Mafia II • Page 3

Family reunion.

Arriving at the Millville body shop, Vito sees that there are two night watchmen chatting inside. Using basic stealth - if you think a guard can see you, he probably can - Vito lurks outside and waits for one of them to head out for a leak, before choking him off and hiding him in the shadows. He then confronts the remaining guard. The combat system is simplistic - light and heavy attacks and an evade button - but together with context-sensitive finishing moves it settles things quickly and convincingly. With the guard on the ground, Vito takes Molotovs to the cars in the shop, and they set fire to the whole building in the process. Sirens start to wail, and before Vito can make his escape there are cops outside, with whom he trade bullets.

Taking a hit isn't immediately fatal, but like the police system 2K has been aggressive here, and warns us that getting shot at all is extremely bad news, and once you're more than a little outnumbered getting shot is pretty inevitable. Likewise, shooting a cop is the game's ultimate crime, and will result in an increased police presence on the streets, a firm description of Vito in their minds, and little chance of proceeding simply. With these rules to consider, Vito nicks the last remaining car and shoots off into the night, dodging a road block a few streets over and then ducking into an alley, leaving the flashing lights to stream past in his rear-view mirror. He then reverses out and heads to a nearby friendly body shop to change his licence plate and car colour.

It's a standard feature, perhaps, but the weightiness of the game's construction suggests it will be an unwanted nuisance, eating into the 500 bucks you were promised, rather than an incidental act of no real consequence. 2K points out that the body shop can also be used to fit expensive upgrades - new engine parts, handling improvements and ornaments. The point about expense is arguably the game in microcosm: by the time you want to spend the money, it will be on a car that you have fought hard to pay for, and you'll do it because it's the status symbol of a gangster.

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Cars and building interiors - of which over a hundred are fully modelled - will be fully destructible, we're told.

In a sense it's no wonder that Mafia II was delayed until next year (something 2K Czech simply puts down to the fact it isn't finished), because the developer isn't merely constructing an open-world playground into which you can pour out your frustrations by running people over, firing rocket launchers at helicopters and dressing up ridiculously. It's constructing a life within The Life, no doubt grading itself by the authenticity of the behaviour it can elicit from you, rather than the authenticity of the sort of world into which we're used to marching and then behaving absurdly. Doing so is about mastering the details, and that takes time. The fascinating thing to discover won't necessarily be whether the developer achieves that, but what kind of story it then brings you to tell by the quality of your actions.

Mafia II is due out for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 in early 2010.

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