Do you think of Marlon Brando giving you an offer you can’t refuse? Joe Pesci trying to establish just what kind of funny guy he really is? Is it the opening credits of The Sopranos?
Maybe what leaps to mind is a game which at the time of its release would become a serious contender to that of the benchmark to all third person sandbox games, Grand Theft Auto.
Released in 2002, Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven takes us into a world of 1930s America between 1930 and 1938 when prohibition and organised crime were perhaps at their highest.
To me what makes this game so special is that it shoves us into a world in which money is everything and that loyalty to the ‘Don’ and those around him comes before God, country and your own family.
Mafia is one of those games that has complete replay ability, it has a story that will take you through a complete arc of human emotions, betrayal, love, comradeship, anger, revenge (although not in that order) it shows you a world which to all purposes probably was true during those times. To me it shows me that a man in the wrong place at the wrong time can find himself in a completely different world, one in which you don’t know if this day will be your last. This game gives you a living, breathing world in which you are just one small part of. The city and countryside around you are at your disposal, not to mention the incredibly realistic and detailed vehicles that get you to where you want to go.
The vehicles themselves, apart from being about as quick off the mark as most Tesco shopping trollies, give you an appreciation for what was classed as vehicular transport back in the 1930s. The real life physics of the cars themselves only serves to add to the overall appeal of the game. Little touches like having the fuel drain out of your car when the tank is hit by a stray round, having your engine overheat or your transmission break along with losing you headlights, bumpers and spare wheel all adhere to the realism of the game.
By today’s standards, the graphics are poor and the AI can be a little shaky. Lost Heaven’s police department seem to have nothing more than a unshakable grudge against you, the player, every time the slightest infraction is made…but I digress.
Whilst I mentioned above the AI in the game being a little ‘shaky’ when it came to breaking the law. It doesn’t mean that they are all bad, many of your foes that you encounter will find cover, try to pin you down whilst their friends make for you with any sort of weapon they possess.
The missions that Tommy finds himself on take you through the very heart of Lost Heaven, from the race track sabotaging the opposition, to the docks unloading cigar boxes. From moving about the abandoned prison to collecting protection money from a motel in the countryside and onto gate crashing a funeral, to chasing a rival don to the city airport and searching for a ‘client’ at an upscale brothel all of those locations and more only serve to draw you in and leave you wanting more. Whilst there is inevitably some long drives involved, the wait is worth it as you never know what might be lurking round the corner.
Even the first mission throws you into the deep end and forces you to escape with your very life.
What you get with this game is much more than a story about one man and his rise through the Salieri ‘family’ you get a movie oozing with action sequences, chases, bank raids, assassinations. Brilliant voice acting and a soundtrack which can best most games that are released even now.
With all this in one huge mixing bowl and plenty of time and elbow grease you get an amazing game which has earned the right to be called a ‘classic’ and one that should be remembered for its cut scenes, voice acting, storytelling and soundtrack.
I urge you all to go out and get yourself a copy and relive this classic. Plus it’s a lot cheaper than GTA V on the PC will be so you might as well grab yourself a bargain.