E3 2010: Mafia II Hands-On Preview

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In my personal opinion, anyone who missed out on the original Mafia has missed out on one of the best open world free roaming titles to have ever been released.

While I hear that the Xbox version wasn’t so hot, the PC version had tight controls, great graphics, a massive city and a fantastic campaign that, when all bundled together in one game, generated one of the most mature open world experiences that I had ever played and in many ways out the original Mafia a whole generation ahead of its time.

We were given some hands-on time with Mafia II at E3, find out if the sequel wants to be as good as its older brother.

Our demo of Mafia II began with our phone ringing in a beautiful fifties home, complete with white picket fences, happy neighbors and a bustling suburban vibe. We then had to find a car to drive across town to an apartment building across the street from the spot where spot fat dude was going to arrive so that we could whack his ass. While some people opted for a littler grand theft auto, I made my way over to my garage to happily find that not only did I have a car, but a selection of different ones that are obviously unlocked over the course of the game.

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Just like in the original Mafia, the cars have been designed to handle realistically according to the makes and models of that day and age. Also making a return is the harsh enforcement of the law. Mafia II puts you in a real city, with real police that really don’t like it when you speed or run a red traffic light. So to put it lightly, you had better be prepared to follow the rules, or spend a lot of your time trying to survive the onslaught of the local police.

Once across town and all cutscenes done, we were all holed up in the aforementioned apartment, but to make things a little more interesting, had mounted a friggin’ MG42 to the window so that we could rain some serious hell down onto our enemies.

The enemies arrived in their cars, which then allowed me to make a large led deposit into their faces as well as cause some of the cars to explode and take out more enemies. It must be noted that while the explosions didn’t look bad on the PS3 version that I played, they really don’t come even remotely close to how amazing they look on the PC with that new PhysX gizmo.

Once the outside firefight was over and the main target had somehow managed to survive and split into a brewery across the street, which means that we had to follow him in and put him down. This gave me a chance to test out one of the biggest changes from the last game, a cover system.

Unsurprisingly, the cover system worked very similarly to how you would expect it to. I was able to do all of the usual things using cover, from popping up and firing to darting between cover and laying down some blind covering fire.

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It was at this point that both Gavin and myself (we were both given machines to play on simultaneously) ran into a little problem. E3 demos are usually pretty short and designed to let the player dash through it in a short amount of their precious time. The Mafia II demo was difficult enough that any minor screwing around (which is what we do best) or loss of focus on the task at hand could get you severely dead.

The problem was that the demo started us all the way back at the apartment building across the road every time, so we weren’t actually able to finish the demo before our next presentation was upon us.

What I can say about Mafia II so far is that with the previous games winning formula combined with new generation hardware as well as gameplay mechanics, we may have something really good on our hands.

We are looking forward to playing the game more in future, and when the review is done and dusted, we can only hope that Mafia II leaves us with the same great feeling that the first Mafia delivered back in it’s day.

Last Updated: June 24, 2010

Nick De Bruyne

Video games writer, editor and critic since '08. Living and breathing video games, movies and cars since the 80s. Follow me on Twitter if you love tons of gaming talk, and @pennyworthrevs for fun stuff and links.

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