9.0

Mafia review
A Forgotten Gem Of A Game

The good:

-Outstanding graphics for the required system specs and age of the game
-Excellent storyline, worthy of any Hollywood Gangster Film
-Good weapons
-Good vehicles

The bad:

-Some missions are extremely difficult
-Tiresome driving to begin every mission
-A Racing Car Mission feels incredibly frustrating and out of place
-Lack of any sort of in-game map can easily get you lost in the large city

Summary:

It may be nearly five years old, but this forgotten gem of a game is perhaps the closest any game has ever gotten to achieving the 'feel' of a city. It's the best Mafiosa game ever made, and it's easily worthy of a place in gaming history due to it's virtually flawless presentation.

Mafia follows the path of Tommy, a cab driver caught up in a high-speed car chase between two warring Mafiosa gang members. Despite his best intents to not be drawn into their world of violence and corruption, he soon finds himself with a gun in his hand and more cash in his pocket than he could ever dream off.

The story is truly outstanding and practically worthy of an Oscar in itself. The characters are all very believable, and aside from one mission involving a racing car, every mission truly feels like it has a purpose. You become completely absorbed into the story of Tommy. On your way you'll encounter a fair number of twists and turns, and more blood, guts and violence than the majority of games out there.

Despite the games age, you'll find yourself oggling at the graphics. Not least because they've withstood the test of time, but because of the system they will run on - you can run this game on a mere 16MB graphics card. A truly remarkable feat of programming, which has certaintly paid off. The city of Lost Heaven is amazing, if a bit daunting. There is no in-game map, other than a plain circle letting you know where cars are, which is quite frankly a bit pointless because you can see them on the road in front of you. A map helping you find your way around this sprawling metropolis, complete with a pre-San Andreas countryside, would make it an even bigger joy to ride around.

Having said that, you're going to get very acquainted with this city. Some would say a little bit too acquainted. Every mission starts with you driving to your destination. It sounds familiar within a GTA type of gameplay - however, considering the fact you're often driving by yourself in complete silence, and the fact that any companions you do have with you in the car select silence as well, it becomes a bit of a dull, monotonous task. Time could certainly have been saved by the makers by cutting this out for at least some of the missions.

Having said that, the vehicles, despite being from the 1930s, do a real bang-up job. They're surprisingly fast and nippy, and the damage is truly remarkable. A very early mission sees you trashing rival gang members cars with a baseball bat, in which the baseball bat will make individual dents and unique damage to the car. It really helps hit home the realism aspect of the game. You'll also have to be a little more careful in your driving, as crashes, as in real-life, will hurt you as well as damaging the car.

This realism is carried through into the missions, some of which can be extremely difficult. However, despite their difficulty, they're usually not overly frustrating - with one exception - a racing car mission. This mission takes place over several parts, the first few of which are great fun and very different yet engaging. The last part of the mission sees you actually racing this car round a track for a grand total of five laps, with any crashes almost guaranteeing failure ie. not winning the race. Indeed, this mission was so ill-concieved that the makers had to include a difficulty option in their 1.1 patch just you can get past it. We're now five years past the release of this game, which means that we don't have to suffer the same trials and tribulations as those who had to race this mission without getting to select a difficulty. Despite that, it still feels out of place in an otherwise excellent scope of missions.

The weapons also have realistic damage, with shotguns and magnums likely to take you down in one or two shots, and fist-fights taking over a minute before somebody backs down. Reloading has to be timed well, so as to avoid wasting bullets yet figuring out how many you need for the upcoming fire-fight.

It is hard to fault this game of major errors. It is easy to see however just what makes it work so well - and it's the feeling of the city. Many question why games such as Just Cause and Saint's Row, despite having more features than GTA, just don't cut it as well - and it all comes down to creating the feel of the storyline, the characters and the city. Mafia easily equals GTA in this aspect, if not surpasses it at times. Although the game includes a free ride option, the main bulk of the game is it's storyline, which is truly one of the best in a game I've ever come across.

At a mere £5 to purchase this game now, it truly is criminal to let it pass you by.

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