Mafia Impressions

We take a look at the upcoming console versions of Illusion Softworks' epic mafioso action game.

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Earlier today we had the opportunity to check out the upcoming console versions of Mafia, which is Gathering and Illusion Softworks' critically acclaimed 1930s-era third-person action game that puts you in the role of Tommy Angelo. He's a cab driver and an otherwise unassuming citizen who finds himself dragged into the seedy criminal underworld after helping members of the Salieri crime family escape from an attack by a rival family. Mafia was originally released only on the PC. The PlayStation 2 and Xbox versions of the game feature a few key differences from their PC predecessor, but for the most part, the game looks to be very much in familiar form.

One thing that hasn't changed in Mafia is all of the missions and cutscenes. No missions have been cut, and all of the cutscenes will be there in their full glory. Following inspection of the game's controls, it was discovered that most of the same basic functionality was there, but it included one important addition. In transitioning a third-person shooter from the PC to consoles, the typical tactic used to improve aiming is to simply give the game an auto-aim feature, which can be rather hit-or-miss in execution. For Mafia, Illusion has done something a little bit differently by instead opting to give you a button (or buttons) that automatically moves your targeting reticle to the next-closest target. On the PS2, the R2 and L2 buttons perform this function, while on the Xbox, the black and white buttons do the same. Obviously, you will also have the option to simply move the right analog stick or thumbstick in whatever direction you please.

Driving was also a big part of Mafia's gameplay, though one complaint mounted previously was that the speed limitations of the cars, coupled with the highly realistic speed limits posted throughout the game's city, made driving around a far more cumbersome task than it needed to be. For the console versions, the speed limits for both the cars and the city have been upped a bit, thus letting you get around the city much faster. The game also has one new gameplay mode, which is essentially a basic race mode. Here you can choose from several different tracks and from four different race categories, including classic, sports, racing, and mixed. These categories refer to the models and styles of cars you can choose for a race, and any car you unlock in the primary game is usable in this mode.

Mafia was an extremely impressive-looking PC game when it was released, so the obvious question revolves around how the graphics fare--more than a year and a half later--on console platforms versus the PC. The good news is that the game is still just about as detailed as before. The same animations, cars, character models, and city landmarks are present on the PS2 and Xbox, though most everything looked a little rougher around the edges. Textures were definitely lower in resolution, the frame rate was a bit on the jumpy side, draw distance was pretty noticeable, and on the whole, the game appeared to have a bit more of a jaggy look to it--though nearly all of these issues seemed more prevalent in the PS2 version of the game than in the Xbox version. We also took note of some rather lengthy load times on both consoles. Aside from these apparent drawbacks in a PC-to-console translation, the game still had every bit of the atmosphere and style found in the PC version, so ultimately, we were satisfied with what we saw.

Mafia is due for the PlayStation 2 at the end of this month, and the Xbox version will follow shortly thereafter. Expect a full review of both games as the release date draws near.

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