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Mafia II: Malt Shops, Mozzarella, and Murder

Company: 2K Games

It's been eight years, but a sequel to the critically acclaimed Mafia is finally here. By now, most of you should have already gotten your hands on the demo for Mafia II. If you haven't, go do so right now. We'll wait.

I recently dialed in to a phone conference with Mafia II's Director of Creative Production, Jack Scalici. I combined what he said with key impressions that I picked up from my hands-on time and cobbled together a list of key features that interested gamers should expect when Mafia drops on August 24.

First up, expect an intense and emotionally engaging storyline. Mafia II is a tale of friendship, family, and betrayal. If you consider yourself a connoisseur of gangster fables, you may be expecting Vito Scaletta's story to follow a particular arc. It may or may not end up staying true to your expectations; regardless of the outcome, you should expect a diverse cast of fully fleshed-out characters with interesting agendas. Vito's background as a World War II veteran will no doubt prove interesting to his development as a main character and protagonist. Furthermore, expect dark comic relief from Joe Barbaro, Vito's best friend whose modus operandi seems to be "shoot first, ask questions never."

Expect to see a fully realized vision of 1940s-50s America. Empire Bay may be a fictional place, but the lengths to which the developers went for the sake of realism will have you believing it's real. On a temporal scale, Mafia II sits very comfortably between Red Dead Redemption and Grand Theft Auto IV. If the demo is any indication, the attention to detail will be staggering. Scalici refers to the 122-song soundtrack as ranging "from Django Reinhardt to Dean Martin." Furthermore, the Playboy magazine collectibles can be considered period pieces. All of this can rightly lead anyone to believe that a lot of research was done in the name of the almighty immersion factor. The World War II updates from Mafia have been replaced by a steady diet of plucky commercialism.

Here's one thing you should not expect: a high capacity for random carnage. Several free-roaming games, such as GTA and to a greater degree, Saints Row, offer the temptation to cause as much mayhem as possible. Mafia II will feature a number of unscripted emergent surprises, but it's not a game where you'll want to see how much devastation you can cause before the fuzz takes you down. Scalici admitted that the police aren't quite as aggressive as they are in the first game, but they are still a force to be reckoned with. Police behavior varies depending on your crimes. If Vito starts a non-lethal ruckus, they'll try to arrest him. If he's cornered by the cops, he can offer a bribe or resist. If he's been killing police officers, nobody will think twice about putting him in the ground.

If you've been waiting for the next great open-world game, Mafia II looks like it may very well be just that. 2K invites you to get made on August 24; we'll be back soon with a full review.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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