THERE is only one question when a new large scale action adventure game like Mafia II comes out.

Rival programmers will not thank me for putting it on record that the only thing us game fans ask of such games is that it is as good as Grand Theft Auto.

The GTA franchise has become so successful that all games of its genre must now rival the Rockstar masterpiece if it is to have any chance of tapping into a bloated market.

There was also a second question for the second installment of the Mafia franchise which is equally important as the GTA comparison.

Namely is Mafia II better than the previous Mafia title (Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven) which failed to leave a mark.

The answer to the latter is a resounding yes. Programmers 2K Czech have obviously listened to the feedback from the original game and have released a game with real heart in Mafia II.

You play Vito Scaletta, the youngest of a family of Sicilian immigrants who returns to a debt ridden family after fighting for America during the Second World War.

As ever you need a guy to show you the ropes with the main instigator of all
criminal activity being lifelong friend Joe Barbaro.

The pair of you start climbing the ladder of the Empire City (New York) organised crime ladder while also eating into the debt left by Vito’s late father.

However just when I thought we were going to get the usual rise from the streets story there is an expected twist which sees your character plunged into a completely different set of circumstances.

The game also covers several different time periods (all of which will be explained) which obviously brings with it advances in weaponry and machinery.

Importantly (as you spend a lot of time in your car) music also advances and that means more tunes on the radio.

Now for the negatives. I did find it annoying that the screen simply goes black when you get anywhere near your destination.

It seems such an avoidable mistake. Games players enjoy the feeling of being completely free in these games and ‘black screen’ simply kills the illusion.
I also found that there was simply not enough to do early on.

I appreciate it takes time to develop a story but there just was not enough ways to keep me entertained early on in the game.

Making new contacts and new friends is what keeps a game like this alive and I felt that this aspect had been ignored.

So, coming back to my first question and whether or not Mafia II is as good as GTA? The answer is sadly not I’m afraid.

In saying that I feel Mafia II still has plenty to offer and if future downloadable content is as good as promised then I think it will be a big success. (GG)