GR: Given that it was structured as a story told by protagonist Tommy Angelo, the first Mafia centered on the most significant events in his life while largely ignoring his day-to-day life as a mobster. Will we see a bit more of the everyday nitty-gritty of mob life in the sequel, or will the focus still be on big, important action sequences?
DV: The short answer to your question is “yes” and “yes”.
The player is going to experience more of everything. You’ll experience all the intense action sequences that make action games fun. However, with that said, we don’t see “action sequences” being mutually exclusive to the “nitty-gritty life of a mobster.” We see them as one and the same.
Our goal is to seamlessly blend great action sequences that create those intense, memorable gameplay moments, while at the same time those action sequences will always be in context to the story and the mafia theme. In other words, we will never ask the player to go blow something up “just because”.
We feel our strength as a team lies in our ability to tell an immersive, gripping story, and we will never waver in this regard. We see gameplay, scriptwriting, cutscenes, the environment, art style… we see all of it as tools that come together to tell the story we want to tell.
GR: The first Mafia was fairly linear as sandbox games go, in that it followed a simple, mission-to-mission progression that didn't offer many incentives to explore Lost Heaven freely. Will the sequel be similarly linear, or are you planning a lot of diversions from the central plot?
DV: From a game-design standpoint, there is a balance that needs to be struck between linear story progression and open freedom. From the very beginning of this project, we decided as a team that our strength lies in our ability to tell an intense, gripping story with deep believable characters. Hence Mafia II leans more toward the linear side of the freedom-vs-linear spectrum.
However, with that said, within the constraints that telling a compelling story creates, we give the gamer as much freedom as possible. For example, missions can be completed in various ways, and sometimes even the story will be influenced by some of the choices the gamer makes during the course of the game.
Also, on top of the main mission structure, this time around there will be a lot more side quests and interactive locations to explore.
GR: Have you played EA's Godfather adaptation? Seeing as it's the only other high-profile, free-roaming crime game set in the '40s, are you concerned that people will compare it with Mafia II?
DV: Yes, we’ve played EA’s Godfather adaption. We’ve also played a lot of the other crime oriented games like The Getaway, GTA, and a host of others. What can we say, we’re all gamers.
As for Mafia II being compared to EA’s Godfather, we’re not concerned a bit at all. Although Godfather was a great game in its own right. Mafia II is going to be even better.
Mafia II is going to continue to do what the series is known for, delivering a polished, story-driven experience, that makes gamers feel as though they are living a day in the life of a mobster… albeit a mobster as portrayed in Hollywood… but living a day in the life of a mobster nonetheless.
GR: Given that they're both inspired by New York, will Empire City share many similarities with Lost Heaven? About how much bigger (or smaller) is the new city compared with the old one?
DV: There won’t be much that Lost Heaven and Empire City will share. We built Empire City from the ground up. Mafia II takes place in a completely brand new era. So capturing the look and feel of the era was incredibly important to us. We went to New York and took thousands of pictures. Lots of research went into the design of every single mission. Everything in the game has its real contemporary counterpart. We have a library of thousands of pictures of buildings, cars, machines, people, cities. Even if we wanted to be more accurate than we are now, I doubt it would be possible.
Also, Empire City is roughly double the size of Lost Heaven, covering approximately 10 square miles