It has been roughly eight years since the original Mafia title, Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven
, was released. The latest iteration follows the timeline set by Mafia I (set in the 30s) to continue into the era of the 40s and 50s under control of the WWII veteran protagonist, Vito Scaletta.
Our preview journey of Mafia II
takes place through four main plot points, which sees Vito’s progression from preparing to return to the army from a leave of injury, to his rise in the crime family. Vito returns home in “Home Sweet Home” to a distraught mother and sister who are struggling with financial difficulties and debts owed to a questionable group of loaners. His presence is clearly needed, and his long-time friend Joe Barbaro’s generosity and promise to keep him out of the war could not come at a better time. Said generosity, of course, does not come without a price.
Joe and Vito begin to involve themselves in acts of grand theft auto to earn a modest living while simultaneously building a reputation amongst the three major crime families. Slowly but surely, the tasks evolve from attaining a few hundred dollars from the lowly mechanic, to investigating double crossing at the hands of the Clemente family, and eventually to murder to avenge said betrayal.
The missions unfold perfectly in terms of the direction of the plot line; you can see distinct differences even just on a visual basis from the juxtaposition of both time periods. While the 40s are more dreary due to struggles during war times, the 50s are flourishing and colored with the rise of advertisements. The city itself is a beautiful amalgamation of inspirations from real life locations like New York and San Francisco. There’s a balance between long stretches of bridges, a wide cityscape and variations of hills. You’ll see Empire Bay in the light of all four seasons, creating an ever more appealing experience of locale.
This emphasis in creating an accurate atmosphere is something that 2K has invested a lot of time in. Detailed research was conducted not only for environmental intricacies, but also for weaponry, vehicles and music that compliment both the time periods reflected as well as the theme. Driving around in slow-moving vehicles with engines that sound like they are about to fall apart (and very well may) is part of the experience as much as tuning into various radio stations to cycle through what seems like an endless list of time-appropriate tracks.
Exploring and navigating Empire Bay is just a small part of the gameplay experience. You can be rest assured that a fair amount of combat - complete with the appropriate weaponry from old style handguns and the famous (and my favorite) Tommy gun, to references to WWII era weaponry like the MG42 that you are introduced to in “Buzzsaw” - will keep your wits about you. Vito’s main combative technique, should you choose to embrace it, is a cover system embellished with auto aim upon peering out.
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