Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Mafia II

Damn it.


Mafia II consists of 15 "chapters." The first 13 chapters were, bar none, the finest writing I've ever seen in a game. Voice acting, too. Yes, I understand complaints raised about the gameplay--indisputably, it was thin-- but the overall experience was incredibly compelling. I couldn't wait to see what happened next in the story.

Chapter 14 opened with my favorite gaming moment in years, an event that stirred many emotions, some of them overwhelming.  

Then, incredibly, everything went to hell.

After 15 hours of perfectly plotted story, with a dramatic, tense arc, an absolutely nonsensical twist gets thrown in. No foreshadowing, no reason, just a gigantic "WTF?" moment that is followed by an equally nonsensical reaction from your character. The entire scene, and the ones that followed in that chapter, felt like they were scotch-taped together, so clumsy that I refuse to believe Daniel V├ívra was involved at all.

After that, all sense of momentum is lost. If it were just story problems, it would be manageable--is, after all, a videogame--but the general sensibilities of the gameplay run into a wall as well. Previous to this chapter, I had no problems with the "save points" (even though, like all of us, I can't stand them in general), but suddenly, the designers lost their way. I went through a scene where there was a lengthy but not difficult shootout, followed by a second shootout that was quite difficult (and tricked up as well). I died several times within seconds, and where did I return? Why, to the beginning of the easy section, where I had to methodically dispatch a large number of enemies again before I could go to the next shootout and die almost instantly.

For a game with save points so carefully placed, it was a gut punch. And Chapter 15 has the same problem as well. I'm sure there are only 10 minutes or so of gameplay left, but I was so annoyed by the save points that I didn't even finish last night. 

So here I sit, wanting to know how the story ends, but feeling incredibly disappointed at the same time.

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