Mafia II returns to Empire Bay with "Joe's Adventures," the game's second paid DLC extension. Can its 24 new missions carry the game forward, or do they dwell on what made Mafia II a good-but-not-great action game?
Mafia II: Joe's Adventures is a flashback to the 10-year period during which Vito Scaletta went to prison for selling stolen gas ration stamps. This time players will be Joe Barbaro, Vito's impulsive and violent sidekick from the original game. Two dozen missions are included with several new settings.
Mafia II diehards with cash in their Sony wallet or Microsoft points to spare are the target as 2K slaps another $10 worth of paid content into a game that was disappointing at $60.
Not two weeks after its release, Mafia II had paid DLC ready to go, telegraphing 2K Games' intentions for this franchise. It was plainly content developed alongside the main game. Joe's Adventures seems to be the same. What were they holding back? Could or should this have been included with the full game, which many felt was too short?
This doesn't sound good. Because it isn't. Mafia II's strengths, comparatively speaking, were not in its mission design. They were quite tedious, in fact, but at least there was a story, some well composed cinematics, and strong acting to motivate you to complete the game. Here is 2K Games' third attempt to convince us that replacing cutscenes with loading screen text, offering up the same batch of templatized missions and calling all of it "arcade-style" is some sort of experience that is either fun or consistent with what the first game delivered. It isn't. It's a cop-out.
But doesn't this in fact add to the Mafia II canon? Barely. I was under the impression Joe's Adventures would reveal more about why Vito was sent to the big house. There's some indication he took the fall for the Clementes, but this is all about Joe, Joe and Joe, underlined by the fact he's working with a minor character from the main game, Tony Balls. Henry Tomasino, the best character of the original game, is wasted in a cameo at the beginning and never heard from again.
Still, it's got like 24 missions. That sounds like good value for $10. Fair point. Looking back I think I logged about 7 or 8 hours in this. But the missions are in many cases trivially easy and in others, bewildering as to what the designer intended for you to do. The best example was "Smuggler's Luck," an early mission in which you're tasked with commandeering a van loaded with stolen goods. The van has two gunmen aboard and an escort with the same firepower, all of it automatic weapons. Car combat in Mafia II is impossible - you can't shoot from your vehicle. Trying to run this thing off the road got me shot to death every time. Tailing it to a hideout wasn't the objective, it just drove forever. I finally just parked an obstacle (a big truck) across its known driving path, got out and machine-gunned everyone while the escort car stupidly waited behind. (I then grenaded it for laughs.) Another mission, I'm advised by my NPC partner to infiltrate a train yard quietly. The game then tells me to equip a grenade. I just said the hell with it and started shooting, suffering no consequences for that choice. A later mission, selling firearms to gun stores, puts you in an unwieldy boat of a pickup truck and sics a car full of machine gun-toting goons on you. Trying to lose it in a chase, what one would think was the purpose of such a mission, was impossible. The answer is to get out immediately and gun it down on foot. The mission design is just careless to the point of seeming spiteful.
Is there anything new in this? There's a new car, some new Playboy collectibles (including an out-of-place Jo Garcia, who neither posed during this era nor became a Playmate) and several new settings - a yacht club, a train yard, a subway station a supermarket, a cathouse and a building under construction. All of these except the subway station are the scene of untimed, non-arcade style missions that culminate in a big cutscene. These are little more than big shootouts, the most ridiculous being in the supermarket. Apparently the straight-up armed robbery of a civilian-owned grocery store is something organized crime figures commonly undertake.
Don't bother. Mafia II: Joe's Adventures is a transparent cash grab stuffed with missions that a skilled and interested modder could put to shame. While deeper and, comparatively, better than "Jimmy's Vendetta," it again forsakes the main game's strengths while serving up 24 more chores and again making you drive all over the map to complete them. Mafia II was a forgivably ambitious disappointment; its DLC, culminated by Joe's Adventures, makes it into an irredeemable flop.
Mafia II: Joe's Adventures was developed by 2K Czech and published by 2K Games for the PlayStation 3, PC and Xbox 360, released on Nov. 23, 2010. Retails for $9.99 USD/800 Microsoft Points. A copy of the game was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Completed singleplayer campaign on PS3.