Mafia II E3 Preview

At E3 2010 in Los Angeles I was given a chance to kick back on a couch at 2K Game's booth and play through a mission of Mafia II. If you remember the original Mafia game, you already know that it was one of the first open world games at a time when very few games featured open worlds. Mafia II continues that tradition, but rather than placing you in a Prohibition Era city the action has been moved to the late 1940s/early 1950s. Channeling The Godfather, the game places you in the role of Vito Scaletta, a World War II veteran who returns home from the war to quickly find himself becoming a foot soldier in the mafia.

The game takes place in Empire Bay, a fictionalized version of New York City. I received my mission while holed up in a safe house in the suburbs, and was instructed to travel to a rendezvous point to take part in a hit. This gave me the chance to get a glimpse of Empire Bay, and it looks like the developers have done a good job of capturing the look and feel of mid 20th Century New York. The sidewalks were as crowded as they should be for a big city, and the streets were the domain of the big, beefy, round cars of the era. I had a little chance to try out some freelance crime on my way to my mission, and it looks like the wanted system in Mafia II eschews the "red circle getaway" seen in most games of this nature for a more realistic line of sight system. This means that if you can duck down a side street and switch cars without a cop seeing you do so, you can shake the cops on your tail. Also, police response is proportional to your crime whipping out a gun and running down the street bumping into pedestrians will cause the local beat cop to give chase, but won't have half of the Empire Bay police force bearing down on you.

When I reached the mission hotspot, the game segued into a cutscene that indicates that Mafia II will be heavily character-driven. During the pre-mission conversations, and those that took place during the mission, you get a good feel for the personalities of the guys that you're working with and will appreciate that they're not just a bunch of stereotypical mafia goons.

The mission began in earnest when the target of the hit and his escort arrived at a bottling plant across the street. Despite some heavy firepower in the form of a mounted machine gun propped against a window frame, the target managed slipped into the plant and I had to give chase. The indoor environment was a great place to show off the game's cover system and shooter mechanics, which seemed to be spot on during some of the intense close quarters firefights that followed. I had the chance to wield a pistol, shotgun, and Tommy gun during the mission, and each weapon handled differently as it should. At one point a nearby enemy took cover behind a column and I was able to whittle down its edges with shotgun blasts and then put an end to the exposed foe.

Once I finally reached the target and he was thoroughly dispatched, enemy reinforcements arrived and began to torch the building with us still in it. Battling flames and well-armed foes I had to make my way down several stories and out into the street, only to find myself trying to ditch some pursuers in a high-speed chase.

The mission was pretty intense and far from easy, but most of all it was a blast. The little taste of Mafia II left me wanting more and looking forward to the game's August release.