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Mafia - A Player's First Impressions

By duxup in Op-Ed
Sat Sep 21, 2002 at 03:05:37 AM EST
Tags: Software (all tags)

Mafia is a plot driven third person crime shooter that takes place in an American city in the 1930s. Developed by a Czech company, Illusion Softworks, Mafia was released with little hype. That was at least until people started playing it. Rave reviews seem to be popping up everywhere with much the same sentiment "I don't know where it came from, but man it kicks *."

People could have been forgiven for passing on Mafia thinking it is just be another "crime is fun" PC game from an unknown company looking for some quick cash. Don't be confused, Mafia takes the crime games to a place they've yet to go, and that place is all flavor country.

Mafia follows the story of an ordinary man unwittingly drawn into the services, and eventually employed, by a mafia crime family in the 1930s. If this sounds like this game might be like GTA3 or Max Payne, you're wrong, and in some small ways you're right.

Mafia contains a much more developed story an atmosphere than the GTA series ever had, but also allows for some good old random action between and during missions. While when describing Mafia it is easier to use other games, make no mistake, Mafia stands on its own two feet, and shoves a Tommy gun in your groin just in case you were think'n of play'n GTA3.

Since this is a plot driven game you are playing through the daily life Tommy. At first a cabbie following his daily routine, but after a series of events you become involved with the mafia. As the story unfolds many missions are initiated at the behest of the mafia, others, you will have to find out for yourself.

As I noted Mafia is a third person shooter. The view is much closer to the character than most third person shooters, often just a few meters away and slightly higher than the characters head. In my opinion this gives me a little faster reaction time with my weapons, and much faster reflexes when playing. It also makes playing in smaller rooms much easier since the camera isn't zooming in and out all the time like in other third person shooters.

The city you play in is quite dynamic. While maybe not as large as the GTA series, it is big. The streets are also more like a 1930s city than a modern one. There are fewer expanses of square blocks and perfect intersections than GTA3. Mafia has many more winding roads and tiny back streets with larger streets on the outskirts to relieve traffic problems.

Well-placed street signs also provide for somewhat easier navigation, but the most useful navigation tool is the map feature. The map displays nearly full screen when you're looking at it, but is also fairly transparent to allow you to both drive and look at the map at the same time. It also shows your destination with a blue x.

I already commented on the feel of the city, but the interior design should also be noted. The designs in the inside of buildings are remarkably real and original. The detail is great. I do not know where they came up with some of the interior designs, I'm guessing some research on buildings from the 1930s and earlier took place.

On top of being endlessly detailed and authentic, the buildings are great fun to fight in! There is just enough cover to keep things interesting, and enough open space to keep the action moving.

Ammo and Gunfights
As this is a third person shooter, some people may wonder about the difficulty of the combat system. Mafia is not as easy as a FPS, but is probably one of the easier third person shooters in terms of aiming I've played. This is due to the fact that I mentioned earlier where the camera is closer to you than in usual third person shooters.

Getting the crosshairs on your target is easy. However, accuracy is not. Mafia won't allow you to snipe a guy down the block with your pistol no matter how long you aim, well if you do it's * hard. Also note that the machine gun barrels do rise when you let them fire a long burst, as they should. Even close range fights can involve more misses than hits. Fortunately, the rules for reloading and accuracy apply to the AI too (remember this when you're being chased).

More realistic accuracy can be fun since many fights involve ricochets and stuff splintering all over the place. It also means you don't have to have 100% cover to be close to fully protected, nor will jumping into a room, by a door, or out a door guarantee you'll get hit. This is not to say you can hide indefinitely, don't keep your head peeked around the corner too long . . .

Note that the AI can run out of ammo too. So if you want most of his ammo, you better take him down sometime today.

One more thing about ammo, reloading in Mafia is much more real than most games. Yes, you must reload, but unlike some games, if you reload and already have ammo in the chamber . . . you lose that ammo.

Many games now have interactive tutorials. Mafia is no exception. The tutorial teaches the player just about everything you could possibly want to know about playing Mafia. I am always pleased by good tutorials since I, like many other people, am allergic to opening manuals (aka. packing material).

Free Ride
While playing in the main mode some people might find that wandering around the city is not as fun as GTA3. For those looking for optional missions, a separate mode outside the main game called Free Ride is available. It takes place on the same city map, but acts much like a seperate game. Free Ride is more open ended and offers some more humorous and crazy missions. It also provides a great environment to practice in without worrying about "woops I saved over my main game" incidents.

The graphics are stunning. I expect graphics to get better as time passes so I'm rarely surprised. However, I was impressed with Mafia's graphics. I'm running an PIII 800 with 640 Meg of ram and a GeForce 3 video card. I've experienced no video problems, not even the occasional slowdown I might expect.

The faces in Mafia deserve particular note. I've seen many attempts for people to graft real faces into video games, usually resulting in some hideous geometrically retarded characters. Mafia seems to use real faces but maps them to the characters incredibly well.

The great graphics teamed with artistic detail make for a great visual experience.

The main music for Mafia is nice and gloomy. You can get a taste of the gloomy music on their website in the opening flash animation. The driving music is as would be expected, 1930s jazz. Chase scenes have their own either wacky, or scary music. It all provides for a great atmosphere.

The voice acting is quite good. Although the script sometimes seems like someone not native to the US wrote it, it is sufficient. I like to think it could have been a little better, but I'm not finished with the game so it may improve.

For those who may not have enjoyed the special style of Max Payne (I loved it), no Mafia does not tell the story, nor is the dialogue in that style.

Controls are mostly as would be expected. For those familiar with WASD controls you'll be a little surprised that your controls are considered "secondary controls" to the arrow keys (arrow what?), but fortunately WASD works with no customization necessary.

A nice feature is that both driving and walking controls can be configured with the same keys since you won't be doing both at the same time. I.E. you can use WASD for directional keys for both driving and walking.

I have only two nitpicks:
First, is that I get occasional sound crackling. I haven't upgraded my sound drivers so that might fix it. Second, was the fact that the dialogue sometimes is a bit generic, but my opinion of this might change, and most of the time it is not an issue.

All in all Mafia is a first class game that seems to be worthy of all the praise it is getting. Welcome to flavor country.


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Mafia - A Player's First Impressions | 68 comments (25 topical, 43 editorial, 7 hidden)
Nifty (5.00 / 6) (#20)
by carbon on Fri Sep 20, 2002 at 05:21:41 PM EST

I may have to check this game out; from your description, it seems to have been designed with the same sort of ideals as the Q2 D-Day mod; realism, but only to the extent that it's fun, and atmospheric, but only to the extent that it's not distracting.

Can you provide a link directly to the informative part of the page, for those of us running OSes not yet blessed (*cough*) with the presence of FlashMX? Also, any multiplayer opportunities that you know of?

Wasn't Dr. Claus the bad guy on Inspector Gadget? - dirvish
Links and Multi (5.00 / 4) (#25)
by duxup on Fri Sep 20, 2002 at 05:33:07 PM EST

I haven't playd the Q2 D-mod.

No multiplayer that I'm aware of.


[ Parent ]

Heh. I was thinking Soprano's (4.14 / 7) (#23)
by Vygramul on Fri Sep 20, 2002 at 05:26:10 PM EST

I thought, from the title, that it was someone who purported to have joined the mafia and considered himself a "player" and was going to entertain us with some BS.
If Brute Force isn't working, you're not using enough.
Been There, Done That (4.85 / 7) (#29)
by duxup on Fri Sep 20, 2002 at 05:58:41 PM EST

I tried that once.  All I got was a black eye and a kick in the nuts when they discovered I was wearing the wrong kind of fedora.  Who knew they were so brand loyal?

[ Parent ]
Great game! And buggy as hell! (4.83 / 6) (#48)
by Echo5ive on Fri Sep 20, 2002 at 08:40:29 PM EST

The Mafia forums are full of people bitching at the developers, wanting them to make a patch. Mafia runs perfect on a friends' computer. Doesn't even start on mine.

Given the crapfloods on the Mafia forums, lots of people are having serious problems with the game.

The developers have said that they are not planning to create a patch that fixes the bugs. They refer everyone to the tech support instead. (Seems they're focused on porting Mafia to PS2 right now.)

Well. I played a few missions, and it's a great game. It gets really hard really quick, though. The first mission can either be completed in five minutes or in 30 minutes, depending on your luck. Same for the second mission.

A bit into the game, you absolutely have to finish first place in a race in order to continue. I've tried for five hours to complete that damn race. Argh.

Frozen Skies: mental masturbation.

Bugs (5.00 / 3) (#49)
by duxup on Fri Sep 20, 2002 at 08:48:31 PM EST

All game forums are ALWAYS filled with people complainning about bugs.  I've not had any major ones myself, nor the others who've played it.

As for the frist two missions, there are ways to finish them fast, it's not a matter of luck.

The race is a pain.  A savegame just after the race is pretty popular on many Mafia sites.

[ Parent ]

Ruined (4.75 / 4) (#60)
by frankcrist on Sat Sep 21, 2002 at 02:49:15 AM EST

Man, I'm 70 hours into Neverwinter Nights, and this is probably going to be my next game.  You've ruined me tonight...  Any estimates into the number of hours the single player game takes?

Get your war on!
Hours (5.00 / 3) (#61)
by Freaky on Sat Sep 21, 2002 at 05:13:54 AM EST

I completed it in about 6 days, then again using the trainer, which took a little under two.

Of course, if you suck you could spend half that time on the race, which everyone was apparantly too stupid to manage.  It worries me that so many people don't know what the brake is for ;)

[ Parent ]

Passed it (4.75 / 4) (#62)
by Zara2 on Sat Sep 21, 2002 at 08:34:14 AM EST

I played Mafia straight through almost 24 hours a day. I am going through the free-ride extreme missions right now. This is a great game. Besides all the great graphics ect that are mentioned in the review the story itself was good enough to keep my wife watching the game over my shoulder. She even was asking what happened when I played when she was not there. There was no GTA3 like issue with the game being boring as all hell by the third island. The plot ends just about where it should. I also highly reccomend the free-ride extreme missions. These are the funnest and most tense "side-quests" that I have ever had the pleasure to play. Tho they are a bit difficult in some cased.

Heh (4.00 / 3) (#64)
by ebatsky on Sat Sep 21, 2002 at 07:06:54 PM EST

If you have Athlon XP system with a Geforce4 card and via motherboard chipset and run Windows XP, there's about 80% chance that mafia (and unreal tournament 3 demo) won't work on your system due to crashes or lengthy and frequent freezes. Check message boards to see the number of complaints. Also, this isn't limited to just those kind of systems. There are people with P4s and SIS chipsets , radeon cards and windows 98 having the same problem but the majority have been athlon xp/gf4/via mb. General consensus seems to be that it's probably the drivers for one of those components since people have reinstalled operating systems, drivers, etc. Some even got new power supplies and tested functionality after taking various cards out of computer one by one on a fresh installed OS.

I'm one of those who has that problem. For many people the game just crashes after a few minutes and you have to do a hard reset, for me it freezes for 10-300 seconds every 10 seconds of gameplay. Needless to say, I didn't play mafia past the tutorial.

fix (5.00 / 1) (#66)
by ebatsky on Sun Sep 22, 2002 at 04:27:12 PM EST

Well, apparently there is a fix. You can read the description about VIA chipset problems here or just download the patch here. Remember, this only applies to people with motherboards based on VIA chipsets, like Abit kr7a which is what I have. I will have to redownload Unreal Tournament demo to test this and if it works, mafia should work too.

[ Parent ]
Copyright questions (2.00 / 5) (#67)
by Fen on Mon Sep 23, 2002 at 12:45:32 PM EST

Does it make you put in the cd to play? Do you have to put in a serial number to play? I have an extreme problem with intellectual property laws, and this is what's keeping me from playing many games now. ALL INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY LAWS MUST DIE!
Q (none / 0) (#68)
by duxup on Mon Sep 23, 2002 at 06:40:50 PM EST

CD to play, yes.

SN no.

I actually have more problems with CD required to play since that just increases the possible tech support issues that can come up.

[ Parent ]

Mafia - A Player's First Impressions | 68 comments (25 topical, 43 editorial, 7 hidden)
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