Welcome To Empire Bay

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1945. Vito Scaletta returns to Empire Bay from World War II. Vinny hooks up with his old pal Joe Barbaro and they start doing some jobs together.

I instantly notice how dated the graphics are. This is far worse than Red Dead Redemption. Screen tearing is immediately noticeable as well, and is omnipresent during any interior location. It’s quite bad.

An early mission deals with breaking into a heavily guarded federal building to steal Gas Stamps. Upon retrieving the stamps, it is determined that the stamps expire at midnight. Off I went to each gas station to sell off the stamps. A few missions later, one of the gas station attendees rats me out to the Feds. Next thing I know, I’m doing 10 years in a federal penitentiary. Vinny meets some contacts in prison through Joe that will protect him if he fights inmates. This section of the game reminded me of the Shawshank Redemption and Goodfellas. I appreciate when games take a detour from the norm like this. I only wish my time in prison would have been longer, and focused on more of the day-to-day experience instead of just fighting inmates. Anyway, Vincent’s contacts in prison were able to get him out of Jail early. They knocked about 4 years off of his sentence. Vinny is released to a different world : the 1950’s. Cars, clothes, music….everything is a lot different now.

Mafia II is almost too realistic of a game. The game is set in a semi-realistic 1940’s & 1950’s universe. The cars, music, and setting are all incredibly accurate. In fact; the game is so real that there’s an actual speed limit. I can’t seem to go over the speed limit without alerting the police. This was a bit of a bummer; as I really wanted to hear a lot of these babies purr. Pressing Square puts a speed limiter on to help avoid attention from the police. If that wasn’t strange enough…the cars can run out of gas. Seriously. You have to refill your tank at gas stations around the map. Why is this a part of the game?

The voice casting and storytelling are top-notch in Mafia II. The game has this sort of cinematic feel to it. I was constantly reminded of my favorite gangster films like The Godfather and Goodfellas.

Vehicles in Mafia II are a great representation of cars from the time period. 2K did a fantastic job nailing this as well as the featured music. Radio stations play hits from Bing Crosby, Fats Domino, Little Richard, The Everly Brothers and more.

In terms of weapons, Mafia II features pistols, shotguns, machine guns, rifles, and grenades. My favorite gun was the .357 Magnum, as it sounded just like the one Harry Callahan used.

In a world of “GTA clones”, games usually do alright in copying the open-world aspect, but the driving always seems to be second-rate. There’s just something about the driving in Grand Theft Auto that’s just so perfect. It can’t be touched, and no other team has been able to compete with it. It’s almost as if so much has gone into the process of creating the world, and then there wasn’t enough time / resources / space to make other things work well. That’s why most of them seem to fail at grasping the concept of an open-world game, compared to Grand Theft Auto. For Mafia II, I felt that the driving was actually quite good. The cars are from the 40’s and 50’s, so they function a bit differently. The cars tend to fish-tail, but they still handle very well for not having power-steering!

Mafia II features the best collectible items I’ve ever seen in a video game : Playboys. That’s right; each Playboy magazine has a different centerfold from the time. I can’t confirm whether these are actual centerfolds from the time period or not, but they sure fit! I had originally planned on collecting all of them, but I didn’t.

Mafia II’s Director’s Cut includes three DLC stories, and vehicle & clothing packs. While I found the vehicles and clothing to be fine, the DLC stories were quite lackluster. Two of the stories feature a character named Jimmy, and the story-based missions are replaced with timed arcade-style missions. Yeah; putting a time limit is a great way to entice me to play. It’s safe to say that I didn’t spend much time playing. I probably did a mission or two, but my patience grew thin. Then, I checked out the final DLC installment, Joe’s Adventures. This DLC is at least a bit more familiar. Joe’s Adventures of course stars Joe Barbaro, and takes place during the time Vinny is sent to prison. Joe sets out to find the ones responsible for ratting out Vinny. I found the first few missions to be fine, as the gameplay went back to the story-based missions. Then, after a few missions, the gameplay switches over to the timed arcade missions again! This is where I said “to hell with this game!”, and played some Titanfall 2. I’m sorry….you know what? I’m not sorry. No one likes time limits in games. There’s nothing more stressful and frustrating than having to meet a time requirement in order to continue playing. I’ll give you an example of the last mission I attempted to play : Let’s make players drive to retrieve a stolen Limo, and then drive all the way back across the map. The second the Limo is stolen, the player will be chased by Police (who are easy enough to evade but will re-alert anytime they see you). To make things even more difficult, the person who wants the Limo needs it in mint condition, so you also have to go to the shop and repair any damage. Now imagine doing all of this under a very unfair time crunch. Fun, right? Sure; it may be challenging, but I’m not playing Mafia II for a challenge. I’m playing for the STORY. There’s no interest if the STORY is replaced by CHALLENGES. It gets worse. Instead of entering locations or meeting people to start the mission, there are just little cheap looking logos on the map. You walk up to them, and press X to start the mission. What is this? a PlayStation 1 game? I figured the arcade-style missions were just for the first two installments. Joe’s Adventures started out great. I figured the trouble was over. This wasn’t the first time I’ve been wrong, and it most certainly won’t be the last. My question is, why change the pace right in the middle of everything? Why start out with story-based missions, and then switch to the timed arcade crap? Ugh. Perhaps you can sense my frustration. I look forward to playing DLC, as it’s (usually) an extension of what I loved in the base game. It allows for that craving for more to be satisfied. I enjoyed playing Mafia II, but these DLC offerings made me crave something else to play right away, and I did just that. It’s a shame that the last thing I experienced from Mafia II was negative, because that’s the last thing I wanted to happen.

All in all, Mafia II isn’t a terrible game. It does have its flaws when it comes to the game mechanics and screen tearing, but the story and solid voice-acting combined with the look and feel of the 1940’s-1950’s make up for it. I was crushed with the ending of the game. I hope somehow Joe made it out alive and makes an appearance in Mafia III. The biggest problem with Mafia II is that it’s a big open world full of nothing to do. The game is quite short, with a mission or two for each chapter. Each mission will have you traveling to locations all around the map, and when you’re done, you are forced to go home and go to bed to continue the story. Again, why is this a part of the game? Things were added to the game in an attempt to make Mafia II seem more realistic (such as speed limits and gas tanks), but in the end they just make things more annoying. Personally, I think that’s a few steps too far. That’s too realistic. When I’m forced to drive slow and fill my tank up, I’m not playing a game anymore.  Anyway, once all of the story missions are completed, there are no side missions to complete, and there is no way to free-roam around the city. Loading up the last save takes you to a checkpoint in the final chapter. The only way to continue roaming around the city is to replay a chapter. Other than a few vehicles and clothing items, the DLC is a complete waste of time and can not be recommended.

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