E3 2009: Mafia II impressions

by: John -
More On: E3 2009
After watching BioShock 2, I sat in on a demo of Mafia II. Mafia II is a third person sandbox action game that spans 10 years taking place between 1945 and early or mid 1950s. You take on the role of a new protagonist named Vito Scaletta as you follow his rise in organized crime. The game takes place in Empire City and consists of 10 square miles which is double of the first game. The city features 20 neighborhoods of varying types.

The demo was set in winter so you could see the remnants of a snow fall in the city. The snow affects driving as Vito was sliding around as he made turns on the road. It won’t be limited to a winter setting though as the game will span multiple seasons allowing for various weather effects.

While viewing Vito in combat, I saw that there’s a cover system that will let Vito stick to obstacles and out of harm’s way. Not all obstacles will be safe though as I also viewed pieces of columns being blasted off by gun fire. So even if you are hidden behind something, it might not be safe for long if taken enough gunfire. The action was pretty fast with a lot of bullets flying. I was told the enemy AI has been improved from the previous game and I saw the enemies flanking and using cover well.

As with most sandbox games, you can go through just the main mission or partake in side missions as well. The side missions will interject more fiction into the game so if you do complete them you’ll get a more complete story out of the game. Along with more of the back story, you’ll also pick up more items to use. I like that you do get more of the narrative if you decide to go that extra mile and choose to play the side missions.

Graphically, what I saw of Mafia II looked really nice. The Illusion Engine is an in house engine built specifically for Mafia II and it looked like it did a great job in providing a smooth open world sandbox experience with many small details creating a very immersive experience. It’s hard to describe it all In this short preview but the engine’s capabilities were shown off well with the demo. The 50s style cars looked clean and modeled very nicely while the characters moved realistically and the models were also well done. The city looked busy with very detailed textures on the various surfaces abound. As you progress through the years, the look of the city will change as well as the characters. You’ll see characters age provided they live long enough. Mafia II’s looks are clean and styled just like a 50’s gangster movie would look like.

Having skipped the first game, Mafia II does look like a lot of fun from what I saw. While the demo didn’t have a HUD system, I was told the final product would have things such as radar to help guide you while driving. The developers are going to offer the option of having a HUD-less display if you so desire though. All in all, Mafia II looks very solid and one that should please fans of sandbox games. Look for Mafia II early 2010 on Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.