Mafia II Hands-On Preview
Xbox 360 | PS3 | PC
Mafia II box art
System: X360, PS3, PC Review Rating Legend
Dev: 2K Czech 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: 2K Games 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Aug. 24, 2010 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Mature 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
Moving up in the Family
by Andrew Groen

April 5, 2010 - The original game in the Mafia series was actually a somewhat underappreciated title. Granted, the console versions weren't amazing, but the PC version, when played on a suitable rig, was actually quite good. In its time it was written off as a Grand Theft Auto 3 wannabe, but 2002's Mafia delivered fairly well on the relatively brand-new genre of sandbox action games.

Mafia II screenshot

Nearly eight years later, the gaming world is readying itself to finally get a sequel that 2K is putting their full weight behind. In both the real world and the game world, time has moved forward quite a bit and everyone has had to adapt to new conditions.

The last game was something of an homage to the early era of the 1930s, and it's aesthetic and culture was clearly defined by the movies, which makes perfect sense considering the team in the Czech Republic would most likely have been influenced most by American films. This same influence is obviously apparent in the sequel. This time, however, we're in the 1950s and 1960s, in much the same world as Godfather 2, Goodfellas, and Casino.

The influence of these kinds of films can't be understated. Everything from the cinematography of the cutscenes to the exaggerated accents drips with the invisible sway of Martin Scorsese.

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This game, however, seems to be much more cliché-driven. Our entire demo of the game seemed to be essentially a long battle against the "greasers". In the beginning, the main character is sent to go help a friend sell a truckload of cigarettes, stolen or legal, we're not really told. It's not long, though, before the greasers show up and demand that we leave their turf and stop taking away from their business. After a moment of disagreement, the greasers toss a molotov cocktail into the bed of the truck, incinerating the cigarettes and of course, ruining the car.

It seemed a bit over-the-top, but hey, they're the bad guys. If they were rational, they'd be on our side, right? This event, of course, leads to retribution, and since we're the guys on the scene, it's our job to take revenge and teach those no-good greasers a lesson.

After meeting up with some of the other members of our gang, we drive over to their headquarters to teach them a lesson. We stop off to riddle one of their businesses with bullet holes, and then it was time to whack about two dozen of their guys. Maybe it seems an unjust solution, but this is street justice. There'll be no cushy three-square-meals-a-day penitentiaries for these criminals. We've got a reputation to maintain.

Mafia II screenshot

Mafia II does a pretty good job of putting you in the setting and into the mood of the characters with which you're controlling and interacting. Our demo was only fifteen minutes long and we were already quite drawn in by the convincing landscape. Not everything is where it should be quite yet, though. There were some really strange lines of dialogue that popped up occasionally.

For instance, when we were sneaking into the enemy headquarters, one of the fringe characters on our side grabbed an enemy (in a cutscene) and killed him while shouting, "follow the ****** yellow brick road!" Wait, what? Did we miss something? We're the first to admit that we've killed likely hundreds of thousands of digital bad-guys, but never once have we shouted quotes from the Wizard of Oz while doing so.

We were similarly unsure of how to feel about the combat and gunplay. On the one hand, the mechanics are pretty loose, and shooting is definitely much more difficult and less accurate than most gamers are used to. However, it was actually a little bit refreshing. Every indication leads us to believe that shooting people in real life is actually kind of tough (though we promise we've never tried it before), and many games with pinpoint accuracy seem somewhat disingenuous by comparison.

Mafia II screenshot

So, while it may not make for the most satisfying gameplay, here's hoping that this wasn't just a mistake, if only to keep Mafia II from blending into the herd of sandbox action games like its predecessor.

Between the original PC version and the console ports, the original Mafia sold over two million copies. It was a smash hit, though it was probably not all that surprising to 2K given the immense popularity of its subject matter. The real question is whether or not the sequel will interest gamers enough to have the same kind of popularity in an already extremely overpopulated 2010 release schedule.

By Andrew Groen
CCC Freelance Writer

Game Features:

  • Gangster-Movie Experience: Through strong, authentic characterization and compelling narrative, the mature storyline will make you understand the pull and impossible escape of life in the Mob.
  • Empire City's Lush Authenticity Breathes Life into the Golden Era of Gangland America: Discover the beautiful and breathtaking world of Empire City and explore a dense and vast landscape filled with skyscrapers, landmarks, and residences that reflect the style of America's most recognizable cities.
  • Action-Packed Gameplay: Take part in heart-stopping car-to-car gunfights, white-knuckled hand-to-hand combat, and scintillating gunplay, all of which come to life through the magic of next-generation technology.

  • Screenshots / Images
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