Mafia II Developer- 2K Czech Publisher- 2K Games Engine- The
Illusion Engine Release date May - July 2010 -----------------------------------
with one the developers of the original Mafia, there's only one
question any fan really wants to ask. So I asked it. Why was that bloody
racing mission so stupidly difficult?
Daniel Vavra, lead
designer at 2K Czech (formerly the far less bleak sounding Illusion
Softworks) laughed and assured me that it was originally intended to be
harder, and that only the endless nagging of his superiors prevented it
becoming the most impossible-to-beat level in gaming history.
old grudges to bed, we set aside the only blotch on Mafia's tenure as
the PC's greatest, most well-written free-roaming shooter, and move on
to the matter at hand - its sequel.
First, 2K Czech are keen to quash rumours - Mafia II is not a
continuation of the previous game's story, nor is the main character
related to the original protagonist in any way. Mafia II starts with a
clean slate, and with that fact firmly stated, it's deemed appropriate
to show off an early version of the game's introductory cutscene.
it a locomotive pulls into a Grand Central-esque station. Out of this
locomotive steps a neatly dressed soldier on leave - this is Vito, your
character, who chose to enlist rather than serve time in prison having
been arrested for a petty crime.
He's home for a month following a
spell in hospital, though the war is coming to an end anyway. As he
leaves the station Vito is met by a husky gentleman in a trench coat and
trilby - this is Vito's childhood friend and criminal counterpart, Joe.
asks how Joe knew he'd be arriving, to which Joe replies, "I've got my
contacts". If the game's title didn't tip you off, Joe's dubious nature
certainly will - this is a game about bad men, questionable morality and
having contacts. As they leave the station, two policemen eye them with
presumably warranted suspicion.
Already it's apparent that, from its cinematic camera work to its superb
voice acting, this is unmistakeably Mafia - infused, as ever, with
Goodfellas and Godfather references.
You've got Vito, the clever one, and Joe, the ruthless one - your
typical aspiring gangsters destined to become embroiled in a war between
two rival families. There's loads of swearing, which is both funny and
clever, complementing a tight script written by Vavra. He wrote the
original game's script too, so you know it'll be good.
about 2K Czech's office like an inquisitive fact-moth, I happen upon the
game's city designer, Pavel Cizek, who tells me about Mafia II's game
world. Girth fans will be pleased to hear that it's twice as big as
Mafia's Lost Heaven, with two and a half square miles in which to roam.
Loosely modelled on Manhattan, Mafia II's city contains memorable
landmarks such as a version of the Empire State Building, which, as it's
visible throughout the city, acts as a useful navigation aid.
The camera dives into the city and rolls gently along sun-drenched
tenements, as Cizek demonstrates the density of the roadside furniture.
Fences, bins, back-streets, burnt out cars, individually modelled
windows, lootable shop fronts, meticulously realised fire escapes -
there's a hell of a lot of detail on offer, and most of it can be mown
down and destroyed.
Cizek flips the cityscape from day to night,
to show how windows are randomly illuminated from the inside as
imaginary folk move from room to room switching lights on and off. This
might sound like the most ridiculous little thing, these glowing lights,
but it's there to cement over any telling cracks in the game world's
The goal here is to create a city which supplements and
supports the strong story aspects of the game. Through small details
like these, 2K Czech plan to create the most believable living,
breathing city we've ever seen.
To this often-touted end Mafia
II's pedestrians have had a disproportionate amount of thought put into
them. As unbelievable as it sounds, any member of the populace will
have an observable routine, such as leaving their home, hopping on a
bus, getting off at a clothes shop, trying on and then paying for a
suit, before finally returning home by bus again.
started it and some city-builders have similar systems, but Mafia II is
going to new extremes.
If a driver collides with another car
(which occurs at random), both parties will exit their vehicles and
exchange insurance details in an amicable fashion. Police will chase
criminals if they spot a random crime in progress.
The homeless will sleep rough and rummage in bins. Meanwhile, the
previous game's strict speed limits are less enforced so police officers
will turn a blind eye to somebody coasting at five miles per hour above
the limit. In fact, other drivers will likely be doing the same.
we're being promised is the next generation of urban environments in
gaming (as awful a phrase as that sounds), and if 2K Czech can pull it
off it's destined to be a wonderful thing just to sit back and observe -
believable in its subtlety and surprising in its complexity.
it be in the gentle rocking of individual train carriages as they
clatter along the rails, the understated build-up of grit and muck on
your car as you hurtle recklessly along a dirt track (and the ability to
wash it off), or simply the clothes and cars chosen to flawlessly
recreate the '40s period - Mafia II will be a beautifully detailed game.
slack-jawed enthusiasm for the game's environments have confounded you -
let me remind you that Mafia II is still a shooter, in which you're
expected to kill many people. Rest assured that the liberal care that 2K
Czech have massaged into the game's city has made it as far as the
action sections. And as if to prove this, I am shown a shootout in a
As with the original game, everything will take place
from a third-person standpoint, but Mafia II takes affairs slightly more
over the shoulder. Vito (or at least the 2K Czech developer in control
of him) begins outside a door with a pair of comrades, before kicking
the door down and alerting the occupants to the intrusion.
a Tommy gun and firing from the hip, Vito manages to head shoot one of
the goons, in the process reducing a cement column to a state of utter
As bullets fly, so do chunks of the surrounding interior - including
tables, crates of bottles, railings and barrels. Mercifully, Mafia II
will allow you to take cover behind objects with the tap of a button -
Vito does so behind a sturdy looking piece of scenery, and as if to
demonstrate the capabilities and advantages of a man under cover, fires
off some shots above his encampment, shuffles along a bit, and then
fires off some shots around the side. Wonderful.
fire ricochets and pings off every surface, Vito's mates desperately try
to avoid having their faces shot off, while available cover peels away
with every round fired.
Heightened by the deafening noise and
scattering debris, the stand-off becomes increasingly tense, with Vito
and his cohorts working their way up two floors to leave the final enemy
a slumped ragdoll, casually flung over a bench. The man controlling
Vito runs him through some physics-enabled cardboard boxes, by means of
celebration, causing them to fly across the room.
While it wasn't
shown at the presentation, we're told hand-to-hand combat will also
feature in Mafia II. When guns fail, objects like bottles can be used to
attack your foes - initially as a means to bludgeon them and, once
smashed, to give them a glassy stab. Keen to prove that such actions
at least exist at this early stage of development, a bottle is swiftly
smashed over the head of an innocent, cowering warehouse employee, who'd
been hiding in a corner.
The missions will be
structured similarly to the original game, in that they're rather less
sandbox-y than Grand Theft Auto (a game Mafia was frequently and
inaccurately measured against). You're free to go wherever you please in
the city, and equally free to play about with the law - go way over the
speed limit and the police will flag you down and give you a ticket,
flaunt your new Colt M1911s and they'll put out a warrant for your
No all-seeing eye will register your crimes either - as with the
original, your notoriety in Mafia II is determined by the ability of
those who've witnessed your crimes to reach a phone or radio to report
Once reported, police will be looking out for people
matching your description, or the vehicle you were last seen in - so
buying a new outfit or changing the number plates on your car acts as a
solution in this case.
Prolonged criminal goings-on in one area
of the city will prompt the mayor's office to increase the police
density in that area, making life difficult for your mafioso upstart. In
these cases, bribing the mayor will bring the police presence back down
to more manageable levels.
A respect system is also in place,
appearing on the HUD at all times. This was something 2K Czech weren't
ready to talk about - could it hint at your standing with the two rival
Asking them about the potential for branching
storylines and missions saw them shuffle their feet nervously, damning
proof that there's more to the respect system than meets the eye.
Something they were happy to mention was that massacring innocents has a
negative impact on your respect - and that subsequently low respect
levels could lead to you being 'whacked'.
A further in-game
cutscene shows Joe introducing Vito to Mikey the mechanic, who, as
Ralphie did in the original Mafia, opens the gateway to automotive theft
by asking you to nab cars for him. Unlike the original game, you'll be
able to pick the lock of every car from the outset, either through a
lockpicking minigame or by simply smashing the car's window.
cars themselves have had a massive handling overhaul. Without getting
any actual hands-on driving time myself, it's difficult to say whether
they've nixed the authentic ricketiness of Mafia's fragile '30s motors
in favour of a crowd-pleasing arcade approach, though what I've seen
The cars appear more solid and fun to drive, with a new physics model
allowing for some nifty skids. Traffic in general is denser and the
range of vehicles more varied. The damage modelling has also been
rethought, with the dynamically crumpling wrecks of the original being
replaced by scripted, location-based damage.
2K Czech are calling
this 'Hollywood damage' - paint will scrape away, while bumpers will
hang off and swing, scraping along the tarmac in a shower of sparks,
while panels will deform and dent in a myriad of pre-determined ways -
and the end result should make car chases that bit more thrilling.
CONCERNS There are some things to worry over. The reticule system
has an assisted-aiming feature designed for controllers, leading your
shots towards enemies in a way that's unnatural - 2K would do well to
let PC gamers turn it off. That isn't to say Mafia II will be a
console-led title, as everything else at the presentation suggested
heavily that the PC version will, yet again, be the definitive one.
initially nervous about Mafia II (my cynical mind immediately assuming
that none of the creative genius behind the original would be working on
its sequel, whereas the opposite is true), what I've seen of it has
strengthened my certainty that this game will be as special, and even
more influential, than Mafia.
What was amazing about that first
game was how all of these separate features came together to form a
cohesive, believable world, in which the story could unfold with all the
finesse of Martin Scorsese's best.
Strongly defined characters,
an enigmatic and cinematic environment that permeated the game so
naturally, an extremely well told story and some wickedly unpredictable
missions: it all combined to create a game which remains a PC ZONE
Whether such perfection can be mustered once again
remains unknown, but just knowing that the original game's scriptwriter
is leading the project is the most glowing assurance Illusion (sorry, 2K
Czech) could have given us.
Now we just have to wait & see
how much the waiting is worth to.