Mafia II; The PS3 Attitude Preview
“We’re gonna make you an offer you can’t refuse”. That’s what 2K said to us when they invited us to try out Mafia II, and who were we to turn down the advances of a team who had clearly let a self-imposed prohibition and a propensity to stuff cotton wool in their cheeks go to their heads.
The question is, of course, is Mafia II a ‘hit’ in the making?
Mafia II is set in Empire Bay which is a nod to one of the many nicknames bestowed on what we often call, in duplicate apparently, New York, mixed in with a little San Francisco. The map itself will stretch across ten square miles, and unlike some other sandbox games, will all be open and available from the outset. No ‘broken bridge’ or ‘closed subway’ storylines here then.
The story is set across two decades – the ’40s and ’50s – and in our hands-on we were amazed at the level of research that had gone into creating a true 1950s look and feel. We’ve seen games like this before, of course. Mafia II is clearly influenced by the likes of GTA, but there is something quite endearing about the amount of detail 2K have gone into in order to ensure that all the environments, weapons and props look as genuine as possible.
The demo we played – a modified version of which you’ll get to download from the PS Store next week – allowed us to go through a standard mission. After a cut-scene, which we have been reliably informed was rendered live by the game engine rather than using any CGI or pre-rendered scenes, we were thrown into the action. The controls are immediately intuitive to anyone who has played a similar title. In fact, most of the button choices mirror that of other sandbox games to the extent that you don’t really have to pay attention to the button-mapping guide before the demo begins.
We like the ‘cover’ feature, which is certainly a big plus point for Mafia II. Pressing the ‘cover’ button as you head towards an object will start a super-slick movement leaving you hidden behind a wall, car, support column or anything else that can help you dodge bullets. The animations as you snap towards your cover of choice are quite sublime.
Aiming and shooting work as you would expect, although we found it easier to pick off head-shots with the sensitivity set to ‘super-high’ rather than ‘normal’, but you should adjust the settings for yourself to see what you find comfortable.
Interactions usually come in two flavours within Mafia II. You can, for example, open a door or choose to kick it down. Whilst we were playing around in Empire Bay, we thought we would see what would happen if we kicked the tailor’s door down to buy some new clothes. The retail assistance behind the desk didn’t even flinch, which was a slight disappointment. This lack of AI wore off as soon as we found the copy of Playboy on the counter-top. There’s 50 to collect, don’t you know…
We also found time to pimp our ride, ’50s style, with white-wall tyres and a banging paint job. Heck, we even managed to change the number plate to suit our particular tastes.
Once into the mission proper, it was a fairly standard shoot-out to begin with. It wasn’t until half way through the assault that the flanking techniques started to make themselves apparent. It is really nice to be able to flank the enemy whilst your good fellas keep them occupied, and we expect this kind of tactical shooting to feature quite heavily in the game.
Unlike the original title, you won’t get too much attention from running a red light, but you will still have the police chasing after you if you wield your gun in public. Bear that in mind when you’re strolling down the boulevard.
In summary, our short time with Mafia II was highly enjoyable. The controls are spot on, the graphics look slick and very in keeping with the style of the day. The voice acting, which could so easily turn into a caricature of Joey from Friends given the subject material and New York influence, is excellent too. All of this bodes well for a game that you could be playing for hours on end.
Mafia II is out between the 24th and 27th August, depending on your region. Whilst it may not be The Godfather of all sandbox games, we think that when it comes to playing La Familia, this one is pretty Untouchable.