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SummaryA stunning but flawed action title.
The GoodThis is not Grand Theft Auto 3. Let me make that a bit clearer. If you thought this game looked a lot like GTA3 then wipe the image from your mind. Mafia's only common ground with GTA3 is a living roamable city but that's where the comparisons may as well end. Sure that's a sizable similarity but Mafia has enough originality and style to shake the GTA3 clone stigma as soon as the game starts.
Set in the 1930's and telling the story of a simple taxi driver turned crime boss, Mafia has more gunfights, beatings and robberies than you can shake a tommy gun at, all told in such style and with such brilliance that you'd think it was written to be a film originally. As I said before, the script and story is expertly told and shot, keeping you on the edge of your seat and constantly wanting to see what happens next. The acting is first rate too for everyone from your own character, Tommy Angelo to the numerous NPC's that litter the streets. I honestly can't think of any other game to do the story telling and delivery aspect so well. It's really that good.
The whole experience is enhanced by making you drive to each mission in a living breathing city that changes as time passes. If you try to drive like you did in GTA3 you'll find the cops after you very quickly which of course is bad news unless you were after some trouble. Mafia is somewhat more sensible in regards to the cops than most games as Police can actually lose you and even call on a city wide search where every cop is on the lookout. Unlike other games of this type, just because they're after you doesn't mean they have any idea where you are. All of this is conveyed through some very pretty visuals and some of the best realtime human 3d animation yet seen in a game. Sound has also been taken care of with equal style. Old 30's music plays throughout the game and ambient noise is equally well dealt with.
Missions are very varied and each one takes you to very different and interesting places usually comprising of a driving element where you either must drive to/from somewhere or chase/evade someone, as well as on foot sections where the game takes a standpoint reminiscent of Max Payne and just as stylish. Those who own force feedback steering wheels are not forgotten with feedback fully supported for the driving sections (highly recommended.)
There are over 20 missions to get through, each one is highly different from the last and takes place in staggeringly varied environments. Even better is that once you've finished the game you can take any car out on the town in the Free Ride mode which, as the name suggests allows you free access to the entire city so you can just cruise for trouble.
The BadThe game may sound perfect so far but sadly, it isn't. Some of the stages are quite unbalanced and you may find yourself struggling through one stage then breezing through the next. The driving/chasing also plays a big part in the game and since the physics are fairly realistic you may find yourself having a bit of trouble without an analogue controller handy, particularly during a race that pops up (you'll know it when you see it.)
There are also save points that seem to have been positioned perfectly for players who have already finished the game and know exactly where to go and what to do. This often leads to immense frustration because you have to repeat areas you already beat, some of which are very tough.
AI is utterly thick on other cars on the road. They'll act as if you aren't even there most of the time meaning you'll be rammed into a lot if you don't watch it.
The game also features it's fair share of bugs, some of which include chipmunk speed voices on certain systems, crashes and refusal to load. There are also numerous in game bugs and irritations that I won't go into here due to spoiler material and as of this review there is no patch.
The Bottom LineMafia is a stunning game with a brilliant story, delivery and atmosphere but is also very frustrating at times and carries it's fair share of bugs.
Despite it's flaws however, it's definitely worth getting ahold of.