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Mafia 2 Preview

Mafia 2 Preview

Publisher: 2K Games
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Release Date: Q1 2010

One of the troubles with the games industry as a whole is that budgets for AAA games have grown so large that publishers rarely want to stray away from successful, safe settings. They focus mainly on improving the games which have gone before them, rather than experimenting with entirely new ideas or less-explored settings.

The plus side to this is that games as a whole are steadily improving, getting more accessible, action-packed and engaging. Also, if you’re a sci-fi or fantasy fan then you’re well catered for.

Other genres aren’t represented as well – notably the western and gangster settings, which are only rarely as fully exploited as they could be. The occasional title, like Call of Juarez or The Godfather, comes along but usually fail to make any real impact.

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Who makes made men mad?

Which is why we’re so deliriously excited by the upcoming Mafia 2, sequel to 2K’s previous gangster shooter Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven. Not only is it one of the few games in the much neglected mafia genre (general crime games like GTA don’t really count), but it’s also one of the few that handles that topic properly – at least if it’s ancestry is anything to go by. The original Mafia was a near universally acclaimed epic bit of crime drama, even if it was almost entirely ripping off of Goodfellas.

We take it as a good sign that Mafia 2 seems to share Scorcese’s work as a major influence too, with early footage and trailers blatantly referring to Goodfellas.

That doesn’t mean that the plot will be totally like the first game though as, if anything, Mafia 2 seems to pushing the series in a slightly more serious and gritty direction. That much is evidenced by the new main character, Vita Scaletta, who differs from Mafia’s Tommy Angelo by becoming a gangster out of choice. Whereas Tommy was a simple taxi driver who got swept up in the life of organised crime and narrated the game as a confession to a detective, Vita is utterly unrepentant. He leads a group of friends and like-minded thugs in an effort to seize control of the city.

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It's not the size of the gun barrel...

Speaking of which, it’s worth noting that Mafia 2 won’t feature the familiar streets of Lost Heaven in the first game. The action has been moved over to the equally fictional Barson City instead.

The timeline has moved on plenty too, with Mafia 2 fast-forwarding through World War II and The Prohibition to the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. It’s a period which still allows for sharp suits and wise-guy wise-cracks, but within a more contemporary backdrop, as well as giving some more complexities to the plot. Vita may be a brutal mob boss in the making, but he’s also a war hero – even though he only signed up to fight in an effort to avoid a lengthy prison sentence.

It’s exactly these types of complications that we appreciate most in games like Mafia 2; extra details which colour the world in more than just two-tone black and white. It’s these types of contradictions which so nicely tie into that fear and respect vibe that good mobster films explore, and the fact that organised crime often has benefits for a community. Or, more than unorganised crime anyway.