There are a lot of myths and half-baked assumptions surrounding Mafia II – so let’s start by clearing them up. First off, this isn’t a GTA clone. It may have a crime theme, and have a limited amount of free-roaming, but it’s first and foremost a linear, story-driven experience. Secondly, it isn’t ‘just another gangster game’. That description does the game a huge disservice. From what we’ve seen, Mafia II could turn out to be one of the most beautifully crafted, engrossing games of this generation.
Bold claims, but we’re willing to stand by them. Better than that, we’ll give you a prime example of why this game is so special. Vito Scaletta is having a bad day. He’s already beaten up a rival gang member after he spots the wise-guy roughing up one of his boss’ lady friends. You know what we mean by lady friend, right? Then, after a quick trip up town to chat about a car demolition job for a man called Steve, a couple of street thugs try to shake him down for some cash. He sticks a gun in their faces and they scarper. Only problem is, a cop sees him do it, and starts to chase him down the back streets of Empire Bay.
After sprinting through a series of tight alleys he leaves the chubby police officer puffing and panting, and slips into a nearby clothes shop to buy new threads to change his appearance. The police only have a description of what he’s wearing, so once he’s changed, he casually walks out of the store into the street. He spots the same cop who was chasing him before, only now the long arm of the law is shaking down a random guy standing at the bus stop, who happens to be wearing similar clothes to what you had on before.
Mafia II is crammed full of these little moments – tiny details that you won’t always notice, but ones that make the world you’re playing in rich and believable. “What we’re trying to do within the city is not give the player random things to do or explore – what we want to do is give him or her an authentic experience as they play through the main storyline,” explains Jarek Kolar, Senior Gameplay Producer at 2K Czech. “There are a lot of events along the way, and if the player notices them and is interested in what is happening then he can step in, interact with it, and feel more immersed that way.” Kolar goes on to give another example of how Empire Bay is being built to feel alive. “We are creating a system, for example, where gangsters and cops carry on independently of you. Sometimes you might see a guy stealing a car and two cops chasing him.”