Game companies have been trying to make a good retro gangster game for consoles for quite some time.
The idea makes sense. Gangster movies have been popular since nearly the beginning of film, and the lifestyle has been romanticized.
The “Grand Theft Auto” series shows that solid gangster games are possible.
But when the game is set in the first half of the 20th century, the games just aren’t very memorable.
2K Games has now taken another crack at the genre with the release of “Mafia II,” a sequel to the 2002 PC game that was later ported to the Xbox and PlayStation 2. The PC version of the game was very good, delivering an epic mobster game with depth. The console versions of the game were terrible. Perhaps it was asking too much to port the computer version to those two systems, which were limited by technology at the time.
However, technology no longer limits developers in this current console era. We’ve seen that with “Grand Theft Auto IV” and “Red Dead Redemption.”
Despite fewer technological restrictions this time around, “Mafia II” still falls short of the promise exhibited by its PC predecessor.
“Mafia II” is the story of Vito Scaletta, who emigrated from Sicily with his family as a child, and his life in the crime world of the fictional Empire Bay.
“Mafia II” is clearly influenced by mobster movies, but that isn’t a bad thing. There are some pretty darn good gangster flicks out there. Scaletta joins the army as an escape from a crime a la Michael Corleone in “The Godfather.”
The cut scenes and cinematics are the highlight of the game, although they do fall into the cliché mob movie category. If you’ve seen it in a gangster flick, then it probably has found its way into this game.
But while the cut scenes are well done, the rest of the game falls short.
Gameplay is a mess. The game relies on a cover system for battles, but that cover doesn’t always provide protection. and the controls aren’t the easiest to use.
The worst part of the game, however, are its limitations. Don’t buy this game if you’re expecting an open-world game. You can travel throughout Empire Bay, and you can visit various businesses to shop for clothes and weapons. But there are no side missions. There is only one mission at a time, and it works to advance the story.
The developers should have decided to make a sandbox game or not, rather than going halfway. You can’t offer some elements of a sandbox game and then restrict the options heavily.
It makes for an uneven game, and “Mafia II” is certainly uneven.