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  1. #1
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus sonson's Avatar
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    Mafia II-Excellent example of how to merge game play with narrative

    After having stayed up til 4 last night to finish Mafia II I want to suggest folk give it a go in the strongest possible terms. It won't be for everybody-it's more or less the definition of a game you have to play for hours to know where it's going-but it pulls off a vastly ambitious intention with maturity, subtlety and by very much pushing the concepts of what gaming narrative can and should deliver.

    It's a game about lost potential, the mundane, identity, lack of meaning and the illusions of the American Dream and postmodernism. Really. It tells it through the lens of a Mob story but that's only because it provides great opportunities to examine the above. It's the story about pursuing work and business and opportunity and the essential emptiness and pointlessness that doing so for it's own sake fosters. And crucially, it's not just a story about these-it's a game which makes you feel it through how it plays.

    At the start of the game the world seems big-you can go anywhere you want, it's full of things to buy and try out, through the music and presentation and aesthetic the game presents you with a world on the cusp of total capitalist and modern fulfillment. Thing is, those things are unavailable to you unless you steal them. You need money.

    So you follow the narrative to get it. And it's a narrative of talking about working men being saps, and eschewing an honest living for quick money. About the mob being shorthand for the American Dream, these immigrants who without status and who are of low birth can still climb the ladder and make it to the top and have all of these things.

    But you just drive around and do menial tasks and watch other people talk, hearing about bigger jobs, seeing them get cuts that you don't. You feel tantalised by opportunity but constrained by neccesity, But it's the full game, not just the dialogue, through hours of hard work, which is what is telling you this, through both narrative and what it allows you to do, and you suddenly get it, and realise the open world is both big but empty for a reason, and the plot linear and tedious, and that you are feeling involved in it all in a way that you never could in any other medium.

    Just as you get bored of it the tone changes and the plot does-your characters is going to make a try at some bigger stuff, put his neck on the line more for the sake of more money and more action. There's more shooting, more violence, more adventure, more money. The plot and the world more or less hit a peak in terms of "fun" or excitement at this point. You can do more stufff in the open world-buy clothes, soup up your car, buy better weapons.
    As the plot suggests you're a pretty powerful young guy, so to does the game. It' easy to now treat the world as more of a GTA alike if you want, you have the powers and money to smash cars up, rob shops and get away quickly, you have more choice and the world seems only contained by your imagination and potential. Mirroring the plot line, you're on top of the world right now, it's your oyster, and that of your friends who all join you in the giddy cocktail of violence, comedy and adventure.

    Then something happens and you lose all that. I'ts not like you start out again though-You're in too deep, the plot pulls you under. But you can't choose to go back to a menial life. You made your choice, are now without it's rewards, and facing all the grim consequences of it regardless. The working man may be a sap, but at least he has family and safety and something to rely on apart from his gun. All that killing, for nothing.
    The world is now back to being bigger than you. There is an upping of the violence and action, but you don't have your wealth or ability to deal with it as well as you did before. You're fighting for your life. The open world becomes actively more hostile and the only way to get things is to rob or steal again and drive through it like a fugitive, because the cops are after you. The ending of the game doesn't resolve this and makes it clear that in choosing business and money and status, things which would never have been possible for you a generation previous, the American Dream, you have eschewed community and friendship and normality for a life of empty ruthlessness, best exemplified in the character of the man who tells you it, who at that point reveals himself to be the same.

    And the game tells you that. You've gone from walking around wherever you want, doing whatever the game has allowed you to, going to various friends houses, to being nothing more than a getaway car or gun on legs. You've gone from seeing family leave you or you leave them, made that choice even, and at the time it didn't seem so big because you could still do what you wanted. You were cocksure because of what the game let you have. But it has taken that away, while leaving the consequences of that, and now there is nothing left for you in the world but material things and violence.

    This is a game which fundamentally ties the environment and it's narrative together in such a way to make you really play that story. It's done in such a way that takes a while to reveal itself, and it does take investment and for you to buy into it at the start. But if you do it's a game which is fully commited to mechanically letting you really play that story, rather than watch it or have it as a subtext. It is a game or simulation of the dark side of the American Dream and the failure of material prosperity and greater status to replace old concepts such as family and existential purpose and it really makes a crack at letting you play that arc rather than just tell it.

    GTA aims to tell you that story but what it lets you play is a murder simulator. In spite of what it suggests, those games are all about the potential rather than the dark side, the ability to be powerful and live out those fantasies. At no point do you feel repercussions for your actions or involved in something bigger than yourself. You define the world with your desires.
    Mafia II is the game about the world and plot and fate defining yours. You try to live out GTA, and the game gives the conceit that you can do this, for a time, but it also makes it clear all along that this is a stupid fantasy, a waste of a life, and of course you can't have your cake and eat it. You only want violence and material things? Take em! They'll fuck you quicker than you know. That's how the story goes, that's how the game plays.

    I wasn't expecting much for my 3, just a guns and cars lark, but give it time and respect and it will reward you with one of the most immersive narrative efforts there is going, and something which a lot of games should be seeking to emulate. It's engine, physics, audio (music and voice acting) graphics and design are some of the best going, and I highly recommend you give it a shot if you have a computer to run it as is a superb and stunning narrative gaming achievement.

  2. #2
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Nalano's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sonson View Post
    I wasn't expecting much for my 3


    To me it was a bog-standard rehash of gangster movie tropes.
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  3. #3
    Network Hub sendmark's Avatar
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    Where did you get it for 3?

  4. #4
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus sonson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sendmark View Post
    Where did you get it for 3?
    Getgames go, offer the other week. It's worth whatever one thinks a good game is worth though. If I'd paid full price I wouldn't have minded.

  5. #5
    Lesser Hivemind Node Labbes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nalano View Post
    To me it was a bog-standard rehash of gangster movie tropes.
    My feelings exactly. It was Every Gangster Movie Ever: The Game and that disappointed me a lot.

  6. #6
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus sonson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Labbes View Post
    My feelings exactly. It was Every Gangster Movie Ever: The Game and that disappointed me a lot.
    What exactly were you expecting from a Gangster game..? As I said, it's not the plot that's the strength so much as the way it makes you play it. But I don't really see how you could have a gangster game without adhering to the tropes that make it the genre that it is?

  7. #7
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Kadayi's Avatar
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    Lovely looking game, hampered by being force fed through the 360s single disc incensing BS by 2K where in the juggling of asset management meant repeat characters everywhere.
    Why yes you're right I'm deliciously evil

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  8. #8
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus sonson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kadayi View Post
    Lovely looking game, hampered by being force fed through the 360s single disc incensing BS by 2K where in the juggling of asset management meant repeat characters everywhere.
    Didn't really notice it too much to be honest. I'm not sating it's perfect,don't get me wrong, but the main things-plot, audio, gunplay, driving, acting, variety, missions-are very very good together.

  9. #9
    Lesser Hivemind Node Labbes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sonson View Post
    What exactly were you expecting from a Gangster game..? As I said, it's not the plot that's the strength so much as the way it makes you play it. But I don't really see how you could have a gangster game without adhering to the tropes that make it the genre that it is?
    To be honest, I'm not quite sure what I was expecting. I feel that 95% of all gangster movies are the same thing with different actors, so the fact that even a game about gangsters would adhere to all the same tropes would of course disappoint me.

  10. #10
    Network Hub Revisor's Avatar
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    I really liked the game as well. I don't watch gangster movies that often so I wasn't disappointed by cliches.
    The story was great, gameplay fun and the ending powerful.

  11. #11
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus sonson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Labbes View Post
    To be honest, I'm not quite sure what I was expecting. I feel that 95% of all gangster movies are the same thing with different actors, so the fact that even a game about gangsters would adhere to all the same tropes would of course disappoint me.
    They basically are. It's not a genre which is really open to much interpretaion-mafiosos can be antiheroes who are confused, antiheroes who are trapped, antiheroes who are good to their family or what have you, but fundamentally they are guys who do stuff most people find totally abhorrent and would simply never do in spite of all that other stuff. That's what sets them apart and makes them interesting. You can't really have a gangster anything that's not about those tropes, otherwise it's not a gangster thing anymore. And there's only so many ways you can spin that. A game called Mafia II is surely going to be about those tropes. If it wasn't it wouldn't be a mafia game.

  12. #12
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Kadayi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sonson View Post
    Didn't really notice it too much to be honest. I'm not sating it's perfect,don't get me wrong, but the main things-plot, audio, gunplay, driving, acting, variety, missions-are very very good together.
    The prison and the china town scenes are where it's most noticeable because every other NPC looks the same.
    Why yes you're right I'm deliciously evil

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  13. #13
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Sketch's Avatar
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    Why did they just not use 2 discs?

  14. #14
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Kadayi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Woundedbum View Post
    Why did they just not use 2 discs?
    MS try and dissuade publishers from releasing multi-disc games by upping the 360 licensing charge by 30% on the base rate, because players having to swap discs out to play makes the system look bad Vs the PS3. That is 30% that's effectively coming out of the publishers cut because it's not like they can pass that extra charge onto the customers. The standard 360 DVD only had 6.45 GB storage capacity as well because MS reserved the rest for 'security features' both Mafia 2 and Dragon Age 2 (sans high rez texture pack) clock under 6.45 GB when it comes to their base games. It's the reason why you get lots of repeat characters and repeat environments because when you've only 6.45 GB to fit all your game in, you have to make compromises when it comes to asset management. DA2 for instance has a tonne of spoken dialogue so that eats up a lot of room.

    MS actually revamped the disc limits a year or so ago downsizing the security space giving developers around 8 GB of room Vs 6.45. Skyrim took advantage of this extra space, but the whole 'arrow in the knee' meme is a prime example of how those tight space limits still impact AAA development.

    Obviously certain titles and certain developers will take the multi-disc hit, but that's because they know they're going to make money on sheer volume (ME3) or just don't give a fuck (R*)
    Why yes you're right I'm deliciously evil

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    Steam:Kadayi Origin: Kadayi GFWL: Kadayi

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    Quote Originally Posted by Finicky View Post
    Kadayi will remain the worst poster on the interwebs.
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  15. #15
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Drake Sigar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Labbes View Post
    My feelings exactly. It was Every Gangster Movie Ever: The Game and that disappointed me a lot.
    Wasn't Mafia 1 great precisely because it was Every Gangster Movie Ever: The Game? We'd never really been able to do that before in video gaming - take a young man through the start of his career to the end in a story-driven campaign with all the gangster trimmings.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Drake Sigar View Post
    Wasn't Mafia 1 great precisely because it was Every Gangster Movie Ever: The Game? We'd never really been able to do that before in video gaming - take a young man through the start of his career to the end in a story-driven campaign with all the gangster trimmings.
    That it was, but by god that game was good, and yes that's part of what made it great but it remains a fantastic game now, whereas mafia 2 was good but not great.

  17. #17
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    It's called mafia, what did you expect? eternal sunshine of the spotless mind?

    For videogame standards the writing and voice acting is good (video game standards for those are pathetically low, but still it was good enough on its own).

    I liked the pacing, it didn't turn into a mass murderer shootbang like those uncharted games on console boxes.
    As far as the interactive movie angle goes they balanced it well, a lot better than most games that try.

    It's also really pretty, it was also the first game I ever played that has SSAO, and AO is one of my favorite graphics features because of mafia2 .

    Definitely easily worth 5-10 bucks in a steam sale. I wouldn't have felt ripped off had I paid 30 euros for it either.

    Remember; it's not gta, don't bitch that it's not gta, it's linear storydriven game placed in an open city, not a sandbox.
    There's some elaborate gta like sandboxish dlc but I wouldn't buy the game for that.

  18. #18
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Sketch's Avatar
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    @Kadayi, interesting I knew space was an issue but not to that extent, just thought it was what caused us to get compressed videos etc. It'll be nice when we don't, no matter what you think of FFXIII the quality of it's videos are incredible and it's a shame games like Mass Effect which obviously have nice cgi-y bits are so heavily compressed. I guess RAM is another heavy limitation too, hence the seeing multiple cars in GTA etc.

    OT, I really enjoy Mafia a lot, feels like they wasted time building the open world though, same as LA Noire.

  19. #19
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Lukasz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kadayi View Post
    snip
    heh. that is interesting. It is Microsoft fault yet they pass their mistake on devs and on customers. (should have gone with hddvd)
    we really need to new gen of consoles. with lots of ram and blurays instead of antiqued dvds.


    on mafia? i had only played the demo. Loved the first game. It was frustrating tough. Incredibly hard. The mission in a hotel when you end up on rooftop and need to get to the curch was simply horrible.

  20. #20
    Lesser Hivemind Node Flint's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kadayi View Post
    Obviously certain titles and certain developers will take the multi-disc hit, but that's because they know they're going to make money on sheer volume (ME3)
    Plus I'm fairly sure one of the motivations for Bioware not caring about the single-disc limit with ME3 are the issues they encountered trying to stay within one disc limit for ME2 (all characters recruitable in any order right from the start turned into three-character 'chapters', etc).
    Give me steam and how you feel to make it real.

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