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Published by Take 2 Interactive
Developed by Illusion Softworks
Price £29.99
Released: Out Now

Gangster games have seldom been successful. Recently of course we have had Gangsters and Gangsters 2, both strategy games and both failed to really hit the mark. Of course the concept behind basing a game around gangsters is a sound one and one that would provide a very popular game if it were developed by the appropriate people. Illusion Softworks became well know because of their excellent Hidden & Dangerous which was not only original in concept but wonderfully realised and playable. When it became known that Illusion Softworks were developing a game called Mafia the games press were very enthusiastic. Finally, the game has arrived and once again Illusion Softworks have realised a sound concept in spectacular fashion.

The game is based around the story of Tommy Angelo. The game begins with Tommy meeting Detective Norman in hope of agreeing to a trade. Tommy has climbed the ranks in the Salieri gang but now feels that he is a marked man, with the threat coming from within the Salieri gang itself. Tommy wants out and in exchange for the protection of his family he will give Detective Norman all the dirt on Don Salieri. Detective Norman agrees and the game begins with Tommy explaining his story from the very beginning, where else you might ask, and explains how he came to work for Salieri after getting caught in a gang shoot-out. You control Tommy through these reminisces and get to see him rise through the ranks of the Salieri gang.

As you may know the game is set in the 1930s and everything in the game reflects this. Vintage cars, old-fashioned weapons and hats and long overcoats are the fashion, in fact it is true to say that Illusion Softworks have given the game a very authentic feel. The missions have a pleasant amount of variety about them and the mix of killing, having to blow things up and of course having to steal and drive cars all over the city of Lost Heaven, which is large to say the least, all serves to create a very believable and enjoyable gangster flavour to the game.

The feel of the game is very familiar. You can sense the Max Payne and GTA III influences, which is no bad thing. The game certainly looks and plays very well indeed. Graphically the game is highly configurable and with every detail at it's highest setting the game looks fantastic although you're going to need some pretty impressive hardware to play with all the details and screen resolution turned up. The AI of your enemies is generally impressive. However I noticed one oddity. In one of the game's earlier missions you have to destroy three cars outside a rival gang's restaurant. Armed with a couple of Molotov cocktails and a baseball bat I set about the task. I used all my Molotov cocktails and destroyed all but one car. The explosions didn't alert the rival gang. However when I decided to use the baseball bat to finish the job off the rival gang all came out with guns blazing. Strange that men who couldn't hear cars exploding could hear the pounding of a baseball bat.

To break you into the game and get you used to the third person perspective view, very similar to Max Payne in this way, there is a good tutorial. The one problem with the tutorial though is that it is not subtitled. Brief instructions appear on the screen and this enables you to understand what's going on. Pressing F1 will also remind you of your objectives should you forget. Thankfully this problem does not carry over into the main part of the game. Deaf gamers will be able to follow the excellent plot as the game is subtitled. Taunts from enemies are not subtitled though and whilst this would have been nice, it would soon clutter the screen when faced with four or five rivals who were shouting at you. Objectives appear onscreen in the form of a brief statement and these can be recalled at anytime with the press of the F1 key. The game is highly enjoyable for the deaf gamer.

The method of saving your game is something that might irritate some gamers. Rather than let you save at any time you wish, the game uses checkpoints to autosave. If you are killed you simply go back to the last checkpoint. To begin with the checkpoints are not too far apart but as you progress into the game there are some lengthy sections where getting killed is very easy and it will not please you having to return to completely redo the part that you played twenty minutes before.

Aside from the main game there's also a Free Ride mode and a Free Ride Extreme mode. As you progress, various sections of the Free Ride mode are unlocked. Different cars become available to you. You can work as a Taxi driver, roam the city or even fight gangsters if you so wish. Free Ride Extreme mode is only available after you've completed the main game. This mode enables you to do different tasks and obtain special cars that would otherwise be impossible to obtain. There is also a Carcyclopedia which enables you to view all the cars that appear in the game.

Mafia is definitely one of the best PC games this year. Cinematic, intense and engrossing all describe Mafia. Just as Hidden & Dangerous placed us in W.W.II so as Mafia places us in the world of a 1930s gangster. Illusion Softworks have created something very special with Mafia and Take 2 Interactive have another benchmark title on their hands. A must buy.

Overall Game Rating: 9.5/10
From top to bottom the game is a work of art. Mafia puts you in a living, breathing, world of the gangster. The end result is staggering and we have possibly the game of the year on our hands.

Deaf Gamers comment:
The game is subtitled although the tutorial only gives you directives in text and not the full conversation. You can access mission objectives by pressing the F1 key. The nonessential taunts from your enemies are not subtitled though but this doesn't impair the game in anyway.

*A special thanks to Amy and Nick from Take 2 for telling me how to enable the subtitles. You have to goto the options menu, choose controls, select other and there you will find the subtitles option. The subtitles are not on by default.

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