive the freemium transition?
- Nintendo's bringing Super Mario Run to Android in March, but Fire Emblem's coming first
- The Switch is a mix of Nintendo's past consoles
- Dead Rising 4 impressions: 'Tis the season to BBQ zombies with your flaming sword
PCW Evaluation Team
I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.
Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!
For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.
First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.
For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.
- Horizon Zero Dawn review
- How to quit Pokemon Go (or to start enjoying it again)
- Japan's pop culture, anime-friendly, J-Pop shrine, Kanda Myojin
- Which flagship TV is best? Sony 4K HDR Bravia 2016 versus LG 4K HDR OLED 2016
- 10 Blu-ray movies / Best looking Blu-ray movies
- CCTechnical Consultant - ITSM/HP Service ManagerVIC
- TPSenior Project CoordinatorNSW
- CCProject / Portfolio SchedulerNSW
- FTService Desk Analyst / Security EngineerQLD
- CCPMO Analyst - Financial ServicesNSW
- FTOracle Forms PL/SQL Analyst ProgrammerQLD
- FTLevel 3 EngineerNSW
- CCSystems Engineer (Systems Architect/Designer)VIC
- FTIT Information Security AdvisorNSW
- FTSolution Architect l MS Exchange, O365NSW
- FTStorage Solution ArchitectVIC
- CCBusiness Test Lead - BRT/UATNSW
- FTChief Architect - Public SectorACT
- CCMarketing SpecialistNSW
- TPLead Change Manager - ERPVIC
- CCApplication Solution Designer (Automation) - Finance - Contract - Sydney CBDNSW
- CCSystems Engineer (Infra)NSW
- FTSenior Web DeveloperNSW
- CCSenior Project Manager - Regulatory/Compliance - BankingNSW
- FTSenior IT Business Analyst - Permanent OpportunityNSW
- TPGIS Developer - 6 month ContractQLD
- FTSupport and Operations Team LeadNSW
- FTSenior Business Project ManagerNSW
- CCProject Manager - Adelaide basedNSW
- FTSenior Software Engineer x 2 - Adelaide Based (PV, NV2 or NV1 required)QLD