I will admit, I never got around to playing the original Mafia all the way through, but this works in my favor when it comes to Mafia II because, unlike many other gamers, I’m not going into this review expecting some massive improvement on something I’ve never played. So, it’s time to put on my best Italian-American accent and start squeezing helpless innocents for protection money.
It seems I’m in luck because the two games have nothing to do with each other. Throughout the game, you’ll earn (and steal) money. This is expected, especially with open-world games. What is also expected, however, is that you’ll get more than just a handful of ways to spend that money. You can A) buy guns (which is completely needless if you’re robbing the place anyway because you can just steal the guns you want) B) buy clothes (see A) C) customize/repair/upgrade your car (which, of course, taking the car to missions is a crap shoot because you never know if you’ll actually get the car back or not). So, in short: robbing stores is a great mechanic and makes you feel like the ultimate gangster, but there’s no point. There’s even a few spots through the game’s story where you’ll lose all your money and not get it back.
It’s odd to see such a linear game based in such a large and open city. It feels like the world was supposed to be filled with more missions, contacts and activities, but was cut down. As it stands, the city is cool and the cops are annoying (as you’d expect), but it just doesn’t feel as alive or thriving as GTA IV. I’ve seen many complaints about the amount of chauffeuring you do in the game, and this is a bit tedious, but anyone that’s played any of the GTA or Saints Row games will have expected this, and I’m sure anyone will agree that slightly annoying chauffeuring is far better than being driven everywhere which, you have to admit, would be a complete snooze fest.
The game’s storytelling abilities, though a bit cliche, are solid, but the game’s 10-13 hour campaign only succeeds in feeling just above “average”. While Mafia II does have great voice acting and fantastic visuals, overall, the game fails to greatly impress after a few hours of play. A game well worth your time, sure, but don’t expect anything extraordinary, and don’t be surprised when the game’s finale leads up to not so much a “cliffhanger,” but more an “unfinished story.” Be prepared for some gray hairs.