"One of the most atmospheric games of all time"
In 2002 Illusion Softworks released Mafia for the PC to widespread acclaim and PC gamers delight. It's taken a few years but the console ports are starting to arrive with the first being the Playstation 2 version of the game. In 2002 the PC version was one of the best games released for that platform in that year and from playing the PS2 version, it doesn't look like its lost any of its charm with age.
In Mafia you play as Tommy Angelo, a man earning a wage to feed his family until one fateful night. On this night Tommy is out earning his simple honest buck via his regular job as a taxi driver when two members of a mafia family hail him down to rescue them from a rival family. This becomes the prologue to the game and also acts as the first mission. Tommy is then offered a position with the family which after a mission of driving people about as a taxi driver he ultimately decides to take. The story is played out retrospectively in the year 1938. The game's storyline actually begins in 1930 and Tommy is trying to get some protection by blabbing all to the local police detective. It works very much the same way the prince tells the story in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.
Many people may pick up Mafia expecting the game to be completed open ended like Grand Theft Auto III and Liberty City. If you have those expectations going into the game, you're not going to like Mafia. The main difference is the way the story is played out. There is no time between missions to drive around doing what you please (free ride allows you to do this however without the mission structure), which keeps the story flowing but ultimately doesn't leave you with something else to do should you become stuck. There is no shortage of missions to complete in Mafia and they all feature a good variety of tasks. In one mission you have to drive in a grand prix so Salieri (the boss) can win his bet, in another you have to blow up a hotel. They never seem to become boring even if you have to try them multiple times, although the PS2 version does seem a little easier then its PC brother.
There has been a few changes to the PS2 version of Mafia from the PC, and not only to accommodate the resource requirements for the PS2. One of the most talked about areas of the PC version was the mission where you have to race in the grand prix and how difficult it was. In the PS2 version you are given a choice of difficulty and it doesn't seem to affect the game one bit if you decide to choose the "Very Easy" option other then you may feel you cheated yourself out of a mission because it really is significantly easier then it was on the PC edition of the game. Other then that the game is pretty much the same throughout.
There is no doubt that with the PC version Illusion Softworks captured the 1930's in the most authentic fashion possible and this has moved across to the PS2 version almost untouched. There are various different cars to drive and the soundtrack, clothing, style of language used are all reminiscent of that period. This is definitely one of the most atmospheric games ever made and really engulfs you as you play the game. The cars featured throughout may not be as detailed and varied as games such as Grand Theft Auto III, but it does feature a wide variety of vehicle styles from the time ranging from the basic cars, through to luxurious convertibles and race cars.
Before each mission you will usually be given a car or have a choice of a few which have been picked up along the way. Ralph and another contact at times will tell how you to break into cars, without this knowledge you won't be able to steal that car. You can also take cars whilst people drive them, but there are repercussions. Most of the time you will be running from an enemy family rather then the police, as they have been paid off. Tick them off enough, they will chase you and either arrest you or give you a ticket for an offence such as speeding. They give up pretty easily in a car chase so evading them usually isn't a problem unless there is heavy traffic.
As mentioned before the city in Mafia is huge and is divided into numerous sections. Three islands make up the main city and there are various means of getting around besides the automobiles littered about the place. You can catch a tram or a train across town, which can sometimes be quicker but usually the car is the best to use. There is lots of landmarks featured in the city such as the city hall, a hotel, a race track, Salieris bar etc and these are sometimes used as mission markers. A full detailed map of the city can be brought up via the select button and this marks exactly where you need to go, a very useful option. Another change from the PC version comes to the fore here as well, the racing section. Illusion Softworks have added a checkpoint racing system around the city which is a nice novelty but isn't enough to make PC gamers buy the game again for console.
The graphics of the game are both impressive and disappointing. It appears to scale depending on a few factors such as where you are at the time and what time of day it is. Inside buildings such as Saleris bar the graphics appear much better but that may be because of the short draw distance and close objects, when driving around in cars the framerate can drop somewhat, but never to the point where the game is unplayable. During gunfights the framerate usually isn't a problem which was crucial to this port but the auto aim system can leave a little to be desired at times. The sound is one of the best features of the game with some superb voice acting and an authentic 1930's soundtrack. The only problem is whenever you bring the map up and close it, the soundtrack begins again so you may hear the song over and over as you move through the game.
Mafia on PS2 is a decent accomplishment for the developers. It hasn't lost much of its charm from the 2002 PC edition and they seem to have used the PS2 hardware in the best way possible. The few changes added will probably not be enough for PC gamers to fork out for the game again, but for those of you who haven't experienced the game yet, Mafia is definitely one of the better games on the market today, but whether a two year old game is still worth the full price being asked for it, is up to the gamer to decide.