There's something in the way he walks. It's a strange compliment to pay a game, but it's true: Vito Scaletta, the gangster star of Mafia II, looks really cool when he saunters down the street. It's the business-like way he swings his arms, or perhaps just the fact that he doesn't need to run. Either way, he wears a confident air that suggests that he's the lord and ruler of all that he surveys; and with a little help from you, he may be just that.
Mafia II begins with Vito returning from World War II to Empire City, a fictional East coast city based upon New York and San Francisco. Disillusioned with the US government, the Sicilian immigrant meets up with an old chum named Joe Barbaro. The pair swiftly fall into a life of crime and become involved with the local mob families, resulting in a gangster epic that spans the 1940s and 50s. Like its predecessor, Mafia II will take a heavily story-driven approach to its open-world gameplay, but this time 2K Czech is promising a nastier, grittier tale.
I recently got to check out one of the major missions from the middle of the game. The mission in question was called “Room Service” and sees Vito and Joe, along with a slightly naïve young companion named Marty, attempting to assassinate a rival Don at one of the biggest hotels in the city. The plan is for Vito and Joe to assume the role of cleaners, using this disguise to infiltrate a high profile mafia meeting in one of the hotel's boardrooms. The pair aim to plant a bomb under a table in the room, running a wire out through a hole in the nearby window. After this, they'll scale the side of the building in a window-washer's gondola, hooking the bomb up to a detonator from the outside. The target goes boom, then the pair hot-foot it to Marty's getaway car in the basement. That's the plan, anyway – but as you might expect, things run less than smoothly.
The mission begins with a spot of bickering as the trio drive to the hotel. Vito is surprised and annoyed that Marty has been brought along since he's something of a gangster wannabe, and a bit of an idiot to boot. The in-car banter immediately shows the effort that's been put into both the voice acting and the game's script: Vito's complaints, Joe's attempts at reassurance and Marty's blind enthusiasm all contribute to a cocktail of foreboding – you just know that something's going to go wrong.
It's not just the dialogue that's received such attention, either: the bustling streets of Empire City look brilliant – boasting far more detail than what you might expect from an open-world game. The cars and pedestrians are decked out in sharp period style, and the game's associate producer, Alex Cox, informs us that there will be two different models for Empire City, allowing the entire look of the world to change as the years pass by. In-vehicle radios will boast music by the likes of Johnny Cash, among others, with tracks following subtle playlists designed to match the mood of whatever is taking place, as well as the time of day. It's a cinematic approach to game soundtracks, and hopefully it'll help 2K Czech in achieving its goal of creating a playable Scorsese movie.