I am currently in the finishing stages of Mafia II. I am expecting my review of the game to be up as soon as tomorrow, but as I sit here and think of what just occurred in the games 14th chapter I am left stunned, at how badly the game has handled the set-up to its conclusion.
Spoiler Alert for the 14th chapter of a video game from 6 years ago.
Mafia II is a remarkable, tense, well-crafted tale of the Mafia in the middle of the 20th century. As my upcoming review will attest, I think this game and its story is largely fantastic, yet its next to last chapter is a case study in great games go horribly wrong, due to a single factor, an inability to know how to handle boss fights and how to end a game.
I talked about this earlier regarding Ratchet and Clanks, awful back-to-back boss fights to end that game. Yet again, I find myself in the awkward position where a game is derailed by not knowing how to handle large combat scenes. What makes Mafia II's ending unravel really lays in the games length and chapter set-up.
For large portions of the games 15 chapters, each chapter has in essence consisted of a single mission and the drive to and from there. This gave each chapter its own distinct feel, they are about this single day, providing snapshots of where Vito and Joe are in their tale. When there are exceptions to this rule, as in Ch. 6 when Vito goes to prison, or in Ch. 10 when a number of monumental things occur, they feel consequential and extra impactful precisely because of the extra time given to them.
This is not the case in Chapter 14 where things begin with a hit on the previous Mafia games protagonist in what is a nice, somber way to wrap things up and connect the two games. Yet it then dovetails by sending the player to Derek where Vito learns an unfortunate truth about what really happened to his father. The ensuing firefight feels earned and understandable, if a little absurd. Still the two events aren't really connected to each other. In fact there entirely separate from each other and feel like what they are, two unrelated, forced together moments that don't gel. Yet, it isn't until finding out where Joe is housed and the ensuing escape from said building, that things really hit the fan.
What players are presented with is the second major firefight in the chapter, this one even more brutal and unforgiving then the first. Utterly unfun, tiresome, and joyless this fights only goal seems to be to suck all the fun and joy from those playing it, in which it succeds in spades. The sheer volume of disbelief I felt when I would seemingly finish this fight, only for another section to open up and then another and then finally another was astounding. Poorly designed and built this final section of the chapter honestly is just totally out of place and coming out of nowhere.
Why games seems intent on forcing these big, over the top, unforgiving fights down our throats, even as nearly all of them seem entirely separate from the experience we have been playing is beyond me. All as I know is that as I finish up Mafia II's story I have never been less interested or invested in what happens, the game and its long, tiring, and joyless set-up to its conclusion have ensured that and thats such a waste of a promising and stellar story of an American tale in the middle of the century.