Released: 27th August 2010
Format: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Developer: 2K Czech
Publisher: 2K Games
Another one of my hugely anticipated titles of the year is 2K Czech's Mafia II. Reams of game play footage has been shown to date of the game and every time another developer diary turns up, I get more and more excited to see what I believe has the potential to be game of the year. Now I know that without playing the game, it's incredibly hard to tell the impact such release will have, but the very fact that the developer is confident enough to provide hands-on time with the game months in advance of actual release date ought to be congratulated- this comes at a time when secrecy and the 'behind closed doors' approach is often the norm.
What has me most excited by the game is its setting- influenced by American cities of the time (mainly New York City and San Francisco), Mafia II is set in the fictional 'Empire Bay' of 1940s-50s era. Screen shots and footage show incredible periodic artistic designs and a frankly tremendous effort in capturing every tiny detail no matter how seemingly insignificant, from its soundtrack to shop fronts. The graphics look superb, both in terms of the look of the city, the ominous locations and facial animation that is captured perfectly in the trailer here.
The game centres on the Sicilian Vito Scaletta, returning home from his duties to the army during World War II. What follows is a spiral towards the life of crime and gangster undertakings. In an interview with 'GamesRadar', writer and director of the game- Daniel Vavra, explains his intent on “delivering a polished, story-driven experience, that makes gamers feel as though they are living a day in the life of a mobster”. Comparisons are obviously easy to draw with such crime epics as Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather and Scorsese's Goodfellas (which is in fact referenced in the announcement trailer for the game). A sweeping epic narrative is likely to be delivered succinctly and efficiently, with over two hours of cut-scenes (all rendered in-engine and real-time) featured within the game and what is said to be over 500 pages of screenplay! The cast of characters also look to be shaping up well, with a philosophy to characterisation that seems to be taken from the very best games of its type, ensuring characters are established well and with personality throughout the plot.
2K Czech have revealed their intent on delivering a truly living and breathing city which feels alive to the player. Game play videos are keen to show off the city in all its glory- a brief drive through the streets in period vehicles (that are said to feel heavy without being too overbearing), sees people going about their daily lives in exacting detail that can be seen in every aspect of Mafia II's implementation. It's really brilliant to see the game in action, and I urge you to search for some of the videos available because I haven't seen anything as stunning in the look and feel of a city in any other game, not even GTA IV's Liberty City. Couple that with the fact that the area is 10 square miles large (twice the area of the first game), featuring over 20 unique neighbourhoods and 50 intricately designed period vehicles filling its streets and the sheer scope of 2K Czech's daunting workload is still nigh on possible to comprehend.
Guns from the first game, such as the 'Thompson M1928', the 'Colt 1911' and the pump-action shotgun all return, along with WW II-era inspired weapons. Melee combat is a simple two-button affair, with 'finishing moves' a combination of the two, resulting in context sensitive finishes. For example, if you're stood in front of a car, Vito might smash his head into the hood to end the fight. Cover mechanics are used for gun-play with any environmental items available to hide behind, although making sure you're still protected as the physics engine does its work is key. Yes, cover is destructible and will no doubt force wary players straight into the heat of battle. The check point system from the first game is also said to be completely overhauled.
All in all, I simply can not wait for the game. The triple-A polish that seems to be shining from the every surface of the game is really great to see at such an early stage, and I expect a deep and thoroughly entertaining ride once I get hands-on with the game, 27th August 2010. You'd do well to keep an eye on this, too. It's going to be special!