Format: PS2

5 026555 301503
Age Restrictions: 15+

It is the 1930's and you earn a living as a Taxi driver. The only crime you've ever committed is to accidentally short change someone. Then out of the blue two men approach you waving guns. They leap into your taxi and demand you drive them across town. They are members of the Mafia on the run from a rival gang. Once they are out of danger they congratulate you on your driving skills and offer you a job working for them. But you are not interested in a life of crime... that is until the guys, who were chasing the Mafia gang members you helped escape, track you down and smash up your car and try to do the same to your face. You go back to the Mafia for help and that's when you realise that you can never go back to your old life...

Mafia sees you attempt to rise from the lowly but well-dressed Footsoldier, to an envied and feared Made Man as you earn a reputation as a tough enforcer, daring getaway driver, and deadly hitman in your quest for respect and power within the Salieri Family.

First impressions of the game are quite favourable. While the graphics are not fantastic, the gameplay is interesting. The opening level sees you plying your trade as a taxi driver, picking up customers and driving them all over town. This level really helps you to get a feel for the city, as well as preparing you for later levels. Good driving is the order of the day and you must obey the traffic laws if you want to avoid trouble with the law. This means not breaking the speed limit, running red lights or causing accidents.

However, there are a few too many bugs, which really should have been ironed out before release. Ignoring for a moment, the fact that it takes an age to load between certain segments, there was one sequence were we pulled up to a garage in a yellow car. As the game switches to the CGI story the car has suddenly changed colour and is now blue.

Also the cars all look the same. In the early missions you are given a different car each time you have a job to do. But I couldn't tell any real difference between them. In fact, the only serious difference seemed to be the noise of the engine and the sound the horn makes - whoopee! Another annoying thing is that if you parp your horn at cars in front of you, they swerve out of your way - usually crashing in the process. Not very realistic.

But driving is only part of the game. You also have to leave your car for some of the missions. These include shoot out's with rival gangs or smashing up cars. But when you are running around the streets you only see your character from the hips upwards and it makes him look like a Punch & Judy puppet. Also the camera angles are a nightmare to control. And you can end up spending a lot of your time looking at the floor instead of where you are supposed to be heading.

Another problem I discovered was that your gun is not always reliable as it should be. There is a level near the beginning of the game where you have to sneak into a building to rescue one of your accomplices. I found that if I was too close to the bad guys my bullets didn't seem to have any real effect.

The fact that this game was released on the PC two years ago is another reason why it looks and feels so dated. Sadly, what could have been a really interesting game ends up being just above average.

Nick Smithson

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