The first big new release of the year finally arrives in stores this Friday, in the shape of the long-overdue console conversion of Mafia on PS2 and Xbox. It was a big hit way back in August 2002, and although Illusion Softworks' take on 1930s gangster America polarised opinions, it's a game which arguably lends itself to consoles and looks set to succeed on the back of the unquenchable demand for mission based driving games. Expect a full review shortly, and expect a higher mark than the 4/10 awarded it back then. Until then, enjoy this PR-rolled Q&A with the Gathering vice president Graeme Struthers...
Take-Two: How hard was it converting Mafia to console, especially given the relative lack of memory? Was there anything you found particularly easy or difficult to achieve with each?
Graeme Struthers: It is very difficult to bring a game of Mafia's size to the console market, especially as we wanted to retain the depth of the game and not cut it down in any way.
Take-Two: There were 20 missions in the original PC game. Have all of these made it over to the consoles?
Graeme Struthers: Yes, including the Free Ride missions, as well as the 13 city race tracks - exclusive to the console versions.
Take-Two: Have you toned down or boosted the gore factor for the console market?
Graeme Struthers: There was really no need to tone down or boost the gore factor - Mafia is a narrative driven game and we always felt that it would make a great console experience as it was originally designed.
Take-Two: Are there any new missions that are console specific?
Graeme Struthers: We have adjusted some of the missions – such as the race track – to make them more console-friendly as well as adjusting the vehicle physics. In addition the controls have been altered significantly to give console gamers what they expect. There are no new missions – getting the original Mafia missions to ‘fit' onto the consoles has been a massive task in itself.
Take-Two: Are you still using the LS3D engine for the PS2/Xbox version of the game, or have you had to create a new one from scratch?
Graeme Struthers: We are using the LS3D engine - optimised for the consoles.
Take-Two: Have you tinkered with the vehicle physics in any way to jazz things up?
Graeme Struthers: For the console versions of the game, we have made the vehicles more forgiving and given the player more latitude. The LS3D engine handles vehicle physics really accurately and gave us the opportunity to reflect the varying dynamics of the vehicles – in speed and handling.
Take-Two: Are the Cops still as strict about your driving in the console versions?
Graeme Struthers: There is cause and effect within the missions. It has been toned down from the original game, so we will not be 'insisting' you stop your car at each red light and wait for it to change to green, however, you start shooting at people, you can expect the Police to come after you.
Take-Two: Tell us about the vehicles in Mafia...
Graeme Struthers: There are 36 vehicles in total ranging from grocery trucks right up to concept prototypes like the Crazy Horse. There are 16 standard vehicles and 20 'specialist' models, and the latter really come into their own when you get involved with the 13 city race tracks that are exclusive to the console version of the game.
Take-Two: Where did the name for the city originate? And what real world locations was its construction based upon?
Graeme Struthers: The name came from various names that were used for parts of American cities that were used in the 20's and 30's, like 'Hell's Kitchen' and also commonly used names for cities such as 'City of Angels'. Lost Heaven was inspired by that. Lost Heaven is inspired by lots of locations, from Chicago and New York. Cities that were (unfortunately) synonymous with the Mafia of that era.
Take-Two: How big is Lost Heaven?
Graeme Struthers: The city covers 12 square miles, and has around 400 buildings, of which around 20 you can enter. There are a few secrets as well.
Take-Two: Films like The Godfather and Angels With Dirty Faces have had an obvious influence on the overall visual feel of the game. Are there any that have had a direct affect on any of the cut scenes or set pieces?
Graeme Struthers: If you look at the cut-scenes I am sure you will see moments that have their origins in many Mafia based films. Even if we did not deliberately set out to mimic movies, after watching them over and over again, their influence seeps through the subconscious.
Take-Two: What's the most powerful weapon in the game, and how do you reign in an overuse of it as far as the player is concerned?
Graeme Struthers: There is no "most powerful weapon" in the game. It depends on the mission the player is playing as to what weapon best suits. People may have a favourite weapon and the Tommy gun would be many peoples pick - but that weapon is not very accurate over distance, so often is not the best choice. Mafia is ultimately not some basic 'shoot-em-up' and the weapons found in the game are those that would have been available in the era and were used by gangsters of the day.
Take-Two: The music swings between classical and trad jazz. Do you think either stands at odds with the current in-game climate of ultra violence and retro musical nostalgia?
Graeme Struthers: The music is of the era. We felt it is important to create the atmosphere of the '30s through the visuals (clothes, buildings, cars) and through the sound (dialogue and music).
Take-Two: What is your favourite moment in the game?
Graeme Struthers: Tough question to answer as there are so many but - if I absolutely had to name one - the Bank Robbery, when Paulie stands over a female hostage and simply terrorises her. Absolutely chilling.
Mafia is due out on PS2 and Xbox on January 30th.