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Mafia series [2002-2016 -- Illusion Softworks/2K Czech/Hangar 13]

Started by Starfox, May 27, 2023, 05:21 PM

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Originally published August 08, 2018 by Doc_Brown

While I reviewed the original Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven, for some reason I never wrote up anything for its sequel, Mafia II.  And now that I've finally gotten around to playing the third entry, Mafia III, I figure my best course of action is to throw together a quick overview of the trilogy as a whole.  The four out of five score is an average for the series, and while for most people that means favoring Mafia/Mafia II over Mafia III, I find myself doing the opposite.

Which isn't meant as a knock on the first two games, mind you.  Mafia II does everything the original Mafia did, just more refined and with graphics that have aged much better (examplĂ©).  But the one glaring flaw I find with both of them is how next to nothing is done with their open-world settings.  Critics of the third game complain that its open-world activities are boring/repetitive, but I don't understand how having virtually nothing is somehow supposed to be the better alternative.

And to be clear, you can avoid a lot of Mafia III's filler.  Collectibles can be entirely ignored (there's nothing like Black Flag's got-to-have-them sea shanties here), you don't have to do every single side mission before taking over a district (it simply makes the takeover easier), and while there's something to be said for doing favors for your associates there's no reason to bother helping out with their rackets (all you get is more money, but it always entails a long, boring drive).

Some criticism has also been directed at Mafia III's stealth system, insofar as it's easy to exploit the enemies' AI, but I'm just grateful to have stealth as an option.  Most games of this ilk are focused solely on driving and shooting, and the sneaking plays well with the series' more realistic wanted system.  I actually find myself intrigued by the idea of these developers tackling a straight up fugitive game, going all in on the avoidance of the cops rather than guns blazing action.

To be fair, my more lenient opinion of the third game no doubt stems from having never played it at launch, and I understand it's come a long way in terms of patches and additional content in the two years since.  It's not without its faults (for instance, the controls take some getting used to, and there are still some bugs and crashes), but I just find myself willing to overlook them in light of all the things it does right (awesome soundtrack, beautiful setting, etc.).

Going forward, I'd actually like to see the series go backward--which is to say, I'd rather see a prequel set in the Roaring Twenties than a sequel in the 70's or 80's.  This last entry also barely gets away with the "Mafia" label (seeing as it's more about fighting the Mob than being a part of it), so playing as a gangster during Prohibition would serve as a welcome return to form.  Overall, it's a solid series even though your own individual mileage per game will vary.

Guess what it means!


I finally got around to playing Mafia: Definitive Edition, and I figured I'd tack on my thoughts here.  Much like Mafia II, it's far prettier than the original game, tells its story better, and features improvements to the gameplay and world.  And yet at the same time, it also makes some changes I dislike, feels more explicitly gamey in its design, and is still an open-world game with nothing to do in the open-world.  Playing it, I kept feeling like I'd prefer replaying either the original or Mafia III.

So that's just what I did, actually, I replayed The City of Lost Heaven--and I'm surprised to admit that it hasn't held up as well as I'd thought.  It mostly comes down to a lack of common sense in their design decisions, like a way too sparse checkpoint system or a lack of clear direction in terms of mission objectives.  Though I still didn't have a problem with the racing mission (in either version, actually), something I've never understood whenever people complain about it.

Oh, and just for posterity's sake, I should mention the mods I was using.  I know the big one is the Mafia Community Mod Pack, but I chose to go a bit simpler: Mafia Ready-to-Play (which combines the Widescreen/Draw Distance fix and Restored Music mods, plus a little something extra) and the Mafia Water Shader Mod.  Just know that the draw distance isn't fixed by default--it gives you access to the .ini script, where you should increase the number to something like 2000.
Roads?  Where we're going we don't need roads.