Review by Jules Rules
"One of my favorite games of all time. Capisce?!"
Mafia first made its debut on the PC back in 2002. At first many didn't really know about it until the reviews popped in and people were claiming that it should be 2002's Game of the Year. It seemed Mafia was going to be another one of those 'sleeper hits', which would catch PC gamers by surprise. Boy, was this the case. Keeping in mind at the same time people were still high on Grand Theft Auto III which was released back in late 2001, so maybe that's why Mafia didn't catch every eye out there. People say it's too much of a mimic of Grand Theft Auto, others say it surpasses GTA and isn't like it at all. What do I think? Find out in my review of Mafia.
As the game was released back in 2002, Mafia was probably the best looking game of the year. Everything looks truly amazing and as you would expect in the 1930's era. On the buildings you can see all the scratches, all the marks on the walls, etc and there's different signs on practically every building. For example, you may see a dentist's in one street and then a baker's some place else -- all the other buildings are different, which builds up the originality. You won't see a baker's in one area and then two streets away see another. Most games like this you'll see some buildings the same, but with Mafia you can just look in awe at all the buildings because they are filled with the upmost care and detail. The visual effects are just stunning -- you can see the smoke effects as people smoke their cigarettes or when the sun is shining directly in your face. It's beautiful.
If you're reading this review right now, I'm pretty confident that you've played the Grand Theft Auto games. You'll notice that the people who roam the city get pretty boring after a while as most look the same and all say the same things. It is pretty much the same with Mafia, however the people are given a great graphical look and you won't find them dull as you drive or walk past. Yeah, their faces may all look the same (except the men and women, of course), but the amount of civilians that roam the Lost Heaven city adds to the experience. You will witness them park and get out of their cars, or simply walking. As for the cars, they are extremely well detailed and Illusion Softworks have done a superb job in ensuring that the cars look authentic and how they did in the 1930's. That is the case. There is many different vehicles in the game and they are all beautiful to look at. You can just tell that they spent a lot of time and effort designing these vehicles and their hard work pays off.
As with the graphics, the sound in Mafia is just simply phenomenal, too. The music in the game is exactly what you would expect from the 1930's era -- the jazz, the slow songs.. all of it. It lives up nicely. When you enter the Chinatown area of Lost Heaven a piece of music will play about Chinatown. This happens for other areas of the town, too. You won't get bored listening to the music in the game.
As for sound effects, well -- there's no complaints here either. You won't just hear your car's engine when driving around the streets, you will hear everything that you do in real life. Trains moving, trams letting off their bell, car horns, etc etc. The dialogue is some of the best I have ever seen in a video game. Each voice fits that certain character superbly well and there's absolutely nothing bad you can say about anything. Due to the sound, Mafia has that movie type effect while you're playing.
You probably already know that Mafia is a third-person game like GTA, so you've got a lot of missions to participate in -- most making you drive around from place to place. But there's a lot of variety in the missions. You have missions set in an Italian restaurant, an old broken down prison and an airport, just to name a few. You could play Mafia basically all day and not get bored. It's not a short game as most of the missions are pretty long and take time to complete (plus once you've completed a mission you have the option for a bonus mission which includes acquiring new cars for your garage). The cars, as it's the 1930's, aren't beasts, so to speak. If you're expecting a game where you can burn down the roads randomly like in GTA, again you will be disappointed. What people don't realize is this is the 1930's after all and cars weren't at their peaks, so to speak.
At first the game's controls may seem a little tricky, but it won't be long until you get used to the control system. On foot you can use the WASD control scheme which is generic for most PC games whereas in your car you use the arrows. That's basically the only controls you need, but you've got the options to crouch (which improves your aiming and decreases your chances of being shot) and roll, naming a few.
When people say that Mafia is like Grand Theft Auto, for example, I just laugh. It is NOTHING like any of these games. If you expect to see something like GTA, you may be in for a disappointment. Mafia is more realistic. You have a speed limit to stick to, unless you want to acquire a speeding ticket. If you continue to go faster than the speed limit (40mph), you will be chased down by the police and eventually arrested. Driving through a red light will also arouse the attention of a police officer/car nearby. You can't also go around the streets continuously killing either. What you have to do is find a discrete, less crowded area where nobody will see you and then kill them off -- otherwise the police will be all over you.. If you kill in the middle of the street for example. There's some flaws, obviously, like when a rival gang member fires at you and then you fire back, the police officer will come and hunt YOU down, not the person who fired first. It's only a minor flaw, though.
The city of Lost Heaven is a big one, there are many places to see and many places to go. It's a bit let down because in the missions you can enter buildings such as the church, the hotel 'Corleone' (winks to those Godfather fans out there), the docks and the museum, just naming a few, are not available in the Free Roam mode. So when you have completed the game there isn't really many things to accomplish in Free Roam aside from some not-so-exciting bonus missions. I feel the only fault with this game was the Free Roam mode -- Illusion could of improved it by making it a much more fun mode by allowing you to enter buildings instead of just driving around, killing other gang members. It's just one of those games that will keep you glued to your computer screen. Literally.
Tommy Angelo is a cab driver and one day he went out for a smoke when all of a sudden his life changes as he hears a tremendous crash. He is basically forced into the Mob as he has no choice. It all unravels into a simply stunning story and where the game shines really bright. Each character you will feel some type of affection to, like it's some sort of gangster movie. It sure does feel like it. Due to the incredible FMV movies and dialogue, it wouldn't surprise me if people mistook Mafia for a gangster movie. The ending of the game is probably one of the best endings to a game ever. Of course I won't spoil it. One of the best stories for a game I have ever seen, and you'll simply be pulled in very easily.
After you've completed the story mode, there isn't really any other mode which can grab your interest. Yes, there's Free Roam and also Free Ride Extreme (which is exclusive to the PC version), but these modes get boring pretty fast. As Mafia is just a single player game, too, the only thing you could possibly do is start a new game or just replay some of your favorite missions from your first completed game, thanks to your save file. I still have Mafia installed on my computer because I want to play another fun mission here and there. I wouldn't say it gets boring due to this, but there could be other fun modes to keep your interest. Sadly this isn't the case.
Mafia is one of my favorite games of all time and one that definitely deserves to go down in video game history. Illusion Softworks spent a lot of time and effort on the game and it has fully paid off -- they have generated a masterpiece. Everything is so immense about the game, whether it be the driving or the shooting aspects. Every mission is fun, every mission is different, and it's hard to find a better story in a video game than Mafia's (only games like the Final Fantasy series could compete). If you haven't got this yet, and are into games of this type, I have no clue what you're waiting for. You could most definitely get it for a cheap price now, too, so it's a must have. Thank you, Illusion Softworks, for giving me so much enjoyment.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 09/01/05
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