Mafia II: Joe's Adventures Review
Joe's Adventures stars, you guessed it, Vito's friend and partner in crime, Joe Barbaro. It takes place during the time in the original game when Vito was in prison, and opens with Vito's arrest and trial. Now Joe's not a bad character to base an adventure on – sure, he's pretty much a stereotypical bullheaded and self-absorbed mafia goon, but the stereotype did come about because they're entertaining to watch in their own way. Joe's Adventures starts out strongly enough, making ample use of story-driven cutscenes to set the stage for Vito's incarceration and the launch of Joe's brief solo career. The first few missions do their part in supporting the strong start as well, tightly woven into the narrative just like those in the original game when it was at its best. However, that strong start quickly loses momentum and Joe's Adventures becomes a case study in everything that was disappointing about Mafia II.
Mafia II's strongest point was its story, but once you get past the set-up for Joe's Adventure there's surprisingly little in the way of story. Joe's Adventures could have as easily been called Joe's Random Adventures because that's what this DLC feels like. You check your map for available mission icons, pick one at random, and then drive off to find the floating icon that will kick off the mission. There's no sense of story or connection to the original game at this point. And while on the topic of driving to mission locations, I have to mention that just as in the original game you will spend an inordinate amount of your game time with Joe's Adventures driving from one place to another. Drive to a mission icon, receive your instructions to drive to another location to begin the mission, and then drive somewhere else to end the mission. And this is pure "mission commuting", there's not anything to do on your way between these points other than trying not to get caught speeding by the cops. This was rather annoying in Mafia II, but it's made even more so in Joe's Adventures by the fact that the missions are timed. Those big, floaty 1940s cars aren't built for high-speed urban maneuvering and making matters worse the overly sensitive police force in the game has a completely disproportionate response level to speeders in the city. On the whole the police feel far more sensitive in Joe's Adventures than they did in Mafia II, and I spent way too much time trying to get away from the police while playing this DLC. Even worse, they have a nasty tendency of following you into the missions, which needless to say really makes an annoying mess of things.
The missions themselves are a mix of the same types of missions found in Mafia II, but the difficulty level of the missions are all over the place. Some are cakewalks while others are so frustrating that even if you bother to force your way through them you certainly won't go back in an attempt to improve your time. Speaking of the mission timer, it really is not a good addition to the game. It's there as an incentive to replay missions and to give you something to compare to other gamers through mission leaderboards, but these "benefits" are hardly worth the negatives. It kills the atmosphere when your primary motivation in the missions is to run through them as quickly as possible, and, even worse, mission checkpoints are virtually non-existent.
Joe's Adventures comes with its own new set of achievements and collectibles, including a new set of Playboy magazines to find, but these aren't really worth the trouble it will take for you to unlock them. The DLC feels like a collection of missions put together simply to create more revenue, rather than a cohesive package of balanced and narrative-based missions that truly would have served as an extension of Mafia II's story. Pick it up if Mafia II was your favorite game of 2010, otherwise save your game time and Microsoft Points for something more compelling and enjoyable.
Final Rating: 61%. This DLC is even more flawed than its mafia goon protagonist.