Mafia II's release was clouded by confusion over what "open-world" really meant. Some assumed it meant "sandbox", where Mafia II was anythingf but. Jimmy's Vendetta, the game's first batch of downloadable content, offers more of what some had been expecting.
That means no Vito, no Henry, no Joe Barbaro. Instead you're Jimmy, a former mob hitman who, as the title suggests, got screwed over and is now repaying the favour to two gang syndicates, Irish and Italian. Light on story and heavy on gunplay, car chases and destruction, it's a colour negative of the more cinematic main game. Can that bring balance to the title overall?
All About Action: Jimmy's Vendetta is the sequel to the PS3-exclusive The Betrayal of Jimmy, included free with Mafia II. The game is structured "arcade style", which means at the end of each mission you'll get a grade, a point total and a leaderboard position. You're thus encouraged to replay the missions to beat the score, either by racking up more headshots, combination kills or finishing more quickly. Disappointingly, you can only replay these missions on the difficulty you selected at the beginning. To play on other levels requires starting over in a new gamesave. But there are 34 missions in all, 12 of them vehicle thefts.
Eats, Shoots and Leaves: OK, so it's all about action. And serving that is a set of missions whose design, at best, can be called "straightforward", where "bland" might be less charitable but more accurate. Vehicle theft barely involves much more than just picking a lock and driving the car to a location. Occasionally you'll have to shoot someone. The main missions break down to escort protection, asset destruction and kill everyone, the latter comprising the majority of what you do and eight of the final nine jobs. The game again spreads them at opposite ends of its large map - and of course the only place you can buy ammo for the game's more effective guns is at Harry's, requiring constant trips to the extreme northwest end of the map to reload. Forcing you to drive all over the map is neither gameplay nor an invitation to explore.
My Kingdom For A Cutscene: Ripped for being too linear in gameplay, Mafia II was at least defended for its cinematic heft. And it uses none of it in Jimmy's Vendetta. You get two scenes at the beginning and at the end. This makes the "arcade-style" focus of replaying a mission for a higher score the sole point of the game. If you're really committed to that, this package will provide some value for the $US10. If you're playing this to extend the Mafia II story or experience, you're going to be racing through these jobs with not much payout other than a couple of paragraphs on a loading screen.
Jimmy's Vendetta is not a set of missions that extends the story of the main game. It's the side missions that should have been included with the main product in the first place. Instead, Xbox 360 and PC owners are paying $US10 to get a free-roam mode in a game that was touted as open-world, with the implication that meant plenty to do in it. And instead of starring Vito, who has a narrative, acting and a story I care about, it's all carried out by some smirking Reno pit boss who just shows up unaccountably and gets next to no narrative treatment.
Everyone's now going to say that this isn't the purpose of Jimmy's Vendetta because it's an "arcade-style" extension to the game. Fine. Some will get into the challenge of replaying a set of stock missions, shaving down the time it takes to complete them or racking up points or whatever. But it's a completely off-key successor to a game that, if it had anything going for it, delivered a strong story, interesting characters and well-composed cinematics.
Mafia II: Jimmy's Vendetta was developed by 2K Czech and published by 2K Games for the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 on September 7. Retails for $US9.99/800 Microsoft Points. A copy of the game was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Completed the game's singleplayer mode.
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