Another slice of Mob life
In these heady days of sprawling non-linear adventures, endless choices and epic game worlds, its hard to step back to a game where youre herded down a narrow, predefined route. And while Mafia II is brimming with complex storytelling, Hollywood-quality production values and sublime voice acting, its tainted with a nagging sense of regret that you cant stray too far from the beaten path and make your own fun.
On the surface, Mafia IIs beautifully-realised Empire Bay is a sprawling playground for violence like the cities in Grand Theft Auto, where you can steal cars, abuse pedestrians and tease cops to your hearts content. But while there are a handful of opportunities to explore the city and collect nudey Playboy mags, the vast majority of the adventure sees you working your way through missions designed to drive the story forwards, robbing Mafia II of the delirious sense of freedom you get from exploring GTAs living, breathing cities, and hurling players into a urban sprawl that only exists to play host to their one-man crimewave.
On the upside, the missions in Mafia II are slick and satisfying, assaulting you with dramatic shootouts, daring stealth sequences and visceral fistfights that capture the dubious thrills of running with the Mob. And while these tasks could be criticised for being formulaic in the crowded crime genre, the myriad movies that punctuate the action weave a deep and believable plot that will delight fans of gangster movies, brought to life by evocative music, sickening violence and period detail that makes the story feel deeply convincing.
Stiff animation, tedious long drives at the end of some missions and shooting that becomes repetitive as the game nears its end mean Mafia II doesnt scale the dizzy heights achieved by other open-world crime capers, but this is still a fun romp for obsessive fans of the Godfather trilogy.