A two-bit street punk like yourself might remember DChoc’s classic isometric period gun fest Mafia Wars. You might have lost a finger or two when taking on the Japanese crime syndicate in the sequel, Mafia Wars: Yakuza.
Now the action returns to New York, only it’s 80 years later, and although the family’s really not changed all that much you definitely have.
In Mafia Wars: New York, you step into the shoes of undercover FBI agent Vincent Paladino and attempt to help him climb the crime syndicate ladder and gather evidence to take down the mob once and for all. This is the essential difference from the rest of the Mafia Wars franchise, and it really is a significant side-plot.
Working as an undercover cop naturally comes with a weight of moral baggage. It’s one thing earning the trust of the mafia as you do a bit of ‘neighbourhood cleaning’, but you need a moral compass to guide you through the thorny territory of collecting protection money and dealing with nosey beat cops.
The way you handle your furtive crime career has quite an impact on Vincent, and it won’t do to go around gunning down your law enforcement colleagues - even if they’ve no idea who you really are.
But Mafia Wars: New York doesn’t over think itself. This hasn’t become a personality quiz, or an ethics-based strategy game.
For the most part you’re required to decide between failing your mission, shooting down civilians, or trying to fight them off hand-to-hand - a much harder line of action to successfully achieve, but at least the innocent will survive while you maintain your cover.
When it comes to fending off the territorial intruders (the Albanian mob) it’s no holds barred, however, and the game’s signature gun wars explode in blood-stained style.
There’s another very subtle undercurrent to the basic plot, which tackles the concept of the changing face of organised crime as seen from within - something that can throw your moral compass off spinning (there’s actually a morality meter in the game to illustrate the state of Vincent’s soul).
The new Albanian gang is based very much on the stereotype so wonderfully explored in the outstanding Luc Besson movie recently, Taken. These guys have no moral code, while the aging Italian mafia adheres to its old system of honour and respect.
This essentially places you - as an undercover FBI agent - between the two crime worlds. You’re there to put down the mafia, but you’re faced with an alternative that’s infinitely worse and ready to take command of the streets once you’ve done your job.
It adds some serious drama to this thrill-ride action game, and it must be applauded for this subtle twist.
Also new to the game is the GTA (the original, top-down GTA, that is) driving aspects. The cars handle surprisingly well, drifting around corners and skidding between obstacles as you outrun the Police, chase down Albanians and deliver ‘packages’ to your Don.
The gunplay is as easy as ever, though you no longer fire at the enemies automatically. They’re automatically targeted, but it’s up to you to pull the trigger, throw the Molotov cocktail, or strafe the machine gun depending on what’s required.
So, other than the racing antics, not a great deal has really changed over the last four years - except this movie quality plot. The dialogue’s as cheesy as any mobile game, but there’s absolutely no denying the solid structure of the unravelling storyline.
It’s this extra attention to a detail that too many game developers are willing to ignore that ensures Mafia Wars: New York retains its well earned Silver Award.