***In this post I talk about the video game Mafia II. There are story spoilers in the post***
In the game, you play as Vito Scaletta, a war veteran who comes back from World War II to earn money to pay his father’s debts for his family. He does this by doing jobs for the various mafia families to become a “made man.” Set in Empire City, which is based on New York City from the span of the mid-1940s to the early 1950s, you do various types of jobs for the different crime families in Empire City along with your friend Joe Barbaro, your friend in the game who brought you into the lifestyle.
I’ve heard about this game series, but never got into play the games until now. I played this game because I got Mafia III for free for being a PlayStation Plus member and wanted to know what was going on in the story. I figured I should start on this game since I apparently got this game for free on Xbox Live as a gold member and didn’t realize it. I need to pay attention to what games I’m getting with these services. There is also a good chance right now that I won’t be able to play Mafia for a while. I’ve only played the main game and none of the DLC for Mafia II. I’ll put a post up later if and when I get the content.
You don’t have to know anything about Mafia to play Mafia II, which I thought was good since the Mafia is not out for rerelease that I could find, only on the sixth generation of game consoles. During the loading screen, you do get excerpts from the first game as well as mafia facts. There is one point in the game that the main character, Tommy Angelo, appears and gets killed by Vito and Joe, which was also the end of the first Mafia game. Besides that story detail new players might not understand until they look it up or play, it’s good to jump into a new game series without worrying about what I’m going or not going to understand.
The story itself was a bit hard to follow. Mostly because I was losing track of how was betraying who and reasons behind the betrayals. The three major crime families are headed by Carlo Falcone, Alberto Clemente, and Frank Vinci. That is all I understood until I read the Wikipedia article to try to better know about the story of the game. I got that the main story does follow Vito and the families and jobs that he took to earn a living, but it didn’t seem to go anywhere, I mean for the story and for him. We never see him start a family, look to move up in the ranks of any of the crime families. Yes, he does become a made man in the Falcone crime family, but I still just felt like he was at the same level as when he started. At the start of every chapter you get up, go to a diner or a restaurant, and get your mission. You complete the task and go home to repeat it again for 15 chapters. Yet, I find it surprisingly refreshing tale. Vito never seemed to be able to catch a break, he was good at what he did, but every success came with failure. He paid his father’s debts but went to jail for distributing ration stamps he stole. He becomes a made man but has all his possessions, house and money burned down by the Irish Mob, who he had a feud with earlier in the game and while in prison. Getting into the drug trade and then losing the money after Henry, who used to work for the Clemente family until Vito and Joe were ordered to kill him, was killed and his money taken after it was found that Henry was an informant for the Feds. To see an anti-hero try to succeed and fail, give a new way to tell and show that crime just cannot pay sometimes.
The other characters of note for me was Joe Barbaro, Vito’s longtime friend who brings him into the Mafia life. Leo Galante, consigliere for the mob boss Frank Vinci, who takes Lee under the group while in prison. Marty, an annoying friend of Joe who wants to a gangster, buts winds up dying in one of the missions in a satisfying, but sad way. Other than that, I don’t think I could tell you about too many different characters. They just didn’t seem to bring anything else to the story than to be cliché tropes that I’ve heard and seen of in other mafia games and movies. Vito had a family that was so minor, they could have been left out or just mentioned instead of being characters in the game. They tried to incorporate a mission where Vito beats up his brother-in-law for cheating on his sister, but that just felt like a forced way for them to write her out after she hears how violent he was with him and disowned him. I think that if the game had more to do, like some more side missions, I could have felt different about this story and gotten to know the characters better. Side missions might have made these characters more developed with a cut scene and the errands that they could have you do.
This game is not long at all. Even on hard difficulty, I was able to beat the game within a week or about 25 hours of game time. There are no real side missions to speak of, but rob stores and collecting cars for side money, that is about it. There were some cheap one-hit deaths in the game mostly in the last two or three chapters of the game, and the checkpoints didn’t seem ever to come up when you needed them. Whenever I got killed in the game, I had to go back a lot further than I felt it was fair sometimes, but I calmed down and did persevere.
The combat system was alright. You had a few different styles, there was the duck and cover system when you were in a gunfight. This could have used a blind fire technique as later in the game, you weren’t able to take as many hits, or so it felt as enemies seemed to be ready to hit me or one hit kill me whenever I was in the corner. You also had a hand to hand combat system, but as long as you could dodge and counter punch, it’s wasn’t that hard to get used to and defeat your opponents. The game had a small stealth element that seemed to be put in to try to add some variety. You only used this at three parts of the game and didn’t really need to be there, I thought. You also get choices whenever you are at the door or near a car you can steal. You can choose a non-aggressive or aggressive way to either enter a door or take a car. Aggressive is breaking a car window or kicking a door down. Non-aggressive is lock picking to steal a car or open a door gently. It can vary which one to use depending on the situation that you are in.
The look of the game did capture the feel of the 1940s to 1950s. The looks and licenses of the car models were a great touch. Empire city had the feeling of a lower to the middle-class feel of a city. With some apartments that you enter looking like they are not up to safety and health codes. I even liked that the game began in the winter time and your car wouldn’t stop as quickly as it should have when driving. There are shops around, but I felt they weren’t necessary. You had gun shops, but a lot of the weapons could be picked up off the ground after you killed your opponents. Clothes shops were around but didn’t have much variety to them. I did like that there was a chance that your car could run out of gas and you had to stop at a gas station to fill up. It’s something I wished games like the Grand Theft Auto series would incorporate into the gameplay. You can also collect wanted posters and Playboy magazines scattered in the game, but only are suitable for collecting achievements.
There are only 3 different radio stations to choose from, and all seem to have the Grand Theft Auto style of reporting. When after you caused a significant event or completed a mission, you are given a news bulletin of the events that just occurred. Nothing new, but I did like how in this world, they did report on news of World War 2 in the 1940s and even in the news story of the 1950s talking about Dwight D Eisenhower’s projected win over Adlai Stevenson II. A nice touch to move away from the parody of Grand Theft Auto radio commercial breaks for me. Even the music is changed and reflected when you change the different periods. In the 1940’s you hear music from artists such as Bing Crosby, The Andrews Sisters, Muddy Waters and in the 50’s you hear music from Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Buddy Holly, and the Crickets, Bill Haley and His Comets, and more.
The effort of the police chasing you down can vary depending on what you do and the level of chaos that you try to cause. A hit and run or speeding for example only nets you one star, while going on a mass murder spree will get you a four star wanted rating. They can be avoided by simply getting away from the police, to having to change your license plate for a fee and changing your clothes. Strange that changing your clothes can fool cops that are chasing you. It’s the equivalent of wearing plastic glass and a mustache to hide from someone and deceive them. You can also pay them off or bribe if they catch you, but I feel that it’s easier to run away and changes your clothes/car license plate.
The story just seems to end, with no real conclusion or feeling it’s completed. The last chapter had you going to kill Falcone by yourself to fix all of the mistakes that you made. In the end, Joe is there to kill you and join Falcone but ends up helping you instead. It just ends with you and Galante driving off after your last mission and Joe suddenly going in the opposite direction in another car, with Galante telling Vito that his deal didn’t cover Joe. I hope that DLC or even Mafia III will let us know how and if it will end.
Despite anything that sounds like gripes that I had, I did enjoy this game. Thank you for reading, and if you have any questions or something about the game that I may have missed, leave a comment or a message.