I spent some time talking with some of the fine folk at Colony of Gamers
about Mafia II
between sessions Saturday night and the phrase "Grand Theft Retro" was dropped more than a few times. That's a not a slight to the game though as it was used mostly in a positive way to describe the quality of the title.
The level we got to see at PAX East took place about 10 minutes into the game and had protagonist Vito standing alone in a field next to a busy road. While the 2K staff walked me through the controls I was accosted by a police officer for brandishing a fire arm in public. I was then given a timed decision to either bribe the cop or kill him. Heeding the advice of the 2K staff I handed over a few dollars and was released to go on my way. In the grand tradition of sandbox games I then violated the trust of the office and commandeered a vehicle from an old couple in a truck so I could quickly help my boss sell stolen cigarette's.
Unfortunately for us a rival gang decided they didn't want us selling smokes in their area (either that or they worked for the militant wing of the surgeon general's office) and burned the rest of our stock before we could sell it. This resulted in a little bit of gunfire and a car chase that exposed the fact that I still suck at driving in Sandbox games (i.e. they got away). I'm not 100% sure that I could catch them as the game branched into a new storyline where we would gain a measure of revenge. This resulted in shooting up a bar and then eliminating most of the rival thugs at a nearby foundry.
The gun play is actually fairly solid and the foundry sequence was cool as it felt like a progressive gun battle as my gang of thugs pushed the rival gang through an alley and out the back. The AI needs a bit of tweaking as some thugs just stood there waiting to be mowed down while others did a good job of taking cover and returning fire.
Driving in the game is going to be a bit different as they are period authentic and thus significantly slower than the vehicles in other sandbox games. I hit a top speed of about 60 mph in the car I liberated from a Norman Rockwell style couple and it was a bit frustrating to have to travel long distances in the slower vehicle after having access to super cars in other games in the genre.
I was somewhat impressed with what the folks at 2K have done so far as the dialogue and graphics are top notch. The timed events are new but the rest of the game play is standard sandbox gameplay. Other than the timed decision events (which are not QTE style) I didn't see a lot of new gameplay elements. Then again what we saw was fairly early on in the game so anything new would have probably be introduced later on. I'm looking forward to seeing the game at E3 as it has the potential to be another solid entry in the sandbox genre.