I just read the review of Mafia 2 over on Eurogamer and it honestly kinda pissed me off. It’s not so much that they gave it 4/10. I don’t give a rats ass about numerical ratings. But the points of critique they brought up, those I care about. They essentially say Mafia 2 is not GTA, and therefore it’s a bad game. This is ridiculous and very very sad that they as a reputable and professional game reviews site get down to such shallow measures. Well they didn’t actually compare it to GTA that much, but they whine about there not being much to do in the open world environment. They criticize the missions as simplistic and repetitive, the in-game radar is complained about and some of the level design and a bunch of other nitpicking. Read it yourself if you like, I want to keep my article free of links to dumb articles like that. The only valid point of critique (in my eyes) is them saying they didn’t like the plot of Mafia 2. They say Vito Scaletta is a character without depth that does as he is told (which I don’t think to be true, he has several moments of inobedience), and that the other characters are all clichee. If they don’t like that aspect, okay, I can live with that.
**Warning! Heavy Spoilers!**
I personally very much enjoyed the plot. I’m not very knowledgeable in mob lore, but I’ve seen some of the big movies such as Godfather, Goodfellas or Scarface. I found that 2K Czech did a fantastic job with the cinematic feel of the dialog and cutscenes, the prison intro in particular made me grin, since it took obvious “inspiration” from The Shawshank Redemption. What many reviewers like the one on Eurogamer seem to not fucking notice is that Mafia 2 doesn’t want to be GTA. The whole city is just background props, and the game never tries to pretend otherwise. Sure there are clothings stores, and like 2 ways to make some cash, but that stuff isn’t worth spending too much time with. Because it isn’t designed to distract from the main aspect, which are the missions. Now the missions are essentially your typical driving missions, shoot-outs and one or two sneaking missions. The shooting missions are of the cover shooter type, and done really well I would say. I don’t see how Eurogamer could even whine about them. Many of the level designs in the missions are fantastic and make for awesome scenery. Fist-fighting is thrown in sometimes to lighten things up a bit, and it’s welcome. Yes, the fist-fighting itself is actually simplistic and not a real challenge, I give Eurogamer that. But again, it isn’t designed to be. If I were to play all those missions while skipping all the cutscenes, and therefore not experiencing the story at all, it’d be a bunch of normal action sequences and so amazing at all.
You see, the story in Mafia 2, much more than so many other games, gives the missions (and therefore the gameplay) its context and meaning. It’s not so much fun beating up a guy in an apartment without knowing who he is, or why. But having seen a cutscene with your sister crying to you how her husband beat her and cheats on her with cheap whores, it’s sooo much more “fun” to go find the bastard and beat the shit out of him in that shady apartment where he hangs out with those women. You essentially slip into the role of the violent gangster brother.
What I also loved about the game’s plot-line is that it dictates the pace of the game. The missions don’t go from easy to harder to hardest. After a particularly hard mission you might have a very simple mission, simply because the story goes like that (Joe being drunk in the bar late night, after Marty died). This is a departure from typical arcs of difficulty in games, and gives the story even more weight. You have your big exciting heist missions that seem taken out directly from a movie, and small ones, that focus on a much more personal level of the characters.
It was great to actually feel emotionally immersed into a game for a change. When Henry is brutally butchered, I felt just as shocked as Joe and Vito. When Vito accidentally hired Henry to take out Leo Galante, who was like a father to Vito in prison, I felt like “Oh shit I gotta warn him!”, which gave the following car driving mission context and urge. And I felt genuinely relieved when Henry didn’t kill him after all. When in the end Vito practically betrays Joe after all they’d been through, I actually felt guilty and shitty inside for letting him down -especially after what happened in that planetarium.
What I’m trying to say is: if you complain about Mafia 2 because of things like a lack of time-wasting side-missions, or a police that is annoyingly doing its job (they are after you if they catch you speeding), then YOU CLEARLY DON’T GET THE GAME. Only if you can criticize the game for its plot and characters, you might have a point. I for one don’t and am real grateful to 2K Czech for making a game that has soul, a rarity these days.