Stolen Pixels #253: The Playboy

By Shamus
on Apr 22, 2011
Filed under:
Column

Okay, I get why they put a Playboy magazine collection game in Mafia II. Although, if they’re such fans of the female form, then can someone explain to me why all the women in the game look like THIS:

mafia2_girl.jpg

!?!?!?

The in-game women are really unattractive. Not in a “this is a trashy broad who doesn’t take care of herself” kind of way, but a “this 3D model was made by a guy who was once in a room with another guy who was able to describe what women look like” kind of way. Eugh. It’s the faces, really. They hail from the low point of the uncanny chasm. There also aren’t many of them, so the same two or three faces pop up again and again.

The Playboys are hidden in the game. Making no special effort to find them, I encountered five out of fifty in my run-through. Each magazine immediately pops up a classic centerfold the moment you pick it up, which is really, really odd to me. You’re fighting your way through a burning warehouse, gunning down mobsters while your friend bleeds from a gunshot wound, and then all of a sudden… TITS! It was off-putting. The one thing I was curious about was when the pictures were originally published, but it doesn’t say. It’s just a random cheesecake popup. It’s also slightly out of place. Playboy wasn’t founded until 1953. The game begins during World War II, and ends in 1954. You shouldn’t be finding these things in the mid-40’s, and Playboy didn’t really become a cultural icon until years after the game ends. I understand they were trying to sell the notion that Playboy magazine would have been part of the lifestyle of these gangsters, but… it wasn’t. Not yet.

mafia2_city.jpg

Playboy aside, the gameworld itself is otherwise amazing. Most of it takes place in 1954. That’s 17 years before I was born, but fragments of that world still remained when I was a kid. The cars. Furniture. Technology. Clothing. The world is lovingly realized, with magnificent attention to detail. Especially the furniture. Very little of the 50’s furniture survived, because most of it was crap. It was garish, uncomfortable, and shoddily made. You can hop around to antique dealers and find Victorian-era furniture far more easily than you can find a surviving set of plastic chairs or a vinyl couch. What didn’t fall apart was thrown away in shame.

I have a thing for mob stories. I don’t know why. Most of them boil down to “watch these macho idiots make everyone miserable until they destroy themselves with their lust and avarice”. Still, if you’re a fan of the genre, this is not a bad specimen. I wouldn’t say it’s Scorcese-level storytelling, but it’s a story that aspires to that ideal.

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From the Archives:

  1. Jeremiah says:

    That screenshot makes it look like her neck is in the middle of extending so that she can wrap it around the guy’s face and do unspeakable things to him. The stuff of nightmares, really.

  2. Nyaz says:

    Mafie 2 could’ve been a lot better if it actually used that big game world it had. I felt like there was a massive lack of any sidequests or rewards for exploration (apart from, you know, boobs).

    (On the upside, I actually earned 5 euros from it. GAME held a special and sold it for 30 euros, Gamestop gave me 35 euros when I traded it in. Win!)

  3. David Armstrong says:

    My big criticism for the game is there’s nothing to do except the main storyline.

    There are maybe 2 scripted “moments” you’ll have just wandering around. There’s nothing to spend your money on – you can rob stores, and steal guns, which is really cool, but there’s nothing you can buy that you couldn’t just steal.

    There are other gangs in the town, but fighting them is pointless. The game has the main storyline, and nothing else.

    The world is a giant sandbox with no sand in it.

  4. Mari says:

    I could live with random cheesecake popups except then I’d close them and see that ugly chick and any happy I got from random tits would be crushed like that guy in the screenshot is about to be. That is not a woman. That is some kind of evil pan-dimensional black widow spider creature that fancies itself female. It seriously reminds me of the hideous spider-creature from the “Lost in Space” movie and it gives me the wiggins. I think I’ll go comfort myself with boobs.

  5. Hitch says:

    When the women in your world look like that, you’ll stop in the middle of anything to find a Playboy magazine.

  6. Bobby Archer says:

    Perhaps this is an alternate Earth, alike to ours in every way, except for the grotesque, malformed women. The men wake up every morning feeling as though some great truth or treasure has been stolen from them, but not knowing what could have been different. Only these Playboys, space-time flotsam washed up randomly in their universe reveal what might have been.

    Or maybe the developers just couldn’t be bothered.

  7. Phoenix says:

    Well gangster/mafia videogames & movies have their appeal for a variety of reasons. I like them because they tend to be realistic in certain aspects of life. Also they’re pretty when they take place in the past, maybe a modern one would have less appeal. That’s probably also because mafia is perceived differently now.

    I didn’t bother with how the women looks but if I think about it they looked a bit strange, yes. But wasn’t the sister of the protagonist pretty or I remember wrong? Also one of the girlfriends of the friend of Vito wasn’t that bad, depending on the scene. .

    As David says this game looks like a sandbox but it hasn’t sand, luckily there’s still the story. As many other games, it has more potential than what actually is. It’s a trend.

    • Simon says:

      Yeah, they probably took a bit more care with her since she’s a more central character. She’s still really creepy though, because like everyone else in the game, outside of cutscenes, she never ever blinks!

      I first noticed it at the start of the game when you’re in your mom’s apartment. You’re in the kitchen, you’ve just had a long conversation cutscene and it’s now time to go to bed. Your sister sits on a chair by the kitchen table with her stare locked on you, unblinking. I began to suspect that my family had been killed and their bodies taken over by insectoid aliens, just waiting for me to go to sleep so that they could plant their eggs in me or something.

  8. Irridium says:

    What always annoyed me was how people criticized the game for not being a real “sandbox” or whatever. Thats because it isn’t, and never tried to be. It simply uses the city as a setting for a story, and keeps the focus on that.

    Which I like. Keeps the story from feeling disjointed like GTA/Red Dead. It also stops the silly “I’m just trying to redeem myself” thing from being completely undermined when you go on a massive killing spree. Like GTA/Red Dead.

    In short, this game is not a sandbox game. It is merely set in a big city, and uses it to tell a mob story. That is all.

    • Phoenix says:

      I’m not so sure. The game gives hints of sandbox with certain missions, for example for stealing cars and selling them to that guy. I think it was supposed to have those missions but they didn’t put in instead of a deliberate choice, it happens a lot. That being said, rarely a game goes deep into sandbox mode, even GTA has its limits, and how well it’s integrated with the story it’s another matter.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      They couldve told the story without putting it in a huge sandbox city,and nothing wouldve been lost.So that whole city theyve built is wasteful,and the time it took them to make it couldve gone into doing something else,like making women look more normal.

    • Shamus says:

      I agree, not a sandbox game. The problem is, they made a gigantic city and made you drive all over the damn thing. That giant space, devoid of gameplay, leads players to think, “There needs to be something here for me to do.”

      • Deadfast says:

        The game is a great example of Executive Meddling. There were originally supposed to be optional side missions. There are still 2 places marked as Jobs on your map. When you get there you are told that they have nothing for you right now and that you should come back later. Needless to say there are no job later either.

      • Vipermagi says:

        Fairly classic case of open world vs. sandbox world. They advertised with the latter as Deadfast mentions (Jobs etc.), but it ended up being the former. That created expectations that went unfulfilled. I think this also dampened the review scores a little.

        Of course, what with it being so large and every mission spanning half that area, it’s still pretty annoying even when seeing it as an open world, rather than a sandbox.

        Regardless, I enjoyed the game for what it did bring; a cheesy mobster story and cars that rust to brown shells of their former selves when stored in your garage for too long. I especially liked that little detail. Kinda silly that it took like 100 dollars to get it all fixed up, though.

        • Irridium says:

          Wait, they advertised it as a sandbox world? All right, I can understand how people would be let down then.

          I avoided all marketing, and had reasonable fun with the first game, so I knew more or less what to expect.

        • El Quia says:

          Are you sure it was advertised as a sandbox game? As far as I remember, it was game journalism and the community that insisted in saying that it was sandbox and a GTA-like game, while the company never pushed the sandbox thing. And I think that everyone that played the first Mafia knew that it wouldn’t be a sandbox if they tried to do what the first mafia did: recreate a whole and very detailed city that was believable, with an almost simulationist car driving system. The big city, with all its detail and and awesomeness is there to serve as a setting for the story. I haven’t played Mafia II yet, but in the first Mafia, I really think that the huge, detailed story really made it feel like the story was happening in a living city, instead of being a play being set against cardboard backgrounds.

          The fact that people got disappointed by it not being a sandbox game, from what I saw, had more to do with everyone comparing it to GTA (big city! cars! crime!) than with what the company said about the game in the interviews (story! mafia! details!).

          And of course, well, the playboy thing… I guess every game needs something to collect, nowadays? Be it secrets, playboy magazines or achievements? I don’t know what’s the deal with that (besides the obvious “hey! boobs!” thing, of course)

    • X2-Eliah says:

      The first Mafia had a story mode and a free-play mode. What’s wrong with that?

  9. Jeff says:

    The save system in this game pissed me off. I stopped when it crashed, and lost about an hour of progress. Then I realized it wasn’t worth replaying, and got rid of it.

  10. UtopiaV1 says:

    I’m playing through Mafia 2 now. That screenie really haunts me, I remember she just gave the guy on the left a blo-job while he was talking to Vito about his past. I’ve never been to a strip-club (I know, a man of the world like me, commenting on a nerd’s webpage, has never been to a titty-bar! Impossible, you cry!) but I had no idea that’s how middle-age men with booze and broads acted around each other. Must be a locker-room kinda deal. Don’t look, don’t say anything, eyes on your drink and pretend you’re doing something fun.

    Also, Vito’s sister is the very personification of plain. I mean, right down to her expressions, to her clothes, it’s all beige. Beige and grey.

    Can’t wait to play more through the game, it has a pretty strong story. Not quite as witty, well-paced, interesting or emotional as Mafia, but still a worthy sequel. Kids these days, just too used to their sandbox crime-games, take stuff like that for granted these days! I remember, back in my day (the 90’s), we’d DREAM of a world with more that 2 ways to a mission objective…

    Seriously, I dreamt about Operation Flashpoint before it came out. Actual, honest-to-life dreams. Now that’s sandbox! Mission editors are amazing!

  11. Klay F. says:

    There are just so many things professionally wrong with that picture. Setting aside the creepiness factor, there are almost too many errors to count.

    Firstly, what the hell is up with the lighting on the woman’s face? Look at the man’s face. It has proper lighting and shadows on his face. The woman’s face uniformly lit, almost like there is someone behind them just out of shot holding up a white reflector board under her face.

    Secondly, the edges of her face haven’t been completely anti-aliased. Notice how the upper-left edge of her face is smooth? Now follow that edge down and around to her chin. The edge becomes just as angular and blocky as if she were in a videogame from the late 90s. You can even spot the exact point on the edge where the anti-aliasing stops. Again, look at the man’s face. His entire face looks smooth and (mostly) realistic.

    This kind of thing just reeks of laziness.

  12. Jarenth says:

    Shamus, ignoring the hideous Ms. Fantastic in your screenshot for a second: your last paragraph,

    I have a thing for mob stories. I don’t know why. Most of them boil down to “watch these macho idiots make everyone miserable until they destroy themselves with their lust and avarice. Still, if you’re a fan of the genre, this is not a bad specimen. I wouldn’t say it’s Scorcese-level storytelling, but it’s a story that aspires to that ideal.

    has an unclosed set of quotation marks. This is grinding on my neuroses incredibly. It’s making me read everything beyond it as a quote, including the comments. Including this comment.

    Yeah, just thought you might like to know. Feel free to leave it in and laugh at my pain.

  13. (LK) says:

    I wish more of the game had that snow-covered look. It was particularly beautiful and I was sad when that portion of the game ended.

  14. Eric says:

    Honestly, the Playboy thing sounds less like it was the intention of the developers and more like an idea that someone higher up had. The porn industry is always trying to get into different forms of media and I think that the reason they’re in the game has a lot less to do with historical accuracy and a lot more to do with money. Given how long Mafia 2’s development was, I actually wouldn’t be surprised if the detail paid for a lot of the game.

  15. uberfail says:

    I almost considered buying this until I spent half an hour dying in countless car accidents at a con.

  16. Andrew says:

    I consider it a travesty that the image of that woman-like creature somehow didn’t make it into the actual comic. Think of all the potential mental scarring you missed out on!

  17. X2-Eliah says:

    Actually – from your post I gather that you quite liked Mafia 2, then? I haven’t played it, but a number of folks who have done so are generally giving quite negative feedback about the game, saying that its not worth the price and that it’s not that good story and gameplay -wise.

    So.. I’m not sure. Is a review on this coming soon?

    • Kavonde says:

      Just to counterbalance all the negativity you’ve heard:

      I played the demo a few days before it released, and was impressed enough to immediately buy it on Steam. And all in all, I felt I got my money’s worth out of it. There were some bugs, some flaws, some very strange-looking models, and one fight towards the end was totally freaking unfair. (Where did he GET all those molotovs?! Those take time to prepare!) But, overall, I liked its gameplay, its story, and its style quite a lot. I’d give it a B overall, or an 8/10, or what have you.

      I’m curious to see Shamus’ review, though, too.

  18. Ian says:

    I quite liked Mafia II in general.

    However, many of my negative points were exceedingly negative. The checkpoint system is hit-or-miss (mostly miss), occasionally sending you back to the beginning of the mission despite you being near the end of it.

    Occasionally, the way the dice rolls ensures that the game literally becomes impossible. Fortunately, this typically only happens after a checkpoint is saved. I remember a couple of missions where you would take such a damage spike before you could even react that you would just die without being able to play. I had that happen on the one mission where you shoot up the bar and its gang-banging patrons. I just got control of my character, went to move behind cover, and died as I was sliding into cover. No problems after reloading. This only seems to happen on hard mode because of the increased damage that you take, but it’s still annoying.

    Oh, and there’s the female models. Ahh, the nightmares I’ve seen…

  19. Jokerman89 says:

    I didnt mind the long drives, its relaxing – less distractions means i can get into the story more too. Driving bits are much better for it, cant stand it when they force a driving bit in a game where its all 3rd person shooting…you just driving on fake looking rails.

    From what ive heard LA Noire will be much the same, city is just there to connect the story.

  20. Telas says:

    I have a thing for mob stories. I don’t know why. Most of them boil down to “watch these macho idiots make everyone miserable until they destroy themselves with their lust and avarice”.

    I don’t know if you’re still doing tabletop RPGs, but you definitely should give Fiasco a try. “A game of powerful ambition & poor impulse control” I don’t know why, but nearly every game features a body in a car’s trunk…

  21. ccesarano says:

    I’m assuming the game plays/controls better on PC. I tried the demo out on Xbox 360 and all the vehicles controlled like crap and the gunplay was lackluster. I can suffer a bad story for good gameplay, but I seem incapable of suffering bad gameplay for a good story, even though I love a good story in games.

  22. craig says:

    Tijuana bibles would have made more sense, if they wanted to have something period correct, collectible, and containing tits. They were always collectible items for fans, and it would have been a quirky little addition.

    • El Quia says:

      Then again, there wouldn’t be a big-ass company behind them willing to pay for the in-game advertising :p

      (don’t know if this was the case, but I could totally see it :p)

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