Kiss the Ring


I was lucky enough to get some quality hands-on time with 2K's upcoming crime epic Mafia II. And, believe me when I say "quality." 2K Czech really has something on their hands with this game, and the time I spent with it has only served to whet my appetite further.

The second I take control of protagonist Vito Scaletta, the very first thing I'm told to do is check out the counter. Turns out, it's a vintage issue of Playboy. I suppose now is a good time to explain that this game is not for anyone under 17. When people think of the late 1940s and early 1950s, they usually think of the post-war happy-go-lucky atmosphere. The Clemente family isn't the Cleaver family. Four-letter words fly with impunity, but the filthy language is no more gratuitous than the stuff you hear out of Joe Pesci in a Scorsese film.

The phone rings. A member of a rival family has been marked for death, and it's up to Vito to make sure his candle goes out. The first objective is to go to the appointed location with made man Henry Tomasino, as well as Vito's childhood friend, Joe Barbaro. I choose a period automobile from the garage and proceed to the waypoint. Cars handle very differently in Mafia II than they do in other open world games. They aren't as sleek and aerodynamic. Smashing through police roadblocks and threading needles in traffic require serious skill.

A game named Mafia II is guaranteed to be chock full of shootouts, and what we've got here is smooth third-person cover gunning with fully destructible environments. The mission proper begins in a relatively safe location: behind a window housing a powerful machine gun. It doesn't take long for things to go pear-shaped; the target makes a break for it and disappears into a nearby distillery. Goons start blasting from every which way. After perforating each one, I rush across the street, kick open the door to the distillery, and gun the bad guys down. The civilians inside run for their lives; the green hue on the reticle suggests that it's not nice to shoot them. It's not long before heavier resistance shows up; goons wielding tommy guns pop up behind a row of barrels, as if re-enacting a scene from Dick Tracy. Concrete shatters, glass breaks, and bodies fall. The place is literally going to pieces, and I love it. A molotov explodes nearby, engulfing the left side of the room in flame. I work my way upstairs, collecting a dropped shotgun from a goon I'd previously wasted. It kicks like a mule and is absolutely devastating.

Vito, Joe, and Henry finally reach the portly craven, and a cutscene triggers. The moment is drawn out too long, and the mark shoots Henry. Of course, the target is immediately riddled with bullets. This is the point where things really start looking bad. Henry's gunshot wound doesn't seem to be fatal, but it's bad enough to incapacitate him. Furthermore, the distillery is now burning down. We make our way downstairs to the getaway vehicle. The cops are immediately on our tails; I can't tell whether it's the result of my driving or the little public disturbance we stirred up. I follow the waypoint until we reach a bridge, where a roadblock stands in our way. The screen goes black, and the phrase "To Be Continued" breaks my heart.

Mafia II made a confident showing at E3; it looks like one of those games that does too much and still manages to get most of it right. Long story short, fans of open world games should mark their calendars for August 24th.

Mafia II
2K Games