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10 reasons to respect Mafia II

We’ve known about Mafia II’s existence for what seems like years, but it wasn’t until just recently that we got our first actual look at the game in motion. It wasn’t much – just a single mission – but it looked awfully polished for a game that’s still heavily under development. After a sit-down with the game’s producer, Denby Grace, and 2K Director of Production Jack Scalici, we came away with a more complete picture of exactly what 2K thinks will set Mafia II apart from every other crime game on the increasingly flooded market. Here’s what we learned:

1. The ‘50s were swank
Mafia II takes place some 20 years after the original Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven, beginning just after its protagonist, Vito Scaletta, arrives home after World War II. It then follows the next 10 years of his life, shooting through the late ‘40s and into the ‘50s, and both decades promise to be a lot more fun to play around in than the ‘30s and their slow-ass jalopies. The cars in Mafia II are faster, the radio is less slow-jazz-dependent and Empire City already looks to be a much more interesting place to explore than Lost Heaven.

Our first real glimpse of Empire City was of the underside of an elevated railway, as Vito walked to a parked car to meet up with his best friend and partner in crime, Joe Barbaro, whom we’re told will stick with Vito as a sidekick throughout the game. This time, Joe was accompanied by Marty, a young, wet-behind-the-ears getaway driver that Joe had taken under his wing. That fact, along with the kid’s boundless optimism, was a dead giveaway he was probably going to end up a bloody mess.

As Vito approached the car, Joe and Marty looked up from their own private conversation to acknowledge his lateness. The trio then piled in and headed for the ultramodern Empire Arms Hotel, where the bulk of the mission played out.

2. The missions are elaborate
According to Grace, there’ll often be more than one way through any given mission, although we don’t yet know how far beyond the usual shoot-or-sneak “choice” that’ll go. At any rate, the Room Service mission we saw – which we’re told is a condensed version of the mission that’ll be in the final game – was lengthy and looked suitably epic.

For this particular job, Vito and Joe had to disguise themselves as window washers, infiltrate a meeting of rival mob bosses and plant a bomb without anyone noticing. At first, it looked like the job was going to go off without a hitch; the pair already had the uniforms and strode through the hotel’s service corridors unchallenged. But then Joe had to go and give Vito a gun “in case something happens,” which of course meant that something would.

Despite the foreboding, the pair were able to get access to the meeting room without problems, strolling past heavily armed guards and mob elites in the adjoining bar. Because the meeting hadn’t started yet, Joe was able to rig the underside of the meeting table with explosives without anyone noticing. The thing is, given the era, the bomb doesn’t have a remote detonator. Instead, Joe needs to rig a wired timer to the bomb. And for whatever reason, he needs to set it off from outside the window of the high-rise hotel.

3. The action’s better than Mafia I
After taking the stairs up to the hotel roof, Vito and Joe found a group of mob guards, who weren’t supposed to be there and were lazily hanging around the guardrail and spitting over the side. Again, we were reminded that there will be multiple ways around this situation, but for the purposes of the demo, Vito would shoot the guards full of holes.

Once the firefight started, the action looked pretty standard, although that’s a good thing. A cover system lets Vito duck out of the way of bullets before popping up to aim, and the game seems to follow the “screen gradually turns red until you can stay out of harm’s way for a little while” model of taking damage.

After the guards were out of the way, Vito and Joe had to deal with something unexpected: an actual window washer. Rather than killing him, Joe made him lie down at gunpoint, at which point Vito moved in and tied him up with duct tape.