Mafia 2 Review

Mafia 2 is the sequel to 2002’s under the radar hit Mafia: The City of Lost Haven. Both games were developed by Czech developer Illusion Softworks, now called 2K Czech. Illusion previously made waves with their revolution shooter Hidden & Dangerous. The original Mafia told an incredibly well-crafted story about the mafia in the 1920s.

The game earned a lot of praise for its storytelling, its characters, and its setting. The Original Mafia also earned some ire for poor gameplay and the pretty terrible console ports. Still it is fondly remembered by many who played it, myself included. This brings us to 2010 and the sequel. The game earned a lot of attention due to its beautiful graphics and many people wrongfully tried to compare it to GTAIV. I’m not going to do that because Mafia 2 is not meant to replace GTA.

The Good

Empire Bay: To call the city beautiful is almost underselling it. The level designers did a great job designing the city and making it look and feel alive. From the wartime 40s to the postwar 50s, the game world just looks good all around. If you look close you will see low-res textures and the like, but this is a rare case where they don’t detract from the experience. The 40s are particularly great looking, ice and snow effects all around. Even though I was only able to run the game on medium settings I still thought it looked very good.

Characters: While not all of the characters are as fleshed out as others, it feels like most of the main characters have some kind of history and story to tell. The game doesn’t spend enough time on all of them, but it does feel like the developers had a history thought out for all of them and it comes out in the writing. Too add to it the voice acting is very well done. The way the voice actors talk and the way the script is written makes it feel like everything belongs in that era and in a mobster movie.

Driving: Driving in the first game was a love it or hate it experience. My problems with it stemmed from the way the game world was designed. It was simply tedious to drive from place to place. 2K Czech remedied this in the sequel. Driving feels great. I dare say it’s the best driving mechanics in any open world game I’ve played. Every vehicle feels different and there are huge differences between driving a hot rod and a sedan or a big truck. The game offers two driving styles “Normal” and “Simulation”. Normal is bit more of an arcade style handling. You can drive at high speeds and easily make corners and not worry about controlling the vehicle. I liked using normal for chase missions or timed missions. Simulation is as it says. The vehicles control more realistically and they are hard to control at high speeds. I used Simulation every other time except the two above examples.

Soundtrack: The Prague FILMharmonic Orchestra composed the score of the game and they did a wonderful job. The score sets the tone just as well as all of the licensed music in the game. It feels very authentic. There are over 100 licensed tracks in the game, but you tend to hear a lot of songs recycled on the radio. All of the songs are from the era so they fit in perfectly.

The Bad

Underutilized world: The level designers crafted a beautiful world to experience, but the mission designers did a poor job of exploring it. Since Mafia II is in no way a sandbox game there is no reason to explore the city. In cases like that it is up to the people designing the missions to take you around the city. A lot of the missions center on a fairly small area. The world map isn’t large and yet most of it is left unused. It’s a pity that they didn’t show off more of it.

Disjointed story: I’m not going to call the story bad, it’s better than the story in 90% of the games on the market, but it doesn’t reach the heights of the original. The original Mafia was propelled by its story; you wanted to deal with the at times frustrating gameplay just to see what happens next. There isn’t as much of that in Mafia II. Part of that is due to the much improved gameplay and part of it is due to a slightly disjointed feeling the story has. Characters pop in and out seemingly at random and they’re never lingered on enough to get a feel for them. The game likes to make large jumps in time using montages and not giving you a chance to play out some of those moments. Playing out some of the events in the montages would help to further push the story and the characters.


Mafia II does not reach the same high notes as its predecessor, but I still think it’s a good game. Its short, it only took me eleven hours to beat on Medium. I wish the game was longer by at least four or five hours. The first game was fairly short as well, so it is expected. The game is purely story driven; there are no real sandbox elements to it. Do not got into it expecting a GTA clone, you will be disappointed. I find myself having a weird feeling after beating Mafia II; I’m anticipating the DLC for it. I want the developers to release DLC that expands on the game’s story and on its world. I want to see more of the side characters explored and I’d love to see the game from the side of another mafia family. I just hope the DLC doesn’t turn into the same tripe as you see in many other games, just adding weapons and vehicles.

Mafia 2 Review by Derangel