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Follow the dark path or use the light

Mafia 2 Launch Center

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Mafia II Launch Center

Preview written by Chris Boots-Faubert for

Introduction and Synopsis

Mafia II is the sequel to the 3rd-Person Shooter Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven (2002/2004 Illusion Softworks/GoD), and is developed by the studio 2K Czech (formerly known as Illusion Softworks) and published by 2K Games (BioShock Franchise, Borderlands, Civilization Franchise), a sister company of Rock Star Games (GTA Franchise, Red Dead Franchise, Bully), both being a subsidiary of parent company Take-Two Interactive.

Development of the story arc for Mafia 2 began shortly after the 2002 release of the original game in the series, though production was delayed until mid-2005 when a firm commitment was made to produce the title for both the Microsoft Windows and Console platforms. Originally scheduled for a July 2010 release date, the project was pushed back to August, 2010 to provide developers with extra time to polish the over-all appearance and technical performance of the game. "The new release date reflects our emphasis upon quality" Take-Two CEO Ben Feder explained in a recent statement to the press.

"Our company is focused, as it's always been, on deep, immersive interactive entertainment, and providing a quality gaming experience for the customer," Feder said. "A focus upon quality and the need for more development time" was how he explained the new release date for Mafia 2, adding that additional material was added to the game to enhance the process by which the player suspends disbelief and begins to identify with the characters and the story, a decision that underscores the demonstrated commitment by the company to produce well-crafted stories that draw a very large following and loyal fan base.

- Synopsis -

Mafia II chronicles the rise of Vito Scaletta, a World War II veteran and first-generation American who joins the Prochilo Crime Family as a foot soldier following his return from somewhat involuntary military service at the end of the war. Scaletta works his way up through the ranks during an era that has long been considered the Golden Age of Organized Crime in America, following the same true-to-life path of infamous gangsters like Alphonse Gabriel 'Al' Capone, Albert Anastasia, and Frankie Yale, all of whom began their careers as a foot soldiers and, through a story-book combination of tenacity, violence, intelligence -- and being in the right place at the right time -- worked their way into positions of authority in the criminal underground of the Mafia.

The son of Sicilian immigrants, Scaletta returns home on leave to discover that his father has died, leaving the family in considerable debt at a time when personal debts were considered a matter of family honor. Faced with repaying the money his father owed and supporting his extended family, Scaletta returns to his previous avocation, re-connecting with childhood friends who shared his hobbies and interests, and as a byproduct of these choices, quickly finds himself at odds with different members of the factions that control crime and the flow of vice in the city.

Over the course of the following twenty years the player lives the life of a gangster, rises through the ranks, and becomes a part of a mature and complex story that is intended as a more realistic portrayal of the Gangster Life from the 1940's to the 1960's in America. Fans of the original were largely drawn to the game by its iconic handling of the era and the intense way in which the characters fit into that era, and there will be no disappointments in that respect with the sequel, as it manages to capture that nostalgic view, even though the players have no real connection to the era!

The world is filled with familiar cars, an assortment of weapons, and pop-culture references that instantly place the player inside a bubble that is at first real and, as the story progresses, increasingly important to the player. Identifying with a murderous criminal on that level is usually not an easy connection to make for most game developers, especially when they cannot rely upon instantly recognizable environments that are the usual background for such game worlds (i.e. Miami Beach for GTA:VC).

Despite this considerable handicap, the world in Mafia II quickly becomes familiar and nostalgic, with elements that blur the line between the here and now and what we naturally think of as classic and historical. The careful insertion of homages to both gangster fiction and pop-culture as well as a direct tie-in to the then nascent Playboy Empire only adds to the overall immersion and enjoyment for the player, creating a world in which one can live and work and, at the same time, appreciate for its nostalgic qualities.

Game Play

The world in which the protagonist lives begins in 1945 and progresses to the late 1950's, and takes place largely in the imaginary interpretation of New York City -- called Empire Bay in the story -- though it is not strictly speaking a defined interpretation of the Big Apple. Instead of recreating what is perhaps the most over-used environment for gangster chic, the developers created a city that is a combination of New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Detroit, borrowing the most interesting elements of all of these to, in effect, create a gangster-friendly city with lots of opportunity for the traditional industry that the mob is well known for in that era.

Gunplay of Mafia II

Gunplay of Mafia II

Empire Bay breaks some of the rules that gamers have come to expect from this genre: gone are the map restrictions and the need to force the player through key missions in order to "unlock" sections of the map, and in its place is a ten-square-mile open city that is instantly accessible at the very start of the game! That may not sound like a lot of territory in which to play, but from a practical perspective it amounts to about three times the useable play world as that of GTA:IV, and with its intentionally open-ended story interpretation, presents the player with a very broad world in which they can explore and complete the current content and story-arc, while at the same time leaving open the vast bulk of the map for use in DLC and game expansion, elements that are clearly part of the plan for this title.

Licensed content in the game includes music from the era as well as a selection of era-appropriate images from Playboy Magazine -- something to bear in mind if you are playing the game in mixed company, as picking up a magazine in the game defaults to a full-screen full-color display of that issues centerfold image. At launch the game includes nearly 50 unique vehicle types ranging from a 1920's Tin Lizzie to sedans distinct to the 50's.

Players will recognize a number of weapons from the previous game like the 1928 Thompson and Colt .45, as well as war-vintage weapons like the MP40, MG42, and the M1 Garand. The previously mentioned Playboy Magazines are one of the two primary collectibles in the game, the other being Wanted Posters, while the focus for game play tends to lean heavily towards the mission and quest systems.

The controls in Mafia 2 are unique in that they are split between a standard action button and a violent action button -- for example when stealing a car the player has the choice to use the standard action button, and pick the lock on the door, or make use of the violent action button and smash the window to gain access. Some of the features from the first game that were disliked by the players have been addressed here, most notably the shoot-from-cover system.

In the previous game the player could crouch behind objects, but shooting required the player to expose themselves -- in Mafia II the player can take cover and shoot from cover, and in keeping with the changing world and the obvious skills sets and tactics that characters would naturally acquire in combat, the game utilizes a rudimentary tactics system for the NPC enemies as well as your allies, and rewards the use of squad and single-man tactics in combat situations.

Posted: 12th Sep 2010
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