Mafia II PAX East Preview
At PAX East, we finally got to check out 2k Games' Mafia II, the open world action game that puts you in the shiny shoes of an aspiring Made Man. Mafia II is the sequel to Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven, which shipped for PC in 2002 and was ported to the PS2 and Xbox in 2004. It's been a long time since I got to run and gun through new content in the series, and I couldn't wait to drop the cannoli and pick up the game pad.
Mafia II follows the rise and fall of best friends Vito Scaletta and Joe Barbaro. When Vito returns from World War II, he and Joe join a crime family and begin to climb its ranks. The plot arc spans the 1940s and 50s, and you'll see the world change as you travel through Mafia II's plot. One obvious difference will be the cars. In the 1940s, they'll be relatively slow and clunky before giving way to the speedsters of the 1950s. The 1940s aesthetic will also be colder and bleaker, before transitioning to a sunnier, Springier atmosphere in the 50s.
I began my demo behind the wheel of a classic 1940s era car. Without any real goal, I just roared around terrorizing pedestrians, and getting a feel for the controls. The car handled well, and even though it wasn't very zippy, I was able to thread it through oncoming freeway traffic. Well, I was until I ran headlong into another automobile. But I managed to keep going! From there, I was inspired to drive my car through the railing of an overpass, before diving 20 feet onto the street below. Blood spatter around the edges of the screen told me I'd hurt myself, but I was undeterred! I continued right into the trunk of a tree, which finally killed me. Man, they don't make cars like they used to.
On that note, it's worth pointing out that Mafia II looks to have the best collection of classic cars ever seen in a game. Now, I am not a classic car aficionado, but if I were, I'd be interested in Mafia II for that reason alone. It seems like every game packs the same cars, trucks and motorcycles these days, so it's refreshing to get behind the wheel of something so familiar, and yet so novel. I'd also like to point out the obvious - that Mafia II plays a lot like Grand Theft Auto in that it presents an open world for you to just play in. You'll never lack for places to go and people to wack on account of the story line, but if you just want to go nuts and kill people in a fancy, classic car, that will be an option.
Once I died, a 2K representative took over and directed me to an actual mission. Apparently, my family had a beef with the management at a factory, so we went over to talk some sense into them. After one of our guys hit one of their guys with a baseball bat, they all completely flipped out, drew guns and took cover. I did the same, brandishing my Thomson machine gun. The cover system is simple in Mafia II - you press a button to take cover, then press the L trigger to lean out and aim. I leaned out and peppered a couple bad guys with lead, before pressing onward and gunning down a few more workers as they fled. The level was essentially a horseshoe shaped corridor, and at the bend in the shoe I found a Garand rifle, which helped me pick off long range targets that the Thomson couldn't reach. I shot my way all the way through to the end of the stage, gunning down workers here and there, before finally getting to the end of the stage where a plot event took place that I didn't entirely understand. Evidently, things weren't supposed to go this way, and I wasn't supposed to kill everybody. To make it up to my boss, Joe and I were supposed to bring him two hotrods conveniently found at the factory. I was excited to try out the faster new 50s cars, but alas, our time with the game was up.
Overall, Mafia II is shaping up very nicely. It lets you go back to a simpler time, where people went nuts and killed each other with sturdier cars and simpler weaponry. The game ran well, looked good, and entertained us for the few minutes we got to play. We look forward to more Mafia II when it ships to retail on August 24.