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Mafia Review

/ May 15th, 2003 No Comments

The Mafia is cool – really, really cool. I will try to avoid as many clichéd catchphrases in this review as possible, any local Dons please feel free to contact me and maybe send me some pamphlets so I can join up. It seems the Italian Government realizes all this and wanted this game banned for being an advert and ‘instruction manual’ for organized crime, a statement so stupid I feel no need to follow it up with a put-down. We’ve been made to wait a long time for a decent Mafia game, is this one a Meekeey Blue or a Vito Corleone?

To start off with a compliment, Mafia plays like a mix of GTA 3 and Max Payne. The games basic dynamics are pure GTA 3 (although they were in development at the same time – so please don’t think this is a clone) but the whole proceedings are presented in a far more mature, hard-hitting way.

Mafia delivers a very strong storyline, I found it extremely compelling, with none of Max Payne’s cheeseyness. You play Tommy Angelo, a 1930’s taxi driver in Lost Heaven city…a place divided by two warring Mafia families. I won’t spoil anything by saying that somehow you get caught up in their little scrap. The story is told in the form of flashbacks as Tommy recounts his tale in a bar. Full facial motion capture is employed in the engine driven cut scenes and they look fantastic for it. You know you are in for a cinematic experience when the game kicks off with a letterboxed opening credits sequence. The epic cinematic pull is reinforced by a wonderful orchestral score and real quality voice acting along with plenty of period music scattered about too…its just a shame the game doesn’t feature Slash playing The Godfather theme…

Getting down to the nitty gritty, the game is played out in a fully living, breathing city. You can steal cars, shoot pedestrians, blow up ambulances, everything you saw in GTA 3 and more. Everything is way more detailed, particularly the cars. Tires can be shot out, gas canisters can leak and explode, and you can even shoot the drivers through the glass. Inside a car you can lean out the window and shoot while you drive, add in a highly realistic suspension and this all leads to the kind of car chases you always wanted in GTA 3.

The police reaction is also taken further, get caught speeding or running a red light and you get pulled over…get 4 tickets and its game over. However, should you refuse to pull-over and they will try and arrest you on the spot and eventually open fire. The genius thing is the way you can escape their pursuit. The cops can’t see your face inside a car, so drive out of their site, ditch the hot car and run away! Get spotted on foot shooting old women and you can run away, hop on the nearest tram and the police loose you as you tear away. Policemen can only get support if they are in a squad car…so if you have a cop on foot trying to arrest you then take him down an alley, execute him and no-one will ever know…

The thing people may dislike if looking for ‘the new GTA 3’ is that in the main game, things are more structured than in Liberty City. You are given a job in a cut scene and then you go into the game to do it. There is never any ‘free time’ to do what you want in. The developers have seen this though and a separate ‘Free Ride’ game has been set-up where there is no storyline, you just get awarded for causing mayhem. So essentially they try to give you the best of both worlds…my reservation is that the setting of Mafia isn’t as good for all out action. You don’t get the over the top speeds, the explosive weaponry, there’s no tanks coming chasing you, the cars are all fairly similar and there isn’t that humor that pushed GTA 3. Still though, there is still plenty of fun to be had in Mafias world of wanton violence and un-provoked knee breaking.

To run Mafia your rig will need to be well equipped and you’ll need nearly whole 2 gigs for the install, this is after all as graphically detailed as Max Payne and running on a whole city, not just a few box-rooms. The cars especially deserve special praise for their detail and damage modeling. After a nasty car chase you know you’ve been in the wars…your bumper fell off streets ago, the glass in your back window is a distant memory, you’re loosing fuel, smoke is pouring from your twisted radiator, there isn’t an inch on your chassis without a bullet hole and that old man scuffed your paint when he carelessly allowed you to drive up on the pavement into him. I’ve seen instances of over 15 cars onscreen at any one time as well, add in the drivers and pedestrians and you get quite a dense, active city displayed. To add variety though it is also possible to leave the city and enjoy a satisfying drive around the countryside, there are also numerous interiors that look fantastic.

In future we have been promised a multiplayer patch, hopefully including something more than straight deathmatch (although, with the vehicles, this would be excellent). My hopes are on a team based objective system, e.g. Team 1 must reach point A in a set time while Team 2 tries to stop them.
Mafia has taken a very long time to reach us, but I believe it has been well worth the wait, finally a game to do the boys proud.

Jamie Wharton

Jamie Wharton

Jamie Wharton was based out of Europe before disappearing off the face of the Earth. His contributions in the early days of Gaming Illustrated's history, however, shall never be forgotten.
Jamie Wharton

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