Reader Review: Mafia II

Reader Review: Mafia II

Do you have what it takes to get a review published right here on Kotaku? The splendidly-named Turgid does, as he just wants to relax.

Yes, that’s right, we’re publishing reader reviews here on Kotaku. This is your chance to deliver sensible game purchasing advice to the rest of the Kotaku community.

And thanks to the very kind chaps at Madman Entertainment, purveyor of all kinds of cool, indie and esoteric film, the best reader review we publish each month will win a prize pack containing ten of the latest Madman DVD releases.

This review was submitted by Turgid Dahlia. If you’ve played Mafia II, or just want to ask Turgid more about it, leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Mafia II (360)

It isn’t really important what Mafia II is about. Okay, sure, it’s a “sandbox-lite” GTA-style experience, except without the open-worldiness and irritating interruptions. It’s set on the cusp of the Cold War. It’s a third-person shooter without Gears Of War’s relentless depressing greyscale architecture. It has amazing visuals – some of the best on the 360 – and an engaging storyline. The voice acting is beyond reproach. The environments are fascinating, the gunplay invigorating, the driving driving-y. It’s fun. It’s a fun game. And mainly it’s the story of a man trying to create a future for himself. It’s the story of Vito Scaletta, but that doesn’t matter.

Loved Relaxation: This is a game not so much to savour as to slump into. And not a resigned slump. The slump of satisfaction, of relaxation. Driving a made-up ’40s petrol guzzler through the snowy streets of a place that isn’t quite New York. Listening to radio stations that play the sort of music you pretend to laugh at, but which in reality act as a sort of massage for the soul, imbued with such clarity and delicacy, harkening back to an era where B-17s flew overhead, on their way to missions unbeknownst, and yet this was normal because it was all you remembered, and what really matters is getting home to your mamma, and to your sister. To share a meal in a dingy apartment, in a room that hasn’t changed since you left three years ago. To sleep on the bed where you had your first nocturnal emission, your first real gut-wrenching cry. Your first life-changing revelation: “I will do this.” And to wake up meet with your childhood friend and drive to the other side of town, possibly in a stolen car, admiring the world around you and wondering where everything went so wrong. But that doesn’t matter. Just drive, just listen to the music. Stop to machine-gun the baddies, sure. But mainly just drive. And don’t bump the prowl car in front of you at the red light.

Hated Life isn’t like this: I’m not Vito. I’m not this confident, or competent, or handsome. I don’t have interesting stories from the war. I don’t have his adventure.

This is a game to settle you. No side-missions? Not enough freedom? You’d prefer more customisation options, to change your avatar’s nose slightly, or adjust their eye colour? Why isn’t there any multiplayer, because what I really just want is the most superficial level of human interaction? None of this matters. Mafia II is therapy. And I love it.

Reviewed by: Turgid Dahlia

You can have your Reader Review published on Kotaku. Send your review to us at the usual address. Make sure it’s written in the same format as above and in under 500 words – yes, we’ve upped the word limit. We’ll publish the best ones we get and the best of the month will win a Madman DVD prize pack.


  • After reading this review I still don’t know if this is a good game or not… i don’t really know how it can be reviewed already considering it has been out for what? 2 days?

    If the only thing you liked is the relaxation factor than the game must suck a whole lot of arse.

    And you hate that it isn’t realistic? have you played Starcraft? or Bioshock?.. or Robot Unicorn Attack?

  • Thanks Dahlia. I’m not far into the story yet, but i think the developers have copped far too much flak for *not* producing a sand box.

    What about the strengths of the game? Good scripting, fine voice acting, crafted scenarios and attention to lighting and aesthetics and detail (sure, some of which is arbitrary).

    There’s a lot of artistry on show in Mafia II, but critics have whinged on about what it’s not… Dahlia’s right, you can relax with this game and just role with it – i don’t see why narrative-driven games have to be criticised for being just that.

    game criticism is in such a sorry state generally!

    • I think the best summation I’ve heard for ‘the world’ of Mafia 2 is that it’s an Open-world game, but NOT a sandbox.

      The city is the setting, not the game. Just as say some FPS provide incredible vistas that you can look at but can’t actually get to to provide a sense of immersion, this is the role of the city in Mafia 2, it immerses you in the period/setting/story. It’s not for having your way with. Same goes for Mafia 1.

      TLDR: Mafia =/= GTA.

  • Reading the review makes me think you wrote it after only playing the first 10%. Well written but completely uninformative.

    The story is great. The gameplay so-so. The checkpoints are so spread out that controller throwing is likely to occur. It’s a good thing that the story and acting is just so damn good.

    • Hi Cohzee,

      Yes you have me there. I wrote this review and I wrote it after playing, as you say, around 10% of the game. But I wasn’t trying to give a “Buy it, or don’t” review, I just wanted to give my impressions. Some games just strike you a certain way immediately, and that was how this struck me. I had a visceral reaction and wanted to get it down, because that’s the first thing that gets me, and I’m guessing a lot of others, with games: that gut-based “yeah, this is the stuff” or the equally reactive yawn. Likely this disqualifies it as a “review” but…oh well.

  • I didn’t like Mafia II at first, but that’s because I guess I’ve held the original up on a pedestal the likes of which the sequel could never succeed to.

    However, after finishing the game I’ve decided I judged it too harshly (and as a result, a number of mates aren’t even going to play it now.)

    Mafia II IS NOT a sand-box game in a open-world environment. It’s a linear, story-driven one, that’s walls are very far apart.

    Personally, I find linear games all too often lose the “immersion” the developers strive hard to accomplish, all because you can see the boundaries too easily. Techno-metallic corridors, narrow rock-formations, warehouses with obvious exits, knee-height picket fences you can’t jump over, etc… the list goes on.

    2K Czech have fixed the linear game’s fault; they’ve made the walls no longer so close together. And the “immersion” is now much more achievable.

    NB: Really wish I’d submitted a review for this. =[

Show more comments

Log in to comment on this story!