In the modern day there really aren’t many alternatives to the Grand Theft Auto series when it comes to top-quality third-person gangster-related shooters. Back in 2002 however, Mafia for the PC was giving GTA a serious run for its money. A more serious and realistic experience than the Grand Theft Auto games, Mafia combines third-person shooting with frequent driving scenes, with the requirement that you refine your skills in both arenas in order to be successful at the game. Expect to drive over fifty classic American cars at various points in the game as well as take on a selection of enemies that you inevitably make being a Mafioso in training. An excellent third-person shooting title with unusually heavy emphasis on a quality driving mechanic, Mafia is a must-play for any serious driving or third-person shooter fan.
Older But Better?
Many people never really get into third-person shooters, which is understandable since there are so many games in the arguably superior first-person shooter genre that you need never even dip your toe in the third-person pool to enjoy yourself. There are some third-person shooters that are simply too good to pass up however, even in light of the quality FPS games out there. Mafia is one such game that commands your undivided attention, pulling you into a world of third-person shooting interspersed with some highly skilled driving portions and all tied together with cut-scenes. Though this one comes from what are now the annals of history in gaming terms, its 2002 release for Windows was met with excitement as it offered a more realistic and altogether more serious take on the genre than Grand Theft Auto.
Things start off brilliantly in Mafia, with the cinematic cut-scene introduction setting the scene and introducing the character whose eyes you’re seeing most of the action through, Tommy Angelo. Having confessed incriminating information to the cops about Don Salieri, you’re put in protection and the game’s events then unravel in a series of dramatic flashbacks told by Angelo. Said flashbacks invariably involve a mixture of gangster-related activities during the prohibition era, with driving forming a significant part of the action as well as some third-person shoot-em-up action that will be sure to test your aiming skills.
After a chance encounter with members of the mafia that begins with a simple taxi ride where you’re the driver, you slowly become embroiled deeper and deeper into the clutch of the criminal organisation, carrying out various driving-based activities such as being a getaway driver or delivering certain high-value goods to important locations. In addition to this you can also expect to be pulling off burglaries and heists of various descriptions as well as putting to rest many an enemy with a variety of different firearms included in the game by its developers, Illusion Softworks (now 2K Czech) .
Plenty of Wheels
Classic car fanatics will very much enjoy the variety of cars that you’ll get behind the wheel of during the gameplay of Mafia. Some critics have panned the game for attempting to graft a sort of Grand Theft Auto-level of action onto an era that simply doesn’t quite fit the bill for such explosive and immediately entertaining gameplay. It is easy to sympathise with this view to an extent because all of the cars you’re driving are indeed relatively slow and unwieldly because they’re classic cars and not the powerhouse-like vehicles you’ll find zipping down the streets of the fictional San Andreas for example.
If you’re into authenticity however, Mafia has a great deal of it in its car selection. You’ll find a number of classic car makes (both actual and fictional) including vehicles from Bolt, Brubaker, Bruno, and Carrozella. You’ll also be able to unlock a variety of prototype cars earnt as bonuses for completing some of the side-quests.
Difficult But Entertaining
Mafia’s shooting mechanics are notoriously harsh on the player, not in terms of the actual aiming and shooting but rather in the relatively small number of shots it can take to have you killed. Just a few shots in your direction can be lethal so you’ll find yourself having to adjust yourself away from the auto-replenishing health systems of modern-day shooters like Call of Duty. The ease at which you can be killed does highlight a glaring annoyance for players in the game however, which is the fact there is no way of saving the game manually. Instead, you must wait for auto-save points, though these are placed arbitrarily and sometimes at illogical points in the gameplay. This can result in you having to go through some major gameplay events several times which can be frustrating.
The Free Ride mode is probably your best bet if you’re purely a driving fan because it allows you to drive freely around the city. If you’re not a massive driving fan however then Mafia might not be the game for you. Its third-person shooter aspects are reasonably entertaining however, though it’s not a silly shoot-from-the-hip game like Grand Theft Auto. Illusion Softworks made sure the mechanics reflected a more realistic approach to gunfights, though didn’t quite make the driving scenes accessible enough to avoid frustrating players that aren’t adept at four-wheel travel. If you enjoyed this game however, its sequel, Mafia II, is a much more well-rounded title that has been praised by critics.