Review by Kaynine

"A Magnificant Game That is..... Thought Provoking"

Mafia is quite possibly the best reviewed, yet most underrated game in recent years. Because it's similar to Grand Theft Auto III, it has been regarded as a GTAIII clone. Not the case. Mafia was announced years before GTAIII, but underwent many delays before it was finally released in August of 2002. And take my word for it, Mafia is everything GTAIII is not (Not that I didn't enjoy GTAIII).

Mafia takes you back to the 1930s, a time period with zoot suits, ragtime, and zeppelins. It was also the period of prohibition. Alcohol was banned. But people wouldn't give up their martinis, so they'd turn to the underground market to quench their thirst for booze, and Italian gangsters would provide it.

The hero of Mafia, Tommy Angelo, is one of these men. The game begins with Tommy, after working for the Salieri crime family for eight years, deciding to turn on the family after a series of unpleasant events regarding his boss, Don Salieri. He agrees with a police detective to testify in court against Salieri in exchange for protection. So Tommy begins recounting his story, from the very beginning...

The plot does a fantastic job of explaining how Tommy was once an honest cabbie, and how he was thrown into the grit filled world of the Mafia. He goes on to explain how he battled with his conscience throughout his career as a gangster, and how he slowly realized that his life of crime would be his downfall, and that he needed a way out. Mafia is the only game I've ever played which I've actually found thought provoking.

The graphics in Mafia are simply stunning. The city of Lost Heaven is brought to life with dozens of different character models, and spectacular atmospheric textures on buildings. And using advice from vintage car experts, the developers authentically recreated beautifully designed automobiles, resembling actual cars from the 1920s and 30s. And the attention paid to detail is incredible. After a gunfight, for instance, the area is left littered with spent casings, empty clips, blood, bodies, and if there happened to be any cars in the area, then they end up devastated with bullets, with realistic bullet holes on the car's exterior and shattered windows. And while we're on the subject, I should add that the car physics are amazing. No two accidents are exactly the same. You can shoot out tires, and puncture gas tanks, which causes gas to spill all over the road.

Mafia has an excellent Music Score. The main theme of the game sends chills down my spine whenever I hear it. The chase music gives every chase an intense flavor. And much of the background music is licensed music from the 20's and 30's, so you get to listen to genuine 20s and 30s music as you navigate Lost Heaven. And the games closes with a rather amusing, perhaps out of place song, but after the game's intense ending, comic relief is welcomed.

The gameplay in Mafia is an awesome cross between a driving simulation and a third person shooter. A typical mission in Mafia begins at Salieri's Bar. After you receive instructions for your mission, you proceed to get your weapons, and then you choose which car you want for the given mission (You can collect cars over the course of the game by either receiving them from Salieri's moronic mechanic or by stealing them). After you leave, you normally drive to a point somewhere in the city, where you execute the mission. Some missions take place in large outdoor areas, while others have you go inside buildings with magnificent interiors, such as luxury hotels, bars, restaurants, and many other such places. The missions include beating up a bunch of thugs who have set up shop in your territory, murdering a prostitute who sold information to an opposing mob family, and breaking into a mansion to steal documents with a safecracker, along with many others. While the driving sequences may bore some, they make up for boredom by providing breath taking and atmospheric surroundings, making you forget about the lack of action. There is also a Free Ride option in Mafia, which is pretty self explanatory, as well as a Free Ride Extreme Option that is unlocked after you finish the game. The traffic laws in Mafia are very similar to a real life city- you cannot speed, run red lights, etc. If you commit any of these crimes, you get a ticket. The wanted system in Mafia is realistic as well. If you commit a misdemeanor (i.e. speeding) you get ticketed, which is nothing more than an inconvenience. If you commit a serious offense (i.e. breaking into cars) the police try to arrest you. And if you start shooting, they'll use deadly force. While many of the levels involve breaking societies taboos (Such as murdering policemen), the approach is done in a very tasteful manner, much the same way movies such as The Godfather and Road to Perdition are done.

Overall, Mafia is a gem in gaming, but unfortunately it did not receive the publicity nor sales it deserves. I highly recommend this game if you're into action games, driving games, or just love a wonderful story. Of course, if what you're looking for is a game with really fast cars and non-stop action, this game might not be for you. Otherwise, buy this game now. You won't regret it.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 02/06/04


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