GSY REVIEW | X360, PS3, PC Sunday, September 5, 2010 | 4:00 PM

Gamersyde Review: Mafia 2

Gamersyde Review: Mafia 2

Mafia 2 was launched about a week ago, and it hit the stores without earning the unanimous support of the specialist press. Ever divergent opinions accrued on the Internet to the great displeasure of slightly unsettled forum members. But we are not pretending to offer the most reliable and downright compelling review here since subjectivity is the key word. Subjectivity is greatly defined by one’s personal expectations of this new adventure with the Mafia. In order to let you discover the game on your own – and thoroughly enjoy it – we will obviously avoid revealing anything about the storyline. In the same line of thinking, the videos will only contain a scanty amount of information on the scenario. So you can rest assured: there is nothing now to prevent you from losing yourself reading this new review.

Kudos to Balita who was very helpful by translating this article.

Now let’s root out the evil to begin with. Let’s prevent accruing criticism against one of the main choices that 2k Czech had to make. Mafia 2 was never intended to be yet-another-GTA-like experience. The developers never wanted to offer a sandbox gaming experience in which players could let their imagination run free – or wild. Now I expect you to remind me that the game unfolds in an open city. And I know this is the most distinctive attribute of a genre created by Rockstar… But my answer is: so what? Let me walk you through the attributes that differentiate Mafia 2 from the more classical open world games.

Let’s talk about the city first. It is smaller than usual, and every street and district can be accessed from the start. This spares players the experience of unconvincing tricks that prevent them from moving around freely. Next thing, in-game time is not managed in real time. It is somewhat frozen, fully depending on each chapter of the story. But is this really a huge step backwards? Not necessarily since each of the 15 chapters has been designed to convey a specific atmosphere. Similarly to a movie director who refuses to keep shooting scenes when the weather doesn’t fit their idea, the developers wanted to have full control over any atmosphere change. This enables them to enhance the setting of their story. For example a chapter may begin early in the morning, under a warm sun, and end during the night, should the plot justify it. During the night. On a rainy day. Or even on a snowy day. However, unlike GTA4 or Just Cause 2, all players will experience the storyline in the exact same conditions. The city is a set that serves a storyline, rather than a playing field dedicated to the player’s imagination.

This leads us to the main difference between Mafia 2 and other GTA-like games. Aside from the main missions, the city doesn’t offer many additional activities to enjoy, except for, well, shopping, eating or having a drink. No mini-games, no pigeons to shoot, no stunts, no smuggling goods to look for, and no street racing. Oh you may feel like looking for the 50 Playboy covers or the 159 (!!!) “wanted” posters but the developers really wanted to offer a marked adventure, and invite players to focus on progressing in the story rather than losing time with activities of questionable relevance. Players who are really into sandbox games may regret this choice but in no way does it make Mafia 2 a worse game... in my opinion. It is much wiser to consider and evaluate Mafia 2 for what it is, instead of criticizing what it could have been.

So the city should be considered as a movie set. Except this one is not exclusively made of plywood. The developers modelled Empire Bay’s districts, inhabitants and automobiles to a high level of detail and you’re likely to find yourself eager to contemplate this environment in motion, as a witness of this credible reconstruction of the 1945-1950 era. As players progress further in the storyline they will notice the city evolving forward. Winter will walk away, granting players with more merciful days. Fashion and musical trends will also undergo some changes over the years. Players are free to enjoy the scenery and go for a walk down the streets instead of heading to their next rendezvous point directly... should they feel like roaming and contemplating just for the sake of it. Identically, players are free to spend time in their apartment or house and watch the traffic and passers-by, as life goes on with or without their intervention. They will quickly want to resume to story though, making such moments on the short side, but as those just cannot be found in many other games, it is a pretty nice touch.

Now let’s talk about what Mafia 2 has to offer in terms of content and gameplay mechanics. If we were asked to make a rough outline of 2K Czech’s game, we could sum it up in two distinctive parts: vehicle driving and third person shooting. Nothing more, nothing less. However, pretending that most current games offer much more than that would be pure bad faith. Vito Scaletta’s dissolute life will require players to drive several vehicles for delivery purposes, to dispose of embarrassing parcels, evade the police or discreetly tail another car. Some may consider these moments as a waste of time. Others, like me, will consider them as another way to enhance immersion further. People are rarely enticed to comply to traffic law and speed limits in GTA 4 but things are different here. Imagine good old rock tunes playing through the speakers of your car. How could one resist enjoying the game at a slower pace? Take the time… This is yet one of these opportunities to enjoy the beauty of the environment, and admire 2K Czech’s close attention to detail. The vehicles are rather pleasant to handle in simulation mode. Handbrake slides offer a good deal of fun, especially with the faster models.

The third person shooting part offers nothing less than other games of the genre. It surely doesn’t. The cover system has been nicely designed to enable sliding down wall corners without having to move away from the walls at all – which is rarely possible in other third person shooters. Players will also enjoy the level of interaction with the environment which enhances the dynamism of the gunfights. The aim assist feature – which can be turned off – makes up for the original slowness of the crosshair – though this can be tweaked in the option menu. All in all, the gunfights are much more pleasant than in GTA IV, as they also offer convincing sound effects that enhance the excitement… and downright merciless challenge should one play at the highest difficulty level.

Vito is also ready for hand-to-hand combat through simple mechanics: one button to dodge – keeping it pressed and dodging all hits is a shame though, and two buttons to attack: quick hit and strong hit. At some point in the story Vito will be given the opportunity to learn the art of counter-attacks, which simply requires pressing the quick hit button right after a successful dodge. Moreover some well-animated finish moves bring an end to these moments of tactile pleasure. This aspect of the game appears to be quite comprehensive considering it does not pretend to be a substitute to Street Fighter. Finally, at times, Vito will be required to keep a low profile and stay out of his enemies' sight until he reaches his objective. Such stealth sequences are clearly not very challenging but then again, it brings a bit more variety to the game, which is much appreciated.

You are probably already familiar with the visual aspect of Mafia 2 thanks to the videos embedded in our article. But time has come to evaluate it from a technical point of view. The execution quality of 2K Czech’s game depends on the version you own. The PC version offers an (almost) 100% consistent framerate, and aliasing is almost invisible even without turning anti-aliasing on. Of course, textures are also more detailed, and the very high definition offers eye-flattering visuals. Moreover, the environment has been flawlessly modelled and a high level of care has been put into the vehicles which can be deformed after shocks – though the damage system is not the best out there. Last but not least, the brilliant use of different lighting effects emphasizes various moments of the day, creating a downright gorgeous-looking game.

The console versions are naturally not quite as good. The framerate is lower and not as stable. The blurry effect in the background is a little too intrusive and tearing and aliasing are quite aggressive. However, the result is easily among the best current games, and players will have the equal opportunity to enjoy a fully immersed experience in the city which has been modelled to the same level of detail. The PS3 version though is a tad below the Xbox version on some aspects. The grass for example is a plain texture here, instead of the pleasant 3d-like effect seen on the 360 and PC versions - it should however be mentioned that a glitch can cause the grass to disappear on PC and 360, which forces you to reload the last save if you want it back. Nothing significant enough to impact the experience in a radical manner, but it had to be pointed out for owners of both systems who were not convinced by the free PS3-exclusive DLC.


Let’s end this review with the most subjective part of the article. The part in which I share with you how I enthusiastically experienced the dozen hours – 14 hours and 23 minutes exactly but I did not rush – it takes to reach the conclusion to Vito Scaletta’s adventures. I could have been picky about some things like the weak AI of the police, and find fault with some very conventional aspects of the scenario in which we end up experiencing pretty much all the – cliché – events that we may expect from a story about the Mafia. I could have remained senseless to the atmosphere conveyed by the game, its soundtrack, its rhythm and various characters. I could have blamed the linearity of the game and the lack of side activities it offers – even if looking for playboy covers is more enticing than flags or feathers... I could have found it regrettable that the sandbox aspect has been pushed aside. I could have joined that part of the press that expected more – or too much – from this sequel. Contrary to that, I never considered Mafia 2 for anything else than it really is. I did not even compare it to its 2002 older brother. The only question was: how does this game compare to its action/adventure competitors in 2010 ? As far as I’m concerned the answer is easy. provided players let themselves caught up by the story and atmosphere, they would have to be nitpicky to refuse experiencing this twist-packed Italian-American play. The game has undeniable qualities which – at least for me – cannot be overshadowed by what it may be lacking. Everything Mafia 2 is easily convinced me. I never experienced any kind of boredom from the prologue to the end of the adventure and the game even surprised me several times. This is the first very good game to hit the stores this new season… subjectively speaking of course.

Weather Changes
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Empire Bay & its people
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On foot
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All comments

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Commented on 2010-09-05 16:43:05
This game could have been a 10/10 if 2k had just added a few more things to do in the well built world. Mafia 3 in 2018 should fix this i hope.
Commented on 2010-09-05 17:01:22 In reply to tomcatobi
Posted by tomcatobi
This game could have been a 10/10 if 2k had just added a few more things to do in the well built world. Mafia 3 in 2018 should fix this i hope.
First of all: your avatar is just wrong man.

Secondly. On tuesday there will be DLC released (Jimmy's Vendetta) that will bring 30 side missions to the game for 9.99 dollars. So if you want to spend that money, there will be worth a couple of hours more to do in Empire City.
Commented on 2010-09-05 17:06:07 In reply to droezelke
Posted by droezelke
First of all: your avatar is just wrong man.

Secondly. On tuesday there will be DLC released (Jimmy's Vendetta) that will bring 30 side missions to the game for 9.99 dollars. So if you want to spend that money, there will be worth a couple of hours more to do in Empire City.
WOW they are charging for it? pathetic
Commented on 2010-09-05 17:07:48 In reply to droezelke
Posted by droezelke
First of all: your avatar is just wrong man.
I changed it until he decides to choose something proper.
Commented on 2010-09-05 18:37:05 In reply to droezelke
Posted by droezelke
First of all: your avatar is just wrong man.
OMG, carebears are disgusting beasts. kill it with fire.
Commented on 2010-09-05 18:38:38
nice rev. this game is driven by something else then sand box. linear story imo nothing wrong 8.
Commented on 2010-09-05 18:51:17 In reply to Driftwood
Posted by Driftwood
I changed it until he decides to choose something proper.
Well he changed it again for whatever reason. Wiseguy (see what I did there ;o)
Commented on 2010-09-05 18:57:16
Really like the review.

Made me interested in the game (along with the demo which I played twice). I'll try and get hold of it at some point.
Commented on 2010-09-05 18:58:58
The game is great albeit a little short. Just remember to play it on the Hard setting or it will be way too easy.
Commented on 2010-09-05 19:25:31 In reply to droezelke
Posted by droezelke
Well he changed it again for whatever reason. Wiseguy (see what I did there ;o)
I chose the bear. :p
Commented on 2010-09-05 19:40:41 In reply to Driftwood
Posted by Driftwood
I chose the bear. :p
I know, I love it, but his stupid avatar is back.
Commented on 2010-09-05 19:58:28
The game is good, but for some reason i'm not impressed with the shooting. I can't quite put my finger on it, but shooting a gun doesn't feel satisfying, not like it is in a game like RDR. I absolutely love the shooting in it, and how enemies react to being shot. I am only in chapter 5 now, but i do feel that after such a long time in development it could and should have been more. And them charging for content that should have been in the game is ridiculous.

I also saw lots and lots of very angry fans on the 2K forums, calling it a half assed game, leaving out lots of content, they also got plenty of stuff to back it up. It's quite bad really.
Commented on 2010-09-05 20:04:01 In reply to droezelke
Weird, I still can see the bear, even with ctrl F5.
Commented on 2010-09-05 20:05:18
This message is in "Boulet Time" (TM), If you still *really* want to see it, click here

Commented on 2010-09-05 20:12:13 In reply to hotkirby
Sellout? Well thanks a lot.

I liked the game a lot that's my opinion. You don't agree, you're welcome to express your opinion but please don't accuse us of being bribed. Of all the sites on the net, if there is one where you can never see that, it's us. We're a small site, we never get the games in time for reviews (when we even get them).

I completed the game in 14h in hard mode (yup I review games in hard modes), do you want me to capture a screen to prove it to you? Well here it is:

You know that playing in easy mode will obviously shorten your playthrough now do you?

BTW, I am not a professional writer and English is not even my mother tongue. This is not real my job and I don't get paid for it, whether by Gamersyde or the viscious publishers - which means I'm doing it on my spare time for free. I also happen to buy most of my games. And for the record, thanks to ign, Gametrailers and the rest, we do not get that many visitors anymore.

Your post was just plain stupid, not because you don't agree, but because you claim I know nothing about what I'm talking about. That probably tells me a bit about you when faced with a different opinion. Did I offend you? Well I'm sorry but you did it first. When I wrote this review, I decided to talk about my feelings when playing the game. You did not enjoy driving around at 40, well I did, but it must be because of the check I got from 2K.
Commented on 2010-09-05 21:09:31
I don't think we are big enough for the publishers to even think about buying our review scores. Wait. We don't even give scores. Publishers don't give a flying fuck about our reviews, I doubt most of them even know we review games. Heck, most of the publishers don't even know we exist in the first place, until we unknowingly break an embargo and then all hell breaks lose.
Anyway, considering our finances now, I wish we could sell out a bit, then maybe we'd be able to have enough money to pay for the servers in a few months... I guess closing down the site because we don't have any money left (despite no one getting paid, evr) will be proof enough that we didn't sell out for you?
Commented on 2010-09-05 21:19:53
I just cant get excited about another mafia story. I need a ten year hiatus from it before I can even be mildly curious again.

And just because something is a sequel doesn't mean you should compare the two hotkirby considering the execution between the two can be wildly different. You don't compare the Super Mario NES/SNES games to the N64/GC/Wii games. Yes, it's not that big of a leap between the two versions by Mafia 2 is an action-adventure game while the first Mafia is an open world game.
Commented on 2010-09-05 21:20:48
how can I contribute to keep this site alive?
It is the best and most honest and mature gaming site I know.
Maybe we can all help in a way? We = loyal fans.
Commented on 2010-09-05 22:24:45
I played roughly 13 hours without rushing. Fine by me. It does not reach the same level as the original did, but I did enjoy every single minute of the game. And on a side-not, I really liked Joe. That character brought the game to life and made it really funny at times.

Good game, worth its 40 euro.
Commented on 2010-09-06 00:04:18
Yeah BlimBlim and Driftwood, how can we keep the site going?

I might actually cry if this place goes.
Commented on 2010-09-06 00:18:02 In reply to BlimBlim
Posted by BlimBlim
Anyway, considering our finances now
No! I've been a visitor of this site since Xboxyde. I hope to god you won't shut my favorite game site down :(
As always, a splendid subjective review again from you guys. Listening to GT or IGNs reviews made my thoughts of this game pretty unattractive but after this review, I might take a closer look. I don't know what it is but it's easier to put myself into the reviewers words on this site than listening to GTs or any other big game sites' dull reviews.

Enough of the licking. You guys behind Gamersyde rock.
Commented on 2010-09-06 01:40:47
There's some things to like and dislike about Mafia 2. I know some critics don't like the archaic game design and empty open-world, but I don't really agree with them. Mafia 2 isn't really an open-world game anyway. I think the story is really strong and I just want to keep on playing to see what happens next. It's not terribly glitchy either and it looks pretty nice.

What I don't like about it, are many of the ideas outside the main game. What's the point of money again? You don't need to buy guns, because you get all kinds of guns on missions and they take away all your guns now and then from story missions so you have to start all over again. Doing anything with your car is a waste of money, since the coppers are slow as hell and I never seem to get my car wanted anyway, so why the whole thing about changing plates? Lockpicking a car is pointless because nobody will bother if you smash a window and just take it. Speaking of which, why have a store that sells lockpicks? Do you run out? I've used the lockpicks 30 times and haven't run out yet. Why have gas stations? If I run out of fuel I can just grab another car. Why use a hybrid health system where just a small part can be replenished by food, and the other half is regenerative health? Telephones? Useful for anything?

There's just so much of this stuff that doesn't really make any sense to have in the game. I guess they wanted to make it more realistic or immersive, like you're living the daily life of this character with all the tedious driving to A and B to get to story missions. But the game is super-linear. It's like the game can't really decide if it wants to be a simulator or a straight-up action game.

I thought the game was ok, but I kind of wished for more after so many years since the first game.
Commented on 2010-09-06 02:26:44
Well, i for one apreciate Gamersyde alot. Always nice content and indeed honest and to the point reviews. I'd hate to see this site going. I do have to say GT is indeed very good for videos but IGN? Sigh...i barely visit there anymore. Their whole new look is horrible and just simply no fun to even check stuff out there.
Commented on 2010-09-06 07:56:20
well my apologies for thinking you where payed for this review.
but i never said i dont agree with your opinion i just found it weird you dident really pointed out the bad things of the game.

and i work hard for my money ,and games do cost allot (60 euros).
thats 1 week of grocery's i can life of.
so if i buy a game 60 because i read its almost perfect(from i site in trust),and it aint.
thats just a waste of hard earned money.

but sorry for my harsh and rude post above.
PS:if you guys really need to shut down, hold a donation(via paypall^^) many people here(and myself)would glady help.
Commented on 2010-09-06 09:45:19 In reply to hotkirby
All the professional reviews pointed out the game's flaws and to me, they truly did not matter. So why would I talk about them? I'm not saying the game is perfect, simply that I had a great time with it and that's all that counts. I think the game was unfairly bashed by the press, because people were expecting something it was never intended to be but then again, that's just my opinion and everyone can disagree.

From a technical standpoint, I mention the fact that the console versions have to deal with some issues so don't say I say nothing about the "bad" things. Such a concern for technical prowess may be important to some players but the framerate/aliasing issues still did not kill the game for me (and I first completed the game on PC so I could have been more demanding when playing the 360 version afterwards - yes I had to play it twice in order to get you some video footage).

This review is just a summary of how I felt during my playthrough, hence all the subjectivity here. I'm afraid I just loved every little thing (except maybe the ending, because they should have shown more so people don't believe it will be released as DLC in the future). Why would I write negative things just for the sake of it then? All the reviews I have ever written, I have tried to be as objective as possible, but this time, I simply wanted to talk like a satisfied player. This is clearly my kind of game but I perfectly understand it can't be everyone's.

Apologies accepted, but what you said before really was something I did not expect to ever read here. As for the donation stuff, I don't think it's doable, Blim tried once and he ended up having some problems because of some dude who used it as a way to do illegal transactions or something. Not quite sure about how it went, but it definitely stopped the paypal system here. :(
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