Digital Life: Mob makes an offer you might just refuse
Eight years in the making, this gangster sequel has a lot to live up to.
The first game played out like Grand Theft Auto transported to the 1930s. What it lacked in originality, it made in up spades with a rich storyline and lavish period detail.
Mafia II follows a similar seam, threading its way through the 1940s and 50s as your proto-gangster returns to the US after serving in the war and falls in with the mob. The sights and sounds effortlessly capture the feel of the mid-20th Century, from the cars and clothes to the city streets.
But unlike GTA, this is no free-roaming adventure. The driving/shooting/brawling follows a strict path in service of the plot.
And that's Mafia II's downfall.
Where GTA (and even the unremarkable Godfather games) conveyed a bustling city that goes about its business without you, Mafia II teases you like a movie set, where it doesn't take much to break the illusion.
The shallow gameplay (drive-shoot-drive) soon fails to mask such narrow linearity. While the story provides the motivation to keep ploughing on, even that lacks the wit and feisty characters of GTA.
Poorly received in most quarters, not even the talents of the great Tetsuya Mizuguchi could save Ninety Nine Nights (N3) from being a polished but dull clone of hack'n'slash king Dynasty Warriors.
But it sold well enough in Japan to warrant a sequel. Technically, N3II makes for an impressive sight, your warrior constantly surrounded by dozens, maybe hundreds of enemies who exist only to be cut down like tall grass.
With five playable characters and plenty of lengthy missions, it may appear to offer value for money. But dull levels and ultra-repetitive gameplay will deter most players.
There is probably a market for keen sailors looking for a realistic boat sim. But there is no market for a game like this, a buggy and monotonous exercise in masochism that makes no effort to teach novices how to pilot a craft.