Written by  :  kbmb (435)
Written on  :  Dec 22, 2002
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  4.71 Stars4.71 Stars4.71 Stars4.71 Stars4.71 Stars

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One of my all-time favorite games.

The Good

The atmosphere of this game, brought to us by the sound, music, and incredible graphics have never been this good for a mafia game. There may never come a better mafia game.

I don't know jack about cars, especially cars of the era, but the graphics sure do look good, so I'm going to go ahead and say that all the cars are realistically portrayed in the game with realistic physics and sounds. But one thing I noticed that I particularly liked was that you could really damage them. Unlike most games, if you hit a car, it will become dented in a certain predefined way. But in Mafia, every spot on the car seems to have a unique damage area, with scratches and bullet holes contributing to it. Tires will pop and windshields will break, your mirror will break off and your car can explode. Most of the time in the game, whether you're walking down the streets of Lost Heaven or driving through the winding countryside roads, it feels like you're an actor in a movie. A great movie.

Throwing away your ammo clip will actually cost you some ammo! Finally! Odd that this long-awaited realism was brought to us by a game that doesn't focus entirely on guns.

The game's story spans about a decade and you will be engrossed in the life of Tommy from the opening scene up until the final battle. Every mission you go on tells a tale that adds more to Tommy's character, as well as the other characters in the game.

Every mission is unique, though most require you to kill a lot of bad guys. Some missions require you to go out and assassinate someone, others you might just have to "rough someone up" a bit and damage their cars, some others might just be trying to escape from the cops or an opposing gang, wildly flying down the roads and taking sharp corners while bullets decorate the back of your car and your buddy hangs outside the window with his tommygun blazing.

While most of the game you're either supposed to be going somewhere or escaping somewhere, you can take advantage of times when you're not under the clock or in trouble by just driving around the very large city of Lost Heaven...maybe get out of your car and beat the hell out of a pedestrian for looking at you funny, too. Or steal a car and run the sucker over like in Grand Theft Auto. Yes, this game can quite easily turn into GTA for the 30s. There is even a special playing mode specifically designed for this. And when you complete the game, another mode unlocks that lets you go nuts in the city without any police resistance!

There are many guns of the era to play with in the game, and those which require one hand to use you can even use while driving! Driving and shooting...it IS as hard in the game as it might be in real life. But if you're good, you might shoot out the enemy's tires and watch him fly off the road into a pole.

Running into a wall at sixty miles and hour WILL hurt you. It can even kill you. They didn't have airbags back then, you know.

As your cars take more and more damage, they become less reliable and well...useless to drive. It isn't just the "your car slows down" thing of most car games. No, your tires, your engine, anything that has been damaged will seperately contribute to your car's performance.

There's law in the city! You can't run over the speed limit, you can't crash into people or walls, you can't run a red light. Hey, how about that? You might just get a ticket - but if you step outside with a tommygun in your hands, the cops will either try to arrest you or blow you away.

Your actions on one mission carry over to the next. I wrecked my car on a turn in one mission, and when I played the next, the car was still there, toppled over on the side of the road.

Between missions, you can do secondary missions for a guy who'll tell you how to steal cars and where to find a nice car to steal. These missions usually involve racing accross the city to get to a guy before the cops do, or helping a guy escape from the cops.

Everyone talks about "that damn race level". I felt that it was greatly exaggerated. I finished it on my fourth try, and it was fun! I went back and did it again just for the heck of it. Anyone with any experience with racing games should be able to finish it with ease.

The excitement that builds up in the game can spawn some great stories to be told to your friends. Like when I had every cop in the city - as well as a rival gang - after me, I was driving this really slow car and I hit this ramp that went over this fence at a very slow speed. I touched the ground not far from the fence, but the cops and gang members who were chasing me hit the ramp fast, and each one after the other flew over my head, crashing into each other like something out of Blues Brothers. I remember another time when me an' Pauly had to go 'whack' somebody, but I was very badly injured. I was about one hit from getting killed and we were walking down this alley. I was peeking around the corner, seeing who was there, when I saw a man sneak up behind me. I didn't have time to turn around, and just as the man raised his bat to strike me down - which would have been a killing blow - BLAM! Pauly blows the guy away just a split second before my death. Or another time when I was able to survive only barely after having my car shot to pieces on the side of the dock. I got out of my car and hid behind it, ready to jump out and start shooting. But then my car exploded and sent my hopefully already dead body into the river. Or maybe the time when I pulled over while a rival gang was after me, and while the cop was writing the ticket, the rival gang car pulled right up next to us, the gang members leaned out and shot us to hell with their tommy guns! Ah, I laugh out loud just remembering the non-scripted elements of the game.

Cars don't just drive around aimlessly (though they'll circle blocks a few times and stuff like that). You'll see cars park and then pedestrians get out. Taxis will pick up people and drive away. You can even drive a taxi in the game.

The city is gigantic, the game is huge, the story is incredible - I nearly shed a tear at the end - the graphics rock, the sound is great...this is one of my all time favorite games.

The Bad

Driving around got a bit boring at times. A lot of missions require you to drive accross the city a few times to do things, and after you've "seen the sights" a few times already, it just feels like a chore. Especially if you do something stupid and end up getting arrested by the cops, thus ending the mission, and have to do it all over again.

Hey, why am I getting pulled over because some other idiot broke the law?! Sometimes, the civilian cars are...well...just kinda dumb. I've seen them do some crazy things. Like drive on the wrong side of the road, run red lights, fly out from nowhere, hit me, and just drive on. And if they hit YOU, even if you were not at fault, and a cop sees it, you'll probably get ticketed.

Whoowhee - don't believe what they tell you when they say you have the "recommended requirements". Running this game (on full detail) might chug a bit with even the fastest, most powerful computers. My computer is far from the best, but it certainly is good, and I had to nearly drip my detail levels to the lowest just to get a frame rate higher than 6 FPS while driving (though indoor areas ran just fine).

Your "wife" only appears in one mission, though she has references throughout the game. I wish they had done more with her, at least added her to a cutscene or something to give her a bit more depth.

Shooting while driving is pretty inacurate, and not because it's "hard to do", but because you don't have a very good reference while driving. All you really see is your arm hanging outside the window and a crosshair, but the crosshair doesn't help if your arm isn't aimed in the place, so it's impossible to aim correctly if the target isn't slightly ahead of you or right beside you.

Okay, the race level. I'll put it in "the bad" because most people hate it like the devil. If you've never played a racing game in your life - and don't have a steering wheel - it'll probably be hell for you, too.

I've heard people talk about bugs that prevent them from finishing levels and the like, in which they have to restart the entire mission - not just restart from the last save - in order to fix it. I did encounter this bug, in the very last level. When I told a friend about it, he remarked, "just the one?" so apparently it happens pretty often. Maybe I just got lucky.

On the last level, the gun guy's location isn't pointed out on the map. Grrrrr!

A multiplayer option would have been cool.

The Bottom Line

Combine elements of GTA3 with a 3rd person shooter and throw in a great immersive story that'll have you playing from beginning to end and you have this masterpiece. Mafia is an epic cinematic computer game that shouldn't be passed up by anyone (well, except those who have slow computers, heh)