G. FORD: Set in 1930s New York City–esque Lost Heaven—complete with inaccurate guns and cars that struggle to break 50 mph—Mafia tells the tale of an enterprising cabbie’s rise through the ranks of the mob (via Grand Theft Auto–style car-based missions and third-person shooting action) and his subsequent attempt to rat out The Family. Which, as the canon of mob movies has taught us, is heavily frowned upon.
The excellent cut-scenes and score combine to set a wonderful mood, but right as you’re cruising through the game’s impressive variety of tasks, it all comes to a screeching halt. Highly frustrating missions pepper the game, usually filled with cheap enemies who have impeccable aim and a superhuman ability to absorb multiple shotgun blasts at point-blank range. When driving, buildings and other scenery tend to pop up out of nowhere, while cars and pedestrians sometimes disappear if you switch from the front view to the rear and back again, which really makes Mafia feel like the two-year-old PC port it is. Still, the story should keep dedicated gamers going; just don’t expect gameplay to match.
CRISPIN: Compared to most games that’ve jacked Grand Theft Auto’s hit-and-run formula, Mafia is a sluggish, low-octane jalopy—and not just because its old-tyme autocarriages barely break the speed limit. This Sunday driver cruises along in the slow lane with long-winded cinemas, lengthy loading times, and too much time spent driving from A to B. Your hero does get into thrilling situations—rooftop chases, colossal firefights, hasty getaways—but they’re often spoiled by twitchy on-foot control and glitches. So that’s why they call it the Great Depression.
OFFICIAL PS MAG—SCOOTER: It may not be GTA, but to me, Mafia is one of the best crime games out there. Sure, it’s got minor problems, like the semi-dated look (I’m criticizing technology, not art aesthetic), interminable load times, hit detection, melee combat controls, and the sometimes boring driving bits. But what enthralls me is Mafia’s great sense of style, the large variety of mission types (ranging from sabotaging a race car to walking a girl home), and the excellent story.
Good: Excellent story and mission variety
Bad: Fluctuating difficulty and cheap enemies
Watch Instead: The Godfather
Ratings: G. Ford 6.0, Crispin 5.0, Scooter 7.5.
Copyright © 2004 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally appearing in Electronic Gaming Monthly.