Saturday, May 1, 2010

Preview Power: Mafia II

[Part of a series of smaller posts that I'll be doing about various upcoming games. I don't jump on board the hype train too often, but when I do I like to think that there's a pretty significant reason for why, and in this series I will attempt to explain my anticipation for each game.]

There are four reasons why I'm eager to get my hands on Mafia II: its strong emphasis on realism; its theme; the time period in which it takes place; and its use of space.

I was unable to play the original Mafia and wasn't even aware of it until just a few years ago, but as I heard more about it I realised that it sounded like a game I would enjoy, so when 2K Games announced its sequel I decided that I needed to try this franchise.

First of all, hearing about the original's emphasis on realism was an exciting prospect to consider, and now that I get to experience it in its sequel I'm rather excited to see how it is implemented. Having the police chase you for speeding or running a red light is something I'm not used to, the indiscretions in GTA and other games of its ilk going by largely ignored in favour of the more violent crimes. Knowing that I need to be more careful with my actions doesn't just change up a familiar formula, it also drastically changes my approach to playing, and it's the results that stem from this key difference that I'm eager to explore. I'm also interested to see where else this emphasis on realism is enforced in the game, but as I am unaware of how it worked in the original I'm left to speculate, meaning that I will just be making assumptions until I can finally play the game.

Thematically, the game might not be anything new, with Mafia movies and videogames as familiar to us as aliens and dragons, but even so, Mafia II appears to be attempting to tell a mature tale and knowing this leaves me with a hope that the game will be a cross-between what Rockstar tried with Grand Theft Auto IV, and the maturity Starbreeze demonstrated with their Mafia tale in The Darkness. Whether it succeeds on this remains to be seen, but if I'm right and 2K Czech manages to pull it off, I expect the final result will be something special indeed.

Besides, it's set in the 1940s, which piques my interest for two reasons. First of all, the aesthetics such a setting will provide is unlike anything we have seen in videogames, and that excites me. Screenshots confirm that its appearance is distinct and unique, and I look forward to spending time in that world. Which brings me to my final reason for anticipating the game, its space. I'm really intrigued by what sort of interactive entertainment this 1940s setting will provide, with the design of the city, the buildings and cars that permeate it, and how things like physics and weight (of the cars especially) will feel like in an older time period a particular area of interest for me. The fact that a day/night cycle and weather will also be in the game is just the icing on the already seemingly awesome cake.

Overall, Mafia II looks set to provide me with a game space that is as detailed and immersive as Liberty City, Rapture or The Wastelands of Fallout 3, and if I'm right about that then to be able to spend time in an environment set in such a time period, with a more realistic approach to its mechanics and dynamics is an incredibly enticing and exciting prospect for me. Hopefully Mafia II delivers on the expectations I've created for it, but even it doesn't, so long as they nail the city and its atmosphere, I suspect I will thoroughly enjoy it later this year.


Kirk Hamilton said...

I, too, am mondo looking forward to this game, for all of the reasons you list. I played the first one waaay back when it came out - I was a PC gamer only at the time, with the requisite disdain for consoles.

Because of that, I'd never actually gotten to play any GTA, except for when I'd be over at my friend's house or something. So I was really pumped to get an open-world game.

Initially, I was turned off by the restrictions, and the slow cars, etc, but eventually I got immersed in the world full-on. I remember it was a hard game - checkpointing was brutal (like with the old GTAs), and it was really easy to get killed in the shootouts that went down.

Everything I've seen about the sequel looks like the update I'd expect - I do hope that they don't go with overblown characters and keep things relatively low-key.

I'm also interested in how they're handling pacing and directing the player... I saw something somewhere that made it sound like it wasn't totally open-world at all times, which could actually work pretty well.

Anyway, yes. This game certainly has the look awesomeness to it. As long as it doesn't get delayed again, which I could totally see happening.

Lotta good open worlds to explore in the second half of 2010, huh? Sheesh....

Steven O'Dell said...

Kirk -- Before I respond, how do you feel about Rockstar's upcoming game (also with potential for another delay) L.A. Noire? From what I've heard about it, it's something I (and perhaps we) should be keeping an eye on.

Anyway, I'm intrigued by your suggestion at the original's difficulty. It makes sense of course, given its more realistic approach to the rules that govern its world and the dynamics that result from that, but it's still interesting to consider as I get closer to finally being able to try out the series with Mafia II. I'd be willing to forgive a more difficult game if it meant the realism was defining the experience, but at the same time I can't imagine balancing that difficulty in an open world space like that would be easy. But then as you say, it might not necessarily always be open world, either, so it will definitely be interesting to observe how it is implemented in a few months time.

Assuming it doesn't get delayed, of course.

Kirk Hamilton said...

You know, I really view this game and LA Noire in a similar light. To be honest, I'm more excited about it than about Mafia 2, if only because it could be such a welcome change from the GTA formula.

Driving around, taking missions from dudes and finding sidequests and collectables is cool, but being a detective on the trail of a killer in 50's LA has me more intrigued.

But hell, I'll play both games, and I bet they'll both be pretty cool. I'm loving how many games we're seeing that are set in the real world, as well as in new historical settings - it's great to see developers head in that direction!