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Mafia II
Developer: 2K Czech
Publisher: 2K Games
Platform: Xbox 360
Genre: Action
Release date: 08.24.2010
After eight long years of waiting since the original Mafia premiered on the PC, 2K Games makes up for the long layoff with an unbelievable game in Mafia II. You play as Vito, the son of Italian immigrants who came to America when Vito was just a young boy. Vito's father worked at the dock making meager wages, most of which went to aid his drinking habits. At a young age, Vito becomes involved with his friend Joe in petty crimes to make a quick buck, but Vito is caught one night after an officer catches them breaking into a storefront.

Instead of jail time, Vito is offered a chance to join the army in taking out Benito Mussolini in Sicily, since they needed forces who could speak the language. This is where game play actually starts and is the training mission of the game. It's an action-packed training session and all is well until Vito gets hit, and is saved only because the Italian Army is told to stand down and surrender. Vito returns to America with a Purple Heart on a one-month leave, but when Joe picks him up from the train station with different plans. A couple falsified documents later, Vito is well on his way to the life of a ?made man.?

Mafia II has every element you would want in a third-person gangster game. The open-world environment is exciting and big, but not as ridiculously big as a game such as Grand Theft Auto IV, which entices it's players with the free-roaming world activities more than the game itself. The city of Empire Bay is about 10 square miles, which is similar to the size of Vice City from Grand Theft Auto. Unlike GTA, there are no restrictions at the beginning of the game of where you can travel and explore.

Mafia II is all about the linear storyline, which is broken down by chapters. You do enough traveling in the missions themselves so there's no need to explore on your own. The missions always entail something new, whether it's ?offing? someone, stealing gas stamps which need to be resold in a certain amount of time, and even fights while doing time with fellow gangsters.
It's hard to sit here and nit pick a game which executes most things, if not everything, flawlessly. Everything in the game runs smoothly, more than any game available right now. Shooting is great, aiming is simple, and the variety of guns is awesome. One of the gun dealers in the game is an Army vet like Vito, so anything you'd like to play with can be found at a decent price.

Driving can be frustrating at points in the game, but only because of the cars that are available. While playing in the 1940s portion of the game, a lot of the cars you'll jump into may not go faster than 40 MPH. This is a moot point however since at the beginning of the game, while Joe teaches you how to highjack cars, he spots a fast one for you. When you go to the mechanic to change the plates and the paint to dodge the cops, he offers to pay for a tune up which will get the car to around 100 MPH. Just make sure you drive with care, because you don't have much cash at the beginning and repairing the car or getting a tune up on another could cost as much as $400.

Keeping a low profile from the police seems like a mission by itself. They are everywhere, on foot and on the road, and will always show up whenever you're doing something shady. Changing the plates in a car is the best way to shake them, but they could also put out an APB on your appearance as well. This means hitting up a clothes shop and buying a few outfits is a good idea so you can always run back to a safe house and be good to go. When boosting a car, do so in a low-profile area and use your lock picks instead of busting a window.

Pay attention to what the message tells you the police want; sometimes they could be pulling you over for a simple speeding ticket, and it's much easier to pay the fine than to go through changing clothes, your license plates and outrunning them. The fine can be anywhere from a couple bucks to a shake down of $500 or more. You always have the option to make a run for it, so you decide what your limit is.
This game is absolutely beautiful ? the cut scenes, the in-game graphics, the sky lines, everything. The storyline is based heavily on the cinematic scenes, and skipping them would leave you confused as to what just happened, since in most cut scenes you're skipping a few years at a time. Some gamers aren't a fan of watching these scenes but when they're integral to understanding the storyline it's always important. At least 2K Games made them enjoyable.

The voice acting in this game is impressive, with the mafioso characters sounding like something straight out of The Sopranos. The actors did everything in their power to leave you with an authentic experience, and while watching the cut scenes it was like getting drawn into a captivating movie. Everything seemed real, and you find yourself connecting with the characters.

The soundtrack for the game is put together amazingly well. Each time you turn the radio on you feel as though you're in the car with your grandparents as they listened to their favorite oldies station. Now I'm not saying I necessarily like the music selection, but I was surprised at how many of the songs I recognized. The crew putting the soundtrack together put a lot of thought into keeping the sound authentic to the 40s and 50s, yet choosing songs that would be noticeable to their target audience of males aged 18-34.
replay value
There's already one DLC pack for Mafia II, Jimmy's Vendetta, which adds a different style of play to the game. This has missions that correlate with a leader board, so it's more like an arcade game where you try to rack up as many points as possible. With this being released right after the game's launch, it's easy to guess that there will be plenty more downloads coming for Mafia II, making the game highly replayable.

The other side of it is the open-world aspect that always keeps games replayable. You never know when you'll get the urge to shoot up a store front or run over some pedestrians, then hole up in a building and take out the waves of police that come at you.
bottom line
Mafia II was well worth the eight-year wait. It offers things like great action, compelling storyline, impressive graphics, great acting and cinematic scenes and an overall captivating experience that keeps you coming back for more. Some games can offer one or two of those, but it's not everyday that a gaming masterpiece comes along. When you pick up Mafia II, realize that it's a keeper.
Review by: Matthew Waters
Posted: 11/30/1999
Replay Value:
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