Mafia II takes place towards the end of World War II and into the early 50’s as you take on the role of ex army turned Mafioso Vito Scaletta, who is trying to get his life back on track following the war, and another plot element I won’t reveal, by working his way up and subsequently through various Mafia families.
The story of Mafia II is very good, it has some good characterisation with its main character Vito and his best friend Joe that make you want to pull for them, coupled with good voice acting from nearly all involved makes for a compelling story. The only slight let down is the antagonists throughout the game tend to be a bit interchangeable, with most of them pretty much being the same character just with a different name and look. The story for me started off very well but slowed down quite considerably after the first third of the game and took a while to get back on track.
Gameplay wise the game is fun, shooting down bad guys will always be enjoyable and it is relatively easy to do hear with the typical cover system working well. The only issue I had with the combat was it could be a bit inconsistent in the sense that sometimes you could withstand a bunch of bullets and other times you would die in one hit despite having full health. This proved annoying when you thought you had a moment to sneak a shot just to be killed from one bullet. This was coupled with occasionally unforgiving checkpoints which often meant replaying large sections only to fall instantaneously seemingly at random.
The game is split into chapters each with varying length. Unlike most open world GTA-style games this one is pretty linear. Despite taking place in a seemingly free roam environment there is little option to actually roam free. Once one objective is achieved another takes its place instantly with no breather, you could just drive around taking in the sights but there is literally nothing to do in the game apart from the missions at hand. It gives you an allusion of exploration without actually allowing or enticing you to do so.
The graphics are pretty good for a PS3 era game. Character models are solid and I particularly enjoyed the finger nail renders (often in games fingernails are the seemingly tricky to get right of this era). The environment itself is solid but isn’t as graphically sound as some other games of the era, maybe because of the size of the open world. I did enjoy the winter/snow/Christmas theme at the start of the game which was a nice change of pace compared to other open world games.
Mafia II is a good game. I came to it after playing its sequel Mafia III (which I think is sorely underated) and it never hit quite the right spots for me the way its sequel does. Its main characters are strong as is the story for the most part but the linear open world aspect is seemingly contradictory and unreasonable combat situations let it down.
+ Good albeit a bit meandering story
+ Decent graphics
– Linear open world