Mafia II (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [All versions previewed])
Developer: 2K Czech
Publisher: 2K Games
To be released: USA - August 24, 2010, PAL - August 27, 2010
2K showed off two levels set after the 1950s reflecting the peace and prosperity the country was experiencing with the war long over. Things were looking up for all -- even for the main protagonists Vito Scaletta and Joe Barbaro. They've gone through a lot over the previous years and it all finally pays off as the anti-heroes are on their way to becoming "Made Men."
The first mission in the 1950s era sees Vito needing to sneak into a factory -- Solid Snake-style -- in order to save some fellow mobsters being tortured by a rival gang. It's a fun level, but the mission I enjoyed the most saw Vito and Joe needing to take out the Clemente gang's don.
The Clementes want to attack your gang so you need to strike before they do. Joe and Vito proceed to sneak their way into a hotel where the Clemente gang is holding a meeting. In a moment of pure luck, the two are able to get into the meeting room where the Clemente leaders are soon to convene.
Joe plants a bomb while Vito cuts a small hole in one of the room's windows in order to feed wire from the bomb to the outside. Once done, they go to the roof and use a window cleaning platform to lower themselves down to the meeting room floor and connect the wire to the detonator from the outside. The bomb goes off and the pair inspect the aftermath only to see the Clemente don survive. They then chase after the don, ending the demo.
I really enjoy what 2K Czech is trying to do with the different eras. The overall atmosphere pre-1950s is very dark and depressing whereas the 1950s are very uplifting. Everything from the music to the missions are just more enjoyable after the war based on what I've played.
On the subject about the different eras, one common issue I've seen pop up with Mafia II is that the cars handle poorly. From a atmosphere perspective, it kind of makes sense. Mafia II begins during the final year of World War II. American citizens are getting by with the bare minimum as the country is busy pumping out materials and important resources for the war effort. So what's left are big, boxy cars that don't handle so great. While they're annoying, this isn't a game breaker.
Then the 1950s roll around and that's when the cars become awesome. With the war over, the factories that were producing planes and tanks are now producing motor vehicles. Cars actually move fast and handle better, the polar opposite from the era before. The change is so significant that I feel it could really rattle players. You start off with vehicles that handle like they belong in The Flintstones but then the 1950s arrive bringing with it cars that handle like the DeLorean from Back to the Future.
I don't really have an issue with the car stuff personally as it helps with the immersion. 2K Czech really wants to pull the player into the atmosphere as much as it can. Cars were crap during war time in real life, so they're going to handle poorly in the game pre-1950s.
On that note, however, the uncanny valley issue I saw last time was still present. All the character's eyes during the cutscenes are like those creepy dolls that open and close their eyes when shaken. It's a jarring distraction that kicked me out of the immersion a number of times. It's especially annoying as the voice work is absolutely stellar.
All in all, I'm really looking forward to Mafia II. I had fun with the game and like that the focus is more on the story rather than being set loose on a big sandbox with a bunch of annoying distractions and sidequests.
Oh, and one last thing: Cops will chase you if you're speeding. That's just dumb.
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