Mafia II was a rough gem, a title with a ton of promise that executed wonderfully on some of its concepts and fell (excuse the pun) criminally short on others, hamstrung by some fairly basic issues. The third pack of downloadable content, Joe’s Adventures, hit your favorite online service recently and while it shares the main title’s strengths, it’s also vulnerable to its weaknesses.
Joe’s Adventures puts you in the shoes of (surprise!) Joe Barbaro, oldest friend and Mafioso connection for the main game’s leading man, Vito Scaletta. The DLC gives you a window into the main game’s ten year transition period (when Vito was cooling his heels in the slammer), and follows Joe’s fall from grace and attempt to climb back to the top of underworld respectability.
To unlock the main story missions and push the narrative, players complete a series of tasks assigned to them by Mafia II’s supporting cast. While the main missions are interesting little gems that benefit from the quality voice acting and writing that propelled the main game, the filler missions are bland and generic. They’re explained to you by way of lifeless blocks of text and are the generic sort of “steal this car, outrun the cops” or “go to place X and shoot a bunch of thugs” missions we’ve been playing since the inception of open-world gaming.
The expansion adds a scoring mechanic that tracks your behavior during missions and awards you with a letter grade upon completion. Finish quickly, tear up the streets speeding, drifting, and jumping cars, or take out enemies in quick succession and you’ll pile up points and multipliers that contribute to your final score. It’s an interesting tweak to the mission mechanics that adds a rewarding element for players that finish quickly and in style, but building time-pressure into every task is not necessarily a plus. While it adds a bit of suspense, it also makes the player feel rushed to finish before the clock expires.
One of the most unfortunate carryovers from the main game is the lack of a fast travel option, which means players spend an inordinate amount of time driving around the city chasing their GPS' little red line toward the next objective. The lack of interesting side activities means there’s very little by way of diversity, so a lot of the time you’re left following that line from bland filler mission to bland filler mission, hoping this will be the one to finally advance the story. Not the best way to spend the five or so hours it’ll take you to knock out Joey’s side story.
If you have a mean hankering for more Mafia II and are invested in the story, Joe’s Adventures, with its requisite new cars and clothing and lovable pudgy protagonist, isn’t a bad choice. For everyone else though, it’s probably best to let this one sleep quietly with the fishes.
Dec 7, 2010