Mirrored from my blog
Welcome to the first Design Analysis. Spoilers abound so prospective players be wary!
Mafia II was a fun game overall, but like many games I play, it could have been funner. Much like the first Mafia, Mafia II seems like it missed a lot of opportunities.
First of all, theres a lot of good things too. The city is nice, although a bit repetitive, I really only noticed when I went through one of the few unique places and started to realize just how often I did. I did like how I noticed other illegal activities every once and a while, like seeing some guy climbing over a chain link fence. The way that pedestrians stumble out of your way is also nice, although its annoying how hard it is to kill them. Which leads me to another point, the cops. At first, the cops seemed amazing, but it turned out to be a glitch. What happened was that my health was stuck at 1, so when I got in a police chase I always crashed, which was annoying, but it made you really respect the cops, and after the bug fixed itself, I still respected them at first, and when it said the cops wanted to fine me, I got nervous and pulled over, got out, and paid the fine. I even did this during a time limited mission! But then one time I was bored and decided not to pay, and then I realized just how easy it was to outrun them, so they dont scare me anymore. I did like the point about hitting things at high speeds killing you though. The way to escape the cops was to get out of their sight for a while, then go to a repair shop or clothing store, depending on the crime, to change your looks. It seems good on paper, and was until I got a trenchcoat. Going through one warehouse mission in my trenchcoat, bowler, and shooting people on sight with my machine gun instead of being a wimp and ducking from cover to cover made me feel like a badass, and was probably the high point of the game. Of course, since I was always a badass in my trenchcoat, I never wanted to take it off. The first thing I did when I got up was put on my trench coat, then I went and answered the phone. So when it said to change my clothes to avoid the cops, I didnt which got me in some sticky situations...
The main problem with it was its linearity. As someone whose favorite game is Half-Life and who daily dreams about Half Life 3 and Black Mesa getting released, thats one thing I didnt think Id say. Up until Mafia II, and also sortof Mass Effect 2, I always liked linear games better, but Im starting to see that being linear doesnt guarentee greatness. Its really how you handle it. I should also note I dont have any problems with cut scenes, theyre fine when done properly. What really pissed me of was time the time when (spoiler!) someone burned down my house, and Vito was all sad about how he kept all his money in his house, so now I was broke and had to wear my friends gay shirt instead of my badass trenchcoat. I didnt have any problem with the burning of my house, (although it would have been nice if the revenge mission wasnt so easy) it was that I hadnt been given the option, maybe of going to a bank and depositing some of my money, or hiding it in other locations. There were little things like this troughout the game, this was just the worst. The other problem with the cutscenes was that all the cool stuff my character did in the story, happened in a cut scene. Once again, I have no problem with cool stuff in cut scenes. (Master Chief pushing that bomb into an enemy cruiser is a good example) Its just when they fade to black(which is always annoying), and go to a cut scene of me doing the exact thing I would have done anyway!
Theres two other things that Mafia II missed out on, and Im surprised they did too. First of all, lots of plot points seemed like the perfect spot to add a morality system. Morality systems are generally annoying with that good/bad scale, but just being given the choice of if I wanted to to a bad thing or not would have been enough. A good example of this is in the dock scenes, where the boss pays you to go beat workers up. Since your father used to work there, it seemed like the perfect place to put a "should I get some money doing what he says or walk away or shoot him" scenario. Theres scenes like this throughout the game too! The other thing was the linear checkpoint based missions. Once again it seems like a perfect place to put Crysis style infiltrate the enemy stronghold and get X anyway you want type missions. Especially with all the different combat options it teaches you. Theres shooting, driving, melee, sneeking, etc. But instead of letting you choose how to do every mission and giving you multiple ways in, each mission just chooses one or switches between them. It became obvious there was really only one way to do a mission when in one mission later when, (spoiler!), youre hunting down the boss, and it wouldnt let you go up the stairs in front to his office, instead forcing you to go through the bottom floor warehouse with people firebombing your from above, and the door mysteriously closing behind you. In the end, for an open world game, Mafia II is actually more linear than supposed 'linear' games