To celebrate the launch of the game Mafia II, Zavvi.com and Take 2 have joined Forces to bring you the chance of a lifetime, a weekend for two in New York. You will live the life of a gangster wearing a Tailored Savile Row Suit, a Personal Italian chauffeur and bodyguard along with £500 spending money!
Plus read zavvi’s Mafia II Hands-On Preview here……
The prevalence of sandbox games in the current console generation has developed into something that can very much be construed as a good thing. Their popularity has meant that they cannot come to market without standing completely apart from the competition, and the only way that this can be achieved is by providing a compelling story first and foremost; with the presence of an entirely convincing game world running a close second. Some do this better than others, with Rockstar’s recent oeuvre – pointedly, an outfit with more practice than most – being predictably stellar. But that emphasis on story and character constantly makes for some of the most delectable experiences in modern gaming.
The first Mafia game (subtitled The City Of Lost Heaven) still stands as one of the previous generation’s most underrated propositions, and its sequel riffs just as shrewdly on the world created by Francis Ford Coppola in his first two Godfather films. Although the nods toward those classic films are just as copious this time around, the shift in period, from the 1930’s of the original game to the 1940’s and 50’s here, means that the homages are now sharper and much more direct. Mafia II begins its story towards the end of 1945; exactly the same kick-off point as the very first Godfather story.
The game’s world of Empire Bay City is a sumptuous amalgam of the New York City and San Francisco of that same period, with a sly facsimile of the Golden Gate Bridge, which you’ll drive beneath during one of the game’s very first missions, standing as one of the most awe-inspiring sights in a game that appears to offer many. Everything about Empire Bay City, in particular the vehicles (all of which are inspired by cars of the period though not licensed) and the building interiors, are all clearly the result of some meticulous research. Along with the excellent voice-acting and use of cordial pop music (in addition to occasional, propaganda-heavy radio broadcasts) all assist in creating a world that anyone with any passion for that period of history, the sandbox genre in general or just the films that have inspired Mafia II and its story, are going to want to immediately lose themselves in it.
Mafia II’s opening chapter is entitled ‘Home Sweet Home’, and follows your character Vito Scaletta as he returns home from the battlefields of WWII after sustaining a clandestine injury. Empire Bay City is in the midst of a punishing winter, and the mild suffering of the city’s underclasses – some of whom you interact with early on in the story – is expertly conveyed. This chapter serves as a fairly standard tutorial, but emphasis has wisely been placed on building the story, and it features the memorable introduction of a series of compelling, and compellingly diverse, characters.
Many of these people are immediately recognisable to anyone who is even vaguely cine-literate. Joey, the coarse playboy, is Sonny Corleone in everything other than name. Sam Grace, a polite nebbish, has apparently been pedantically modelled on Sonny’s brother Michael, before he established an involvement in the family business. Whether either of these character’s arcs mirror those of their big-screen counterparts remains to be seen, but this definitely isn’t some disenguous pastiche; these people serve as instantly discernible markers that ineffably draw you into a place that you think you know. Hopefully developer 2K Czech have some real fun toying with audience expectations.
One of the game’s later missions – which will be available shortly as part of the downloadable PSN and XBL demo – brought the stellar gunplay into sharp focus. The sequence involves an assassination attempt that goes awry, and you and your associates are forced to chase your target into a dank factory. The gunplay is robust and satisfying, with the cinematic nature of the sound design really standing out, and the destructible cover (enhanced by some devilish AI) is some of the most impressive we’ve ever seen. One enemy, who ping-ponged between plaster pillars as we dilapidated each of them with relentless gunfire, eventually found nowhere else to hide, and was forced to cower behind the final column as we destroyed it completely. We then executed him with a pin-point headshot before moving on. None of this was a breeze either, as with realism placed to the fore, if you’re hit with two well-placed rounds, you’re dead.
Each mission’s objective markers aren’t unnecessarily finicky which makes for an extremely welcome change, and if one task involves the opening of a door, you’ll only have to enter the immediate vicinity for the mission to instantly begin. The incessant neck-pain that is precision car parking has also been happily ditched, and such manoeuvres can now be pulled off with a touch of a single button. Newcomer’s shouldn’t be intimidated by Mafia II either, as it’s a sequel in name only, featuring an entirely new cast and what appears (at this stage) to be a completely unrelated story.
Before the release of Rockster’s wonderful Red Dead Redemption in May, an industry perception that consumer apathy was growing towards sandbox games in today’s market was gathering speed. Mafia II looks as if it is going to disprove that assumption in exactly the same way as Red Dead Reception did – by putting as much muscle behind story, characterisation and atmosphere as the nuts-and-bolts thrills of the action scenes. Red Dead Redemption is inarguably one of the year’s finest videogames. Nobody should be surprised if Mafia II cuts a similarly impressive figure.
Check out the Mafia II trailer here…..
Order your Mafia II now at zavvi.com