913th played so far

Genre: Shoot ‘Em Up
Platform: PC
Year of Release: 2002
Developer: Illusion Softworks
Publisher: Gathering of Developers

While Mafia was in development before Grand Theft Auto III was released, it’s hard to shake the impression that this came is building on that game from the first look. The open world games were sort of around, but this does look like GTA‘s 3D installments shifted to the twenties with a mafia bent.

Our Thoughts

I guess the intention of the game becomes clear from the opening set up, where you are a cab driver ferrying people around the city. After you help a mafia member escape, you slowly end up getting involved with them, first as their getaway driver but where you end up deeper down the line.

Starting there, I couldn’t always get to grips with the driving. Not necessarily the driving itself, but finding my way around the city. I know we’re now very spoiled with driving lines, but I do think I managed to get the “drive to a place” down… which then got frustrating when the game gave you a place to go, but expected you to follow random waypoints along the way. Sure, I’m meant to go across a certain bridge, but nowhere in the game specifies where that bridge is, and in these modern days I don’t have an easy map available. It’s an annoying feature of the early part of the game, which later gets sort of fixed by not having any other waypoints other than the direct ones, but I never found it intuitive.

The other big failing, which made me think I had to read the developer’s minds, came during the first bit on foot. You’re being chased by a rival mob after having been recognised, but before having properly joined the mafia. You really need to read the developers’ mind for this one, as there are a lot of dead ends and different directions to take, with no cinematic segments where they feel like they’d fit in (jumping over a fence, that sort of thing) and then randomly get killed because you didn’t zig zag the right way. It’s a frustrating start because all of this happens before you start the game and get the tools to actually play the game and have fun with it.

It feels like it continues through tthe rest of the game though. Driving around and handling missions is fun when the pressure is gone, and it’s nice to see the world. Too often, though, you need to figure out how the pieces of the puzzle are meant to fall into place, and too often they rely on randomness or are unclear. There’s meant to be a power fantasy in these sort of games, but it feels like that’s just never there.

Final Thoughts

There’s a good driving game in here and I feel like this game’s missions could be tuned to be more survivable – a modern day remake likely would solve the sign posting issues. At the same time, it’s hard for me to really be positive about a game like this when I feel like it blocks me this early on. It’s unfortunate, but you need to be willing to take your time with the game to get anything out of it.

  1. […] seen Illusion Softworks’ work fairly recently in Mafia: City of Lost Heaven, which is the type of game they started to lean towards more, but here we’re looking at the […]