Hands-on with (much) more of Mafia II

You won’t want to drive around at high speeds very often, though. The game’s cops (visible as blue marks on your radar) are far more lenient than they were in the first Mafia, frequently ignoring red-light infractions and fender-benders, but they’ll start to chase you if they see you speeding, at which point you can either try to outrun them or just pull over and pay your ticket. So it’s a better idea to drive with the “speed limiter” on whenever possible, which automatically prevents you from going over the legal limit.

Above: If things go south, you can always bribe the cops – so long as you’ve got the cash, anyway

Joe took us to see Giuseppe, a black-market dealer who’d forged Vito’s discharge papers. He also sold us a set of lockpicks, which we immediately used to steal a car. Unlike in GTA, citizens in the city of Empire Bay don’t leave their cars unlocked, so you’ll have to navigate a simple lockpicking minigame (if you’ve played Oblivion, it’s a little like that) if you want to keep your stolen cars inconspicuous. Alternately, you can just smash the window, but since that attracts added attention from the police, it’s better to reserve that for moments when you’re in a hurry.

In this case, a cop spotted us anyway, mainly because he needed to in order to hand us the next part of the tutorial: fleeing from police. As we quickly found out, your wanted level in Mafia II is a matter of degrees; the more serious the crime, the more serious the cops are about chasing you. Commit robbery or murder, and the call will go out to shoot you on sight; otherwise, they’ll just try to fine or arrest you. Interestingly, it also matters whether you’re on foot or in a car when they spot you committing a crime; a wanted car is easy to ditch, but losing the cops when they’re looking for Vito specifically is tougher, and usually requires a change of clothes or a little time spent keeping a low profile.

In this case, we gave the cops the slip easily. Since they were still looking for the car, however, we took it to a body shop, which not only let us paint the car and change its license plate (to whatever we wanted), but also offered repairs, engine upgrades and new, more showy tires.

Now that the cops were completely ditched, Joe had us drive to the junkyard of one Mike Bruski, who offered Vito $400 if he could bring back a certain type of car. This led to an exchange with Joe that taught us a slur we’d never heard before: “Mouli,” which turned out to refer to the residents of a black neighborhood where Joe had seen the car. So it looks like the game isn’t going to gloss over the casual racism that permeated the ‘40s, if that was a worry.

Actually trying to steal the car – which was protected by a fenced-in alley and a few thugs – gave us our first real taste of gunplay, which follows the cover-centric model set by Gears of War and GTA IV. After ducking behind a concrete embankment and drawing Vito’s pistol, it was easy to pop up, draw a bead on one of the thugs, nudge the right stick a little and squeeze off a perfect headshot. The rest of the car’s protectors weren’t so easily gunned down, as they took cover themselves and started taking potshots. This is where one small point of irritation emerged: while your enemies appear to be able to blind-fire around corners, Vito can’t. He can, however, easily sidle around his own cover while sticking to it, something that we were able to use to get a drop on the remaining thugs and gun them down from behind before they knew what was happening.

Once the guards were down, we took the car we’d come for, smashed through the fence and hauled ass down the road, with a couple of gangster-filled cars in hot pursuit. Another small irritation: Vito can’t shoot while driving. So instead, we just had to floor it back to the junkyard while our pursuers did their best to shoot the car to pieces and/or run us off the road. Luckily, we delivered the car without much damage, came away $300 richer (Joe kept a $100 cut), and then headed back to Joe’s apartment, where the chapter ended with Vito collapsing on the couch.

That was just the beginning. The next chapter, called The Buzzsaw, was considerably shorter, a lot more action-packed and much, much bloodier.