This is a guest review by Al
From the opening credits on Mafia, you feel that there is a lot of potential for an entertaining game, The camera swoops in and around buildings, with nice sharp graphics picking up all the details of the streets and people around it. Swerving around cars and through the Chicago skyline until it finds you, Tommy Angelo, an ordinary cab driver in what appears to be 1930's. The next thing you hear is a number of gunshots, the camera pans around to see two men come around the corner of a street and force you back into your taxi. It is narrated in a style not too dissimilar to the film Goodfella's. It is a tale of how you got into this underground life.
Your first mission cuts in, and your driving through the city streets at speed trying to outrun a car with a couple of chaps who don't look like there trying to stop you to ask what hair care product you use to get such a firm yet dry looking hold! How do you find this out!? Because they are shooting at your car as much as possible wit quite a lot of firepower and trying to ram your car off the road to catch the two men who's fee you are charging. For even this mission is a challenge as your car does not have the horse power that your escapees 'business partners' has. And the more your car gets shot at or bumped then the slower and stiffer the handling. If you drive off the road then the back end of the car will spin out and cause you to lose control completely of your car as it spins all over the place.
Anyway, once you have escaped the car and weaved your way through the streets you need to drop off the two gentlemen who have just paid for your services. It is this favour that starts the life of crime for you with the Godfather of New York's Dan Salleri.
The potential for this game was very much in the hands of the makers, but has been carelessly thrown away on little things that all add up to lead to its own demise. The graphics however are quite sharp. If you are playing on a playstation 1! The best way to explain these graphics is to compare it to Gran Turismo, the first PS2 version at best. Animation is clunky and stiff feeling and on my first play of the game it froze up. Not a good start. The background scenery is very rough also and doesn't look like it's a part of the game at all. The character you play as doesn't look that sharp, as far as graphics go either. Its very hard to distinguish features on your character as he walks along the streets. The handling on cars is very stiff, but this may be because the cars are meant to feel like old motor vehicles. Graphics also let you down as you can snipe a man in the head and yet it wont kill him, causing for some impromptu gun justice with whatever weapon you select next.
There is a nice selection of weapons ranging from a baseball bat to a shotgun to a Tommy gun, (well it wouldn't be a gangster film without one now would it!?) So you get to try out and feel which is your weapon of choice as some feel better than others.
Game play is very similar to the Driver and The Getaway, the latter of the two having quite similar foundations. You can only drive so far to the borders of the city before an invisible wall stops your car dead. This is
necessary as the games can only store so much hard scenery, it does make the streets look like they keep on going off into the distance.
There are about 12 hours of game play on Mafia which stretch over about 20 missions, such as car chases, bank robberies and Assassinations. In areas from Downtown to the Industrial sites that aren't normally seen in the virtual world. Missions do improve later on as you charge the banks, take the loot and flee. Twists are nicely included and have you wondering what could happen next.
This game is never going to escape comparisons to Grand Theft Auto, Vice City, which many of these games cant avoid the resemblances, parts of Driver, the Getaway, GTA Vice City, the Godfather, goldfields, and Once upon a time in America have all been thrown into this metaphorical gangster cauldron and stirred up pretty well. The game has a pretty funky backing track which unlike GTA doesn't only play in the cars but its on all the time, No radios in cars for you! But this 30's jazz music really does help you get into the feel of the game, Correct me if im wrong but I think it's the Mills Brothers that keep your feet tapping.
Another part that is similar to GTA is the loading scenes that have to occur when you get halfway through the city due to the vastness of the games.
Unfortunately you are not left with a quick 10 second load screen but a minimum of 45 seconds which can catch you off guard and cause you to crash when you are thrown back into a high speed drive. This is especially frustrating if attempting a mission that requires a number of cross town journeys.
But for all of these down points there are the good, a lot of which have been mentioned already, One mission, you have to drive your cab around dropping passengers off, if you go too fast or run any reds then the thin blue line are on your tail pulling you over. The nice touch to avoid the speeding fines are that you can switch on a speed gauge that causes your car to cruise upon reaching your speed limit, which also helps because braking and handling can be pretty difficult if travelling much faster
If you have played the PC version and feel that you can just buy this as it is a transfer of consoles then be warned, there have been alterations. Streets on the PC were busy and bustling with life and traffic flowing around you, not here there isn't, it's a bit of a windy city in comparison amongst others. If you have played the PC version then down be too quick to snap this up as it is far superior.
But please, don't just take my word for it, Some people who have played it say they haven't been able to put the controller down for 12 hours, I
unfortunately was not one of them and still feel that renting the game out for a couple of nights or borrowing it from a friend before you go and spend your hard earned cash!