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The original Mafia, released on the PC in 2002, won high praise in the industry as a well-crafted, story-driven action adventure reminiscent of the “Godfather” films and “Goodfellas”. After eight long years, Mafia 2 hopes to capture the same success as the original. In the Mafia 2 demo, you play as Vito Scaletta, a WWII vet that returns home to continue the family business.
Walking around Vito’s lavish suburban home, you’ll notice a high level of interactivity. Vito can turn faucets and lights on or off and even switch the station on the radio in his living room. He can change his attire by selecting the closet and can even get something to eat from his refrigerator. Keep an eye out for the Playboy magazine tastefully left on the kitchen divider; these will be collectable throughout the single player campaign. Your goons immediately call and inform you about a large gentleman that needs to be dealt with. After putting on your formal suit, it’s time to embark on the inevitable whacking.
Heading outside opens into an organic and faithful facsimile of a 1950’s cityscape. There are dozens of folks wandering aimlessly around Empire Bay spouting random voice clips. Your garage is loaded with a few classic cars befitting a made man. Driving to the stakeout location takes some getting used to. The weight and physics of the car force you to drive conservatively. Any high speed accelerations can quickly lead to a fatal crash. Driving is very different from games like Grand Theft Auto and Just Cause where the vehicles take on an ungodly amount of damage. Mafia 2 emphasizes a real world approach to the genre which makes you think twice about your actions.
Once you reach the meeting spot, you are treated to the game’s biggest strength which is the audio design. Besides from the 50’s pop music and ads from the radio, the game’s original musical score nails the tone for mobster life. The voice actors are pitch perfect further submerging the player in the Mafia universe. You learn a little bit of back story on one of your associates. The whole scene plays out subtly and beautifully as you hang on the mobster’s every word. The scene transitions into a huge gun fight that demonstrates the game’s shooting mechanics.
The aiming may require some adjusting of the sensitivity. On default, it was difficult to pull off head shots and fire confidently. The cover system performs well allowing you to snap onto walls for safety and peer out the side to return fire. You don’t have to worry about which surfaces can be used as cover and which cannot; you can boldly take cover anywhere. Just like the vehicles, Vito cannot withstand a lot of damage. You will not be able to rush into a room of goons and expect to survive. Every inch of the game requires a defensive plan and makes the gameplay more tactics based. You will find yourself dying quite a bit before you begin to acclimate to the game’s learning curve.
There are only a few hiccups to be found in the demo. Slowdown and video clipping occurred on a regular basis while movement was hindered by an inept camera. The demo did stress at the beginning that this level will not be found in the actual game in its current form so that preserves some hope that these hitches will be ironed out by the time the game ships August 24th 2010.