Mafia is an unforgettable experience, with a strong narrative, deep characters and an unforgiving difficulty level.

User Rating: 9 | Mafia PC

After finishing Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven, I was stunned - simply amazed by how strong the story was and overall how powerful the game felt. Before getting on with this review, I thought about this game for days - trying to find flaws and inconsistencies. All that bothered me was how difficult the game was to complete, but other than that, there was nothing I could find that was significant enough to affect my opinion of Mafia as a whole. Sure, I would have liked some more replay value but the narrative of this game itself leaves enough to think about, and yes, it is so good that you want more (but in a way you feel satisfied) after completing it.

The protagonist of this story is called Thomas Angelo… or Tommy. He is a taxi driver that gets caught up in some nasty Mafia business. He is offered an opportunity he can't refuse, to enter a world of money, alcohol, crime and respect. He accepts. Of course, things don't turn out as well as Tommy predicts - that is why the game begins in a bar, where a conversation between him and Detective Norman takes place. Tommy tells his story to the detective and gives away all the details about his Mafia. As the conversation continues, you play the events that occurred years before what is happening and eventually lead up to this meeting. Let me tell you already, Mafia is not the game that is about how "epic" the gameplay is - it's all about the plot here. And Tommy's story really is a very interesting one that takes flight right at the beginning and keeps you hooked in right until the ending. With deeply-developed characters and fantastic voice acting to back this tale up, there is nothing to complain about.

Mafia, sadly, is not an open world game. However, it throws you into the city of Lost Heaven and does allow you to drive around town freely at times. Most of the gameplay is based on shooting, and the toys you get to play with do pack quite a punch. On the other hand, the game is set in the 1930s so weaponry is nowhere near as advanced as that of today, however Mafia manages to get some things right that other games released years after it failed to accomplish. The guns in this game range from classic revolvers to rapid-firing Colt 1911s, from powerful shotguns to a long range 1903 Springfield Rifle. This IS a mobster game about a Sicilian Mafia so one of the weapons you'll expect to see (and won't be disappointed about) is a Thompson submachine gun, or simply "Tommy Gun". Yes, this weapon does appear but the recoil on it is crazy! This moves us on to another topic - realism.

One of the things that Mafia got right, while many games released years after it did not, is realism. Realistic recoil on weapons is only one example. One thing about Mafia that might bother many gamers is that when you reload a weapon that uses detachable magazines - and you still have a few bullets left in your clip, then those bullets are gone. Now tell me one game released around the time of this review that uses this element. Can't think of any? One might argue that having this sort of thing in a game isn't fun… they're wrong. To me, not only does this add more immersion to a game, it also forces you to think.

Imagine you are in a really tough situation (during a shootout), you only have a pistol while your target has a Thomson, with a lot of ammo available. Your enemy is currently peeking out of cover - you could score a magnificent headshot and dispose of him with one bullet. However, you only have two bullets left in your clip, so if you miss twice - he'll just take cover again and you might not get another great opportunity like that. You can either: take your chances, pop out of your cover and pray to god that you don't miss or reload your gun to have a full magazine (wasting the ammo from the last clip) but while doing so, you give your target a chance to run, during those few seconds that it takes you to reload your weapon. How is that not more exciting and challenging than what other games give you: the magical ammo from your old clip that pops back into your magazine (even after you drop it) and makes things much easier and distant from reality. Why did game developers not learn anything from Illusion Softworks? Ideas such as those should not be abandoned but reused in various different ways. I'm not saying that every game needs this, but many could benefit from it.

Another very realistic aspect of Mafia are its cars, and how the whole driving system works around the city in general. To start off with, you can't get into any car you like, until you learn how to pick the lock on the specific type of car you're after. This is done gradually, as you progress further in the main story missions, through a Mafia member called Ralph. Once you have a set of wheels and start driving around the city, you have to watch your speedometer because there is a speed limit of 60kmph (or 40 mph). But the policemen in Mafia are nowhere near as bloodthirsty as the cops in Saints Row 2 and Grand Theft Auto IV. These guys (instead of shooting at you and trying to kill you no matter what you do) will actually pursue you once they spot you running red lights or driving faster than allowed. They will tell you to stop. If you keep driving fast, you might even lose them but that will prove to be quite difficult. There is a much simpler way - do what they say! If you stop, they will ask you to step out of your vehicle. Do so and you will be fined… then you are on your way to go. I find it simply mind-boggling how a game released so long before SR2 & GTAIV were created and managed to get these things right while neither of the two other games mentioned did.


+ Strong narrative backed up by deeply-developed characters

+ Fantastic sound design with a haunting main theme and top-notch voice acting

+ Likeable protagonist

+ Fun gameplay

+ Many realistic gameplay elements that newer games lack

+ Atmosphere of the 1930s is greatly recreated

+ Plenty of weapons to choose from

+ Feeling of satisfaction after completing the game

+ Ahead of its time, visually and in every other way

+ Very short loading times in between missions


- Not much replay value

- Insanely hard difficulty level

- Only a few songs to listen to on the radio while driving

In the end, despite a few insignificant flaws, the positive points of Illusion Softworks' masterpiece far outnumber the negatives. And even if they didn't, the incredibly strong narrative, characters that you can get easily attached to and fun shooting gameplay plus good driving mechanics would be enough to save this game anyway. Sure there are always a few bad things - flaws in the system. They're even here too, like the repetitiveness of the songs on the radio or the completely unforgiving difficulty level which will frustrate you many times and force you to think strategically as well as to think of other ways to complete a mission… which is actually good too. But to put it simply: there's more of the good, than there is of the bad. Mafia is an unforgettable experience, a game that is way ahead of its time and deserves a rating of incredible, almost a ten out of ten!

OVERALL RATING – 9.5/10 (Incredible)