The word “sandbox” is thrown around quite a bit in video games these days. With Rockstar consistently throwing us AAA titles using the open world “sandbox” approach it’s no wonder that there are a lot of developers trying to follow suit. Today we are checking out the second installment in the Mafia franchise which has been thrown into the sandbox genre with the hopes of capturing the old Mafia gangster feel. Does Mafia 2 succeed? Read our full review to find out!
Having played the original Mafia game a few years back I really wasn’t sure what the developers were going to do to improve the second installment. The first game was not a powerhouse by any means so there was a lot of ground to make up with Mafia 2. Right from the get go however in Mafia 2 you are instantly pulled into the games narrative. Mafia 2 is a very narrative heavy experience; it’s a game that relies quite a bit of the experience on the storyline which thankfully does hold up its end. You start off Mafia 2 in Italy during WWII and then come back over to the States.
There has been a lot of controversy surround Mafia 2 and its heavy use of Italian stereotypes and for the most part those concerns have merit. Mafia 2 is a game that doesn’t pretend to be anything but a Mafia experience and so if you have had problems with any Italian Mafia movie in the last 20-30 years then this may not be the game for you. I will say that for any of the games faults which we will get into the story is one of shining stars in the experience.
So I mentioned earlier that Mafia 2 was developed in the sandbox style which has been a common theme for these types of games. One of the big issues with Mafia 2 however is that there is little to nothing to do outside of the main story missions. The structure of Mafia 2 for the most part starts with you driving to meet up with a contact, receive mission, complete mission, and drive back home and go to sleep. Rinse and repeat. There is little to no time or reason to do anything outside of the story missions. The bigger issue was even if the game was setup to have you do more open world exploration the world of Mafia 2 really doesn’t lend itself to great open world Gameplay.
So Mafia 2 may not be the best open world experience out there but there are a few things that this game does really well. First off the gun play in the game is one of the best I have seen in one of these games and lends itself nicely in close corridors and mowing down lines of enemies from a good distance. The hand to hand combat is also solid and although doesn’t have a serious amount of depth does work its trick.
I could probably spend another three or four paragraphs talking about some of the weird quirks to be found in this game. But I think those will just end up detracting from what as a whole is a successful game. The story for me was very engaging and the Gameplay although flawed kept me wanting to see how the game ends. My biggest complaint remains that this is an open world game that has little reason to be one. The portions of the game that are open world detract you from what is otherwise a very good experience.
There is no doubt that one of Mafia 2’s other big strengths is the presentation which does a great job of capturing the 50’s in a way that has really never been done before. As mentioned before the only real visual complaint I have is the fact that the city that the game takes place in feels deserted. I will say that although deserted the frame rate manages to keep up with the action 90%-95% of the time which is actually pretty good for this type of game. Overall I was pretty impressed visually, it has its flaws, but the overall presentation of the era really shines brightly.
I came into Mafia 2 after being fully engaged and enthralled by the Red Dead Redemption universe. So I had a pretty good fixe of this style of game before coming in Mafia 2 and yet it still grabbed me. I thought the developers did a sneaky but interesting open to the game that really got my attention and interest in the game right from the beginning. The game does teeter at times with far too much driving to and from missions, but the actual missions themselves are usually quite enjoyable. One of the biggest issues I had was the checkpoint system which was far to sporadic and left you repeating some of the more tedious portions of missions.
Mafia 2 has issues, in fact it has a lot of issues, but it is also a game that does so much right that you can often over look these shortcomings and just enjoy the experience. It took me a while even after I finished Mafia 2 to realize how much I really enjoyed the entire experience. It doesn’t happen often that I remember certain scenes or actions in a video game that resonate with me after I finish it but Mafia 2 has moments where it is truly spectacular and for that I would say it’s worth checking out.
The owner and editor-in-chief of Darkstation.com. I've been apart of the website since 2002 and purchased the website in 2010. Owning and running Darkstation is a dream come true. I love video games and I love writing and talking about them even more.