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Mafia II – updated impressions

Of course, all this authenticity is nothing without a solid game to go with it, and thankfully the signs are already there that Mafia II is shaping up to be a superb third-person actioner. The E3 demo showcased the smooth shooting sections, where combat played out like a slicker, better animated version of GTA IV (we especially enjoyed the way enemies reacted realistically to location specific damage, falling and clutching limbs as you shot them). More recently we got a look at the hand to hand fighting system. This takes place in an over-the-shoulder view and again it looks incredibly fluid, as Vito puts together one-two punches that land with sickening wet crunches on his opponent’s face. To finish, our man goes in with a few well-placed shots to the belly and smashes his foe to the ground.

Another aspect of the game that impresses is the driving. In the original Mafia, getting behind the wheel of a car was a deeply unpleasant experience – most vehicles were slow, and when you finally managed to get over the speed limit, the city’s ruthless cops would clock and chase you harder than OJ Simpson. Cars are much quicker in Mafia II, as the game is set during the late 40s and early 50s.

The cops will still try and flag you down for traffic infringements, but unless you’re mowing pedestrians down, they won’t come after you with quite as much vigour as the first game. Interestingly, your ‘wanted level’ in a vehicle is separate to your on-foot ‘wanted level’. Unless they actually see you jump into the vehicle, the police don’t have a physical description of you as a person, so it’s possible to escape them by ditching the car or taking it to a mob garage to get it ‘chopped’ (read: disguised).

Taking a car to a garage means that you can change more than just the colour: you can custom-create your new license plate and fiddle with the engine too. That’s what Vito ends up doing at the conclusion of our demo. After giving the police the slip, Vito heads over to the target location given to him by Steve.

He sneaks in using the game's hudless stealth system (as the devs put it “No radars or light-meters – just don’t get spotted”) and quietly takes out the guards. Then he sets fire to the target cars, blowing them up and starting a fire that shimmers and glows – yet another realistic looking touch in this incredible-looking game. The cops show up again, but by that time Vito is in his own car heading full tilt towards the chop-shop. It’s been a thrilling, immersive ride and if the rest of Mafia II is this intense we could be looking at one of the best games of 2010.

Oct 1, 2009