posted 10/16/2002 by Ben Zackheim
other articles by Ben Zackheim
One Page Platforms: PC
I worked for the Mafia once.

Quick qualifier on that statement though. I didn’t know I was working for the Mafia. I was an assistant to a distant cousin whose law firm had no problem representing “high risk clients”. Once a week I was handed an envelope and told to deliver it to a certain union in downtown Manhattan. I was ordered to never take the subway - always a cab. Who wouldn't be curious? So one day I peeked. Three hundred thousand some odd dollars. Pay to the order of Blank. From one second to the next I went from delivery boy who wondered if he should cut back on Snickers bars to delivery boy who wondered how he could get a piece of this action.

So I suppose I could understand the confusion Tommy was immersed in on that fateful night when all he was doing was minding his own business. Oh yeah. You’re Tommy. He’s a cab driver in a 1930s-like “Lost Heaven” - a fictional city that feels a little like Chicago and a little like Brno, in the Czech Republic, which is where the developers reside. Tommy's hanging around his cab when a couple of thugs on the run force him to be their getaway. This is your first mission. Do well and you'll get a taste of aforementioned temptation. Thus begins Tommy’s truly epic quest to the top of the chain.

I got a new videocard. ATI Radeon Pro 9000. Nice card with beautiful ability to render deep, rich colors which Mafia just so happens to have in spades. The game opens with a lengthy cutscene, almost as long as Metal Gear Solid’s tome of an intro. But it’s worth it. Immediately you’re immersed in the environment. Illusion has done a brilliant job of capturing the Mafia heyday. The streets look dirty, dotted with citizens with scratchy garb; sounds of the city surround you. The ultimate compliment I could pay this game is that it creates an atmosphere on par with Microsoft’s “Crimson Skies” – one of the most underrated games in history. When you’re not in the game, you yearn for it. You want to read about the world it represents, watch movies that are similar - you know the feeling.

The graphics might be nice, but they do have their problems. Skyscrapers pop into existence suddenly as you speed down the highway. The cars are a little too shiny. The character models have a dearth of polygons. Having said that, each of those downers has an upper to counter it. Great facial models and skins, as well as a city that just feels real.
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