NEWS - Tuesday, March 2, 2004
Mafia: Like trying to swim with cement shoes.Ive always liked the way that the New York Times wont devote overmuch space to hatchet jobs in their movie review section out of sheer politeness, and I think the console versions of Mafia deserve the same courtesy. I didnt like it very much, but I wanted to, and the fact that it didnt turn out so well is merely endemic to a problem that plagues most PC-to-console ports. Its the control, of course. Mafia is another one of those third-person games that relies on a first-person-style, mouse-and-keypad aiming.scheme, and by now the refrain that this is fine when you have a mouse and keyboard but less so with a controller should be old hat. (Illusion has added an auto-aim feature, but its not as good as it could be; pressing both shoulder buttons at once will snap your target indicator to the closest enemy, but it wont track him if he moves anywhere, as enemies tend to do.) What this means for the game is trial-and-error gameplay usually unseen outside of Japanese space shooters. Since aiming and movement is too difficult to track enemies as they appear, a typical mission will have you die on the first enemy, learn his location and kill him before he can strike back, only to be felled by a second enemy, and so on. Driving missions are much better – the car handling is clunky, but since thats a deliberate choice on Illusions part, the missions allow for it. Since most driving missions lapse into on-foot shooting, however, thats not always much of a consolation. The bright side is that Mafias rewards are well worth attempts to break through the control frustrations. The story is a well-crafted homage to some of the more well-known gangster movies, and can lay better claim to "maturity" than many an M-rated game. The graphics have been preserved especially well on the Xbox, which has large environments full of crisp textures, as well as edges slightly sharper than its PS2 cousin. (Of course, you pay for this in the form of lots and lots of load time, but its easy enough to fuhgeddaboutthat.) Mafias a good game worth playing, so long as you understand that when we say this, we mean the PC version. The console ports, on the other hand, are an offer all too easily refused.