A second offering of the game you can't refuse
With its historical setting and violent themes, Mafia II feels a little like what you might get if you put a Grand Theft Auto game into a cocktail mixer with a novel by Mario Puzo and then gave it to Martin Scorsese for a good shake.
The game starts with a Sicilian named Vito arriving as a small child at the docks (of a city that resembles 1920s New York) to start a new life in America. Before long he has fallen in with the wrong crowd: small acts of organised crime escalate as Vito rises higher up the ranks of Italian-American criminal society. If that sounds familiar, that’s because almost exactly the same thing happens in the Robert De Niro sections of The Godfather: Part II.
Despite such similarities, the story is probably one of the strongest elements of Mafia II. Spanning the early 1940s through to the early 1950s, the lengthy single-player campaign has an epic feel to it, while characters frequently display a much more complex edge than the two-dimensional ciphers that populate many games.
Gameplay should feel familiar to anyone who has played a recent third-person action game. You control Vito either on foot or in a vehicle and combat is a mixture of run-and-gun shooting and hand-to-hand punch-ups, both of which are fairly easy to get the hang of.
Progression is mission-based, starting off with some simple car theft and working up to bigger set pieces. One minute you'll be racing round the streets against the clock, the next you’ll be attempting to sneak around a building undetected.
This variety keeps the game from growing stale, though Mafia II can feel slow and restrictive compared to the open-ended, action-based approach of some of its rivals. If you’re squeamish, then the brutal violence and frequent expletives (supposedly this holds the record for the most swearing in any game) probably won’t appeal.
For those not easily offended, Mafia II offers an unapologetically derivative yet enjoyable journey with some authentic music and high-quality graphics to help immerse you in the action. A fairly powerful PC is required, however, so check the technical requirements before you buy.
PEGI age rating: 18+
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Good Points Good story and characters; simple yet challenging and varied gameplay; impressive sound and graphics Bad Points Very violent; few side missions or open-world possibilities; need a fairly powerful PC to play
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