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Released on the 23rd of November for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC, Joe’s Adventures looks to be a great example of the way DLC really should be done. Less a side-story, more the missing part of Mafia 2’s main story, it follows Vito’s best friend Joe through his exploits in Empire Bay during the years of his buddy’s absence.
It brings new areas, new game mechanics, and eight new hours of gameplay, making it the biggest and most complete DLC offering since Rockstar gave Liberty City two new episodes. Also, what I’ve played so far is great. Read on, and I’ll tell you why.
Forget your preconceptions of narrative DLC. Joe’s Adventures isn’t just a few more missions or a couple of hours of side-story. It’s an eight-hour epic that dovetails seamlessly into the original Mafia II’s storyline while providing a game around two-thirds the length of its predecessor. Think of it as Mafia 2.5.
Remember Mafia 2 protagonist Vito’s lengthy jail term? And remember how Joe was doing pretty damn well for himself upon Vito’s release? This is the story of everything the big guy did in between, filling in the gaps from the ‘40s through to the ‘50s. In terms of scale, we’re talking about an experience at least on a par with Rockstar’s two add-on episodes for Grand Theft Auto IV. So almost a sequel, but not quite. And for the far-less-than-a-sequel price of just 800 MS Points on 360 and £6.29 on PC (PS3 price unconfirmed, but expect something similar).
Don’t go thinking that you’re just looking at a bunch of reskinned off-cuts from the original game in Joe’s Adventures. There’s significant new content here. Aside from the full-scale campaign, Joe’s Adventures also opens up a whole new area of the city, with brand new locations vastly expanding the countryside area in the north east.
The part we’ve seen – the snowbound lake area in the trailer – is right up to the stunningly evocative standards of atmosphere and place we experienced in the original game. One of Mafia 2’s greatest strengths is the immense vibrancy and feeling of life in its environments, and the wintry wilderness really is one of the prettiest and most expressive areas in Empire Bay so far. It even feels cold.
There are also new cars, new music (brilliant news, given how much geeking out we did over Mafia 2’s fantastic and exhaustive period radio stations), new clothes (Joe’s style was always a bit more ‘bold’ than Vito’s). And speaking of Joe himself…
He isn’t just a chubbier Vito. Joe is very much his own man, and this is very much his own game. For a start, he comes packing his own melee moves, and proves far handier than Vito in terms of the old punchy-smashy. Where a punch from Vito would usually lead to a drawn-out punch exchange, Joe’s bull-in-a-china-shop approach to life allows him to rush down mooks with a mighty combo pounding without so much as breaking a sweat. And as you’d expect given Mafia II’s substantial viscerality, it’s bloody satisfying to unleash.
Also, there are now proper stealth missions. Mafia 2 dabbled with stealth a little, but only for brief periods before it all inevitably went the way of the blam. Joe however, despite his bulk, gets the sneaking right. Infiltrating the icy enemy hideout was a genuinely satisfying creep-and-kill experience, our carefully chosen paths between cover and gangster line-of-sight rewarded with plenty of opportunities for satisfying environmental offings. No weedy sleeper holds for Joe. He’s all about snapping necks and sending bodies to freeze with the fishes.
Similarly, Joe’s bigger personality seems to have lead to some bigger and brasher set-pieces. This is still Mafia 2, of course, with all its classy believability and smooth, beautifully-realised ‘40s cool, but when Joe goes loud, he does so in a more epic and cinematic way than his more straight-laced best friend.
Where Vito got into car chases, Joe has car chases over breaking frozen lakes, skidding across ice flows to slam his prey into the perishing deep. When he chases down a rat, it’s via road, on foot, over and under train, and culminating in a potential truck smash (emergent events depending). This is Mafia 2’s class and excitement cranked up to accommodate a louder, ballsier hero with some cool new tricks, and I’m very, very excited indeed at the thought of getting back into its world to live the life again. Also, did I mention…
Yep. More of this.
12th Nov, 2010
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