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E3 2010: Mafia II Hands on and 3D Impressions

Developer: 2K Czech | Publisher: 2K Games
Players: 1 Player Game | Genre: Action

Release Date: 08/24/10

It was upsetting that both of EA’s Godfather video games weren’t able to offer a respectable mobster experience, even though the classic story and rich characters were already made for them. Mafia II doesn’t have names like Marlon Brando or Mario Puzo to lend credence to its tale of organized crime. On the other hand, it might not need them.

The game will take place during two different time periods: a post war 1940’s and popping 1950’s. Both periods will come with their own set of significant events in the life of the game’s main protagonist, Vito Scaletta. For more details on Mafia II’s storyline and world, check out our audio interview with the game’s producer, Alex Cox.

Our gameplay demo (PS3 version) starts in Scaletta’s home, after he’s just received a call for a special problem which needs his expertise. As a grizzled World War II veteran, one can guess what that expertise is. Driving out into a sunny suburban area, the feel-good vibe of the 50’s sets right in. Bill Haley’s ‘Rock Around the Clock’ flows through the car-stereo speakers as Scaletta makes his way through rows of white picket fences before nearing a much less innocent world.

The skyline, an obvious reflection of New York City’s vertical vista dashes by Scaletta’s car, a little too quickly perhaps, as the law men soon catch him speeding. This is one aspect of realism that’s always seemed a bit unwelcome in the Mafia games (for me personally). A player’s freedom to move around an open world probably doesn’t necessarily need such restrictions from a design standpoint. Though the 50’s era cars won’t reach the top speeds players might expect of contemporary vehicles, they do handle just as precisely.

After ditching the cops, Scaletta arrives at an apartment complex where two other made men are waiting for him. The cutscene’s camera gets in close to each of their faces during a conversation on Scaletta’s past, highlighting the incredible facial animation the developers at 2K Czech have implemented in their characters.

It’s not long before their target arrives, one they simply call “the fat man,” whose real name was not divulged by 2K reps. Scaletta and his friends live up to the Mafia’s reputation for pure brutality, rather than precision, by unleashing a hail of bullets from a machine gun mounted in the window. Each one of the cars the mobsters arrived in is blown away, but the fat man escapes into a factory house.

Scaletta and his cronies give chase, throwing themselves into Mafia II’s combat. Cover is the name of the game here, and if users don’t respect its importance they will quickly perish. Scaletta only requires a few bullet wounds to be put out of commission, so adeptly sliding into cover and blind firing over it is necessary.

Scaletta dispatched a couple of enemies, who also knew the value of hiding, and managed to procure a Thompson. Mafia II’s realism is present in the manner weapons handle too. Though powerful, the submachine gun kicked like a mule after a few seconds of continuous fire.

Once the fat man was cornered, the trio promptly executed their portly target, but not before one of Scaletta’s comrades was shot in the struggle.

With the other mobster carrying the wounded partner, the group made began to make their way out of the building, which had become engulfed by impressive bright flames. They escape into Scaletta’s car after the building is brought down, but not before the police become aware of the mayhem occurring in Empire Bay. A fierce car chase ensues, only to end when Scaletta runs straight into a blockade of cherry tops on a highway overpass. His wounded friend screams for him to do something. He shifts the car into gear, revs the engine and the screen goes blank. The outcome is only teased by the sounds of a loud crash.

We were also treated to seeing the game running in 3D on the PC version. Smashing a car through gates and wooden fences kicked up bits of three-dimensional debris, however the tech made more of an impact on gameplay when Scaletta was pressed up against a wall during combat. Seeing around corners felt noticeably different, so hopefully it’ll give 3D players an edge.

Assessing an open world game based on a closed demo is never easy. It would be like judging an entire city based on a visit to one neighbourhood.  What is obvious, based on the demo alone, is Mafia II’s goal of incorporating realism and a more focused narrative, which could set it apart from gaming’s don of crime: Grand Theft Auto. So far, it looks like they’re succeeding.

Mafia II will be releasing in North America on August 24, with a demo arriving shortly before the game ships to stores.

By Mark Melnychuk - 08/02/10
ESRB Details: - Blood, Intense Violence, Nudity, Sexual Content, Strong Language, Use of Drugs and Alcohol - This is an 'open-world' action game in which players assume the role of Vito Scaletta, an ex-convict and World War II veteran who becomes involved in a crime family. The game depicts a 1940s and 50s urban landscape, which includes a criminal underworld that the protagonist must navigate through in order to progress. Players complete various missions that either advance the main storyline or award the player with in-game currency and connections. Many of the missions require players to engage in criminal activity: stealing cars, robbing gas stations, running drugs, killing rival gang members. Players use pistols, Tommy guns, shotguns, and knives to kill enemies and occasionally civilians. Blood often spurts out of injured characters, stains the walls/ground, and occasionally sprays onto the screen. Some cutscenes depict more intense instances of violence, including close-range executions, stabbing, and throat slitting. Within the free-roaming context (i.e., not missions), players have the ability to attack police officers and pedestrians on the streets, in bars, shops, etc; however, these acts are not directly rewarded, preventing players from maintaining a low profile from the police. During the course of the game, players can encounter some sexually suggestive material: brothels with prostitutes in revealing lingerie; a gentleman's club with female dancers; and Playboy magazine pin-ups hidden in certain areas of the game (topless images, bare buttocks). There is also a gallery accessible from the main menu, where players can view all of their collected pin ups. One cutscene briefly depicts the top of a woman's head as she performs fellatio on a man—the camera cuts away to other patrons at the table, the man's reactions. Alcohol and drug use are also depicted in the game. Players' character can order alcohol at a bar and drink until his vision becomes blurry; players are able to drive their cars in this impaired state. Characters are also depicted buying and selling drugs in a cutscene montage. Although the protagonist is never depicted using drugs, a few ancillary characters sometimes can be seen smoking marijuana or sampling cocaine. Language such as 'f**k,' 'sh*t,' and ''n**ger' can be heard in the dialogue.
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Screenshots for E3 2010: Mafia II Hands on and 3D Impressions

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