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Mafia

Platform(s): Arcade, Game Boy Advance, GameCube, Nintendo DS, PC, PSOne, PSP, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox, Xbox 360
Genre: Action

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PS2 Review - 'Mafia'

by Hank on Feb. 25, 2004 @ 2:49 a.m. PST

Genre : Action/Strategy
Publisher: Take 2
Developer: Illusion Softworks
Release Date: January 28, 2004

Buy 'MAFIA': Xbox | PC | PlayStation 2

What is the definition of family? Webster's dictionary defines a family as a fundamental social group in society typically consisting of one or two parents and their children. This is approximately the response most people will give when they are asked what constitutes a family, but there are a select few who would take the second interpretation: two or more people who share goals and values, have long-term commitments to one another, and reside in the same dwelling place. Well it's time for you to join the family; on behalf of the Don, I welcome you to a story-driven game set in the heart of America's past.

This is a history that many try to forget, but it can never disappear from their hearts. You play as Tom, a newly-recruited Mafia member who just happened to be at the right place at the right time, or is it? So how did Tom end up in this predicament? It all started out with Tom taking a break from his job as a taxi driver when he suddenly heard a large noise around the corner. Humans all seem to have a curious nature, and Tom is no exception; hearing the crash he looks around the corner to see Sam and Paulie getting out of the wreck. Out of luck, they notice Tom and see that he drives a taxi, so they force him to be an accomplice in their escape. This triggers your first mission.

Your objective is simple: lose the tail. Actually, although it seems simple, driving cars in the game is pretty difficult. Remember these are the 1930's, so there are no super-charged cars; no, they are all classics. Not Shelby classic, but even before that era. Instead, you'll be driving cars like the Bolt Action. These are heavy and low HP cars; I can't describe how jubilant I was when I finally got a car with 50+ HP. I was jumping with joy only to get pummeled with the fact that the car still has no handles. The one thing that helps distinguish one car from another is the sound of the car. Each type of car has a distinct engine growl and horn. And you will greatly appreciate the horn since the drivers actually get out of the way, but when clearing your path, they crash into objects, which is unrealistic. If someone were to honk at me while driving and I hadn't done anything wrong, I would brake and force the car behind me to slow down. Thankfully, the computer does not employ the same logic, or else accidents would occur all over the place.

In order to keep accidents on a down low, the game has implemented several "rules," rules that every US driver has to learn before taking the DMV test. Examples include speeding limits, running traffic lights, causing accidents, and hit and runs. As the saying goes, "if a tree falls and no one hears it, does the tree really fall?" Most people will conclude that it does not, and we take that saying into account - it's not illegal unless you are caught. In your efforts to avoid being ticketed, you can lose your tail and even switch cars so they lose track of you.

However, driving is only a portion of the game; remember, you are part of the Mafia. If it were only about driving machines, you would consider yourself lucky. But in reality, the Don must keep his reputation, producing the max potential from every one of his men. Missions include mob hits, theft, collecting protection money, and many more. You must always prepare for the mission beforehand, equipping Tom with whatever weaponry is necessary. Depending on the mission requirements, the person who provides you with the weapons will give anything ranging from a bat all the way to a Thomson (the famous Tommy gun). The full list of weapons is composed of: knuckle duster, crowbar, knife, colt 1911, colt detective special, m10 revolver, pump action shotgun, Springfield, S&W M27 Magnum, Sawed-off Shotgun, Sniper Rifle, Molotov, and grenades. Each of these weapons has its own range and power. Although it isn't that noticeable in battle, in reality if people are hit by a shotgun, they are dead almost instantaneously. In Mafia, it may take two or more shots.

Game play is where Mafia fails to live up to its name. Backed by an incredibly powerful storyline set placed in the 1930's, you would expect better. The game play is just lacking in so many different aspects, and a majority of the problems are attributed to the attacking system. Controls are fairly basic - left analog to move forward, right analog to rotate the camera and aim your weapon. However, the movement of the character is not fluid; when you are running and turning, it feels like you are an inexperienced puppeteer controlling a new puppet whose stiff joints have not been oiled down. To make matters worse, Tom also runs at extremely slow speeds; it seems like he runs at my walking pace. But the puppet completely falls to the ground when it catches a glimpse of the enemy. Tom gets afraid or something of that sort and doesn't really want to battle, allowing the enemy to give him a good beating.

There are usually two forms of fighting: the up-close and personal combat and the shoot-outs. Usually one is better than the other, but in this case, they seem the same. When fighting the enemy up-close, it is hard to hit the target. You just have to hope the enemy runs into the attack and does not have the chance fight back, because once you are stuck in their attack, it takes a good amount of time to break out. I just wonder why Tom can't do the same in return; "an eye for an eye," as they would say. The same happens when in a shoot-out - aiming at an enemy is extremely hard! The right analog cursor isn't as sensitive as it should be (like SOCOM), and the auto-targeting system needs so much work. If Mafia happened to use the getaways targeting system, you wouldn't understand how happy I would be. When you hit the R2 or L2 buttons, it auto-targets to the next enemy on the left or right, but it doesn't work at all times. Furthermore, if it does work, it aims at the opponent's stomach, which means they won't go down in one hit. This makes finishing the shoot-outs a tedious task. At times, even though the cursor is over the target, it will miss. I mean, come on; if it's a clear shot and the cursor is over the enemy, they should go down. So as you can see, I really dislike the fighting system, which is a majority of the game. It takes me several tries to beat a mission properly because of the unreliable combat system.

You will especially feel this in the Omerta: Mission 10. In this mission, you have been assigned to kill the formerly trusted accountant, Frank. He has broken the Omerta and has gone to the police to relinquish the Don's account books. You have now been assigned to assassinate him. Following your orders, you find that Frank is being taken into custody by the cops, and in turn you must eliminate them. These cops are prepared for the mission, having been equipped with Thomson's, shotguns, sniping rifle, and handguns. You alone have to take out this armament. You don't know how long it took me to just pass the first part of the mission, getting past the guards in the first terminal. In the end you finally find your target, but the conclusion of the mission is not what you expected. Learning the plot for this story, you're advised, "watch your back, for you will never know when your best friend will pop you one, and find what is important to you." To Frank, this was his family, and he would never give them up for anything in the world. Frank's suggestion is emphasized throughout the game, and you will understand how it goes if you reach the end.

The story really starts at the end of the game. Here, everything is a flashback being related to a cop. And let me tell you, these CG scenes when reviewing the story are not great like you would see from Square; no, they are great in another sense, story-wise. You will see the facial features of the character explain the situation to you and express what they have in mind. The only problem is that I've noticed they don't blink enough or blink at all. There aren't that many sequences, but a majority of them would be talking with the Don, receiving your mission for the day. You will also see a cut scene when something goes wrong, which always happens. While you are in the mission, you will get to observe the city background and cars on the road. There is another problem in the fact that there can only be a certain amount of road ahead of you. This is probably the limitations of the PS2; you can only see probably 100 ft ahead, so you see things magically appear when you pass the section. What is worse is probably when you have to cross sections of town. Like GTA, there is always this load time that really blows. You observe this when you have to constantly cross towns to finish one mission; waiting on load time has always been a draw back to games. Aside from these load times, you will get to enjoy an interesting set of instrumentals.

The sound in the game is pretty well thought-out, filled with instrumentals all over the place and changing based on the situation. Even though the quality is nowhere near Max Payne's, it is enough to tell the story. The story isn't told through text base like you see in some RPG's; it's all spoken to you. It makes you feel like you are truly in Tom's situation. One thing you will grow to hate is when you take out an enemy, they say the stupidest lines that get repeated over and over. And before you do finish them off, they have some of the strangest death throes. Thankfully, these sounds are not the main focus. I believe the primary focus is on the car sounds. Oh man, you cannot understand how loud these cars purr. I have to turn down the volume so it doesn't bother my roommates and me. Another item I find needs work is the sound of the guns. We've all heard the Tommy gun in movies but never in real life, I base my expectations on the movies, and it certainly doesn't sound nearly as good. It almost sounds like a silenced weapon shooting bullets.

Overall, this game had one of the best storylines I've seen for a while, but to my surprise it also had poor game play. It's probably one of the first times I've seen such reverse psychology. Returning us to the Mafia era was a wise idea by Gathering, but if they do plan on releasing another, I really hope they dump or revise their current engine. With a good 20 missions, it can take you a decent amount of time to beat the game. I can't help but recommend the great storyline, but the poor game play just places me in the same predicament as Tom. The best I can do is suggest that you try it out; it's the first of its genre, and you may like their system.

Score : 7.6/10


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