It's a classic, time-worn cliché: the reformed mobster who gets dragged back into crime by his pals. Just two months ago I got dragged into a whole heap of trouble selling stolen ciggies; a bunch of greasers showed up, a fight broke out, and the whole thing ended in a bloody massacre. Fast-forward to the present day, and what am I doing? Selling the same nabbed fags from the back of a truck - and look over there! Here come the same waxed-up, pomade-loving motorheads, looking for a beating. Only this time, they somehow look a lot nicer.
Yes indeed I've been revisiting the cut-throat world of 2K Czech's Mafia II, this time via the PC build. The level for my latest hands-on was actually a repeat of the section I played last time around, and as such I won't be going into a lot of detail about exactly the mission unfolded. Instead, I've used this opportunity to take a look at how the PC version compares to its console peers, and to further peek my nose into the cut-throat world of Empire Bay.
The first thing to note is that the game now seems to be quite a bit more refined. While I thoroughly enjoyed my last outing with wiseguy wannabe Vito Scaletta, there were quite a few graphical issues that needed sorting out - particularly the way that enemies seemed to jerk and strobe around the screen when things got busy. On the PC at least, it seems as if these bugs have stamped out; even during the climactic shoot-out at the end of the mission, the greasers seemed perfectly graceful as they took cover, returned fire and dashed away like snivelling cowards. The bottom line is that the game is looking much more solid and reliable; let's hope the console versions are shaping up in similar form.
I've seen Mafia II quite a few times now, and on each occasion the game has impressed me with its style and attention to detail. On PC the game is looking better than ever, to the extent that I even found myself admiring the cigarette truck that Vito and his pal Joey drive in the opening minutes of their assignment. There was nothing particularly notable about the situation - just two regular gangsters driving down the road - and yet it was obvious that loads of effort had gone into the vehicle model: as I drove down the road the wooden slats on the side of the truck rattled, while the tarpaulin slung over the front of the bed swung back and forth. I got so caught up in checking out these touches that I ended up driving too slowly, resulting in a telling off from Joey. "You drive like my ****ing grandma, you know that?".
I know you didn't come here to read about my enthusiasm for wobbling planks, so let's move on and talk about things that go BOOM. 2K's latest showcase was attended by a representative from Nvidia, eager to discuss all the destruction effects that have been facilitated by the company's PhysX and APEX toolsets. If I'm honest, I tend to glaze over a bit when people start delving too deeply into graphical jargon, but I happily followed the rep's advice when it came to fun things to try out. Shooting out the tyre on a parked car will result in the vehicle slowly sinking down on the relevant side, slumping under its own weight. That's all well and good, but if you aim at the petrol tank on the same car, you'll get a spectacular explosion: bits of debris go flying in all directions, while nearby NPCs are forced to the ground or blown clean off their feet by the shockwave. Mafia II will also be the first ever PC game to feature Nvidia's APEX Clothing Module, and as a result you'll even see Vito's coat flapping about when he stands a bit too close to a vehicular cataclysm. I'm really tempted to make a joke about farting here, but I won't because that would be puerile.