There are many great and terrible stages of development in humanity's long history, and as a civilization we are obsessed with a few of them. The twilight years of the cowboy, the shogun era of the Japanese feudal society, World War II and the struggle against Nazi Germany. We focus on these events and all aspects surrounding them, often mystified at a way of life filled with its own sort of terror and nobility. Movies, books, games, and television try their best to capture these moments for us, to bring them to life and let us marvel at an era most have forgotten. Enter Mafia II: a game probably destined to be remembered as a phenomenally accurate depiction of the 1950's American underworld.
A preview for a game like this requires a lot of care and attention, since much of Mafia II's aspirations lay in successfully recreating an entire era of history. There's a bit less focus on gameplay, and more on the storyline and overall world design. Much like Red Dead Redemption was pressed hard for how well it recreated the Wild West in design and theme, Mafia II will be completely judged by its ability to juggle storytelling and world interaction. Cars, weapons, suits, dÃ©cor, and even diction have all been copied to as close to the truth as possible. Graphical details have been refined to create some extremely realistic looking character models, and the soundtrack has been set to match the 'mood of the era'.
Saying that there are high expectations for Mafia II is an understatement, as the game's most impressive and enticing feature would be its storyline. Though obviously based on fictional people in a fictional not-really-America American city, the story is still quite epic and well crafted even before the game's release. Based upon the trials and tribulations of young Vito, players are taken through the underworld of mobster society in all its glory.
There's certainly a lot happening in the world, and it can be hard to imagine anything but a Grand Theft Auto style situation; where players take control of Vito to complete random tasks while completing an overall story arc. However, things look a little more focused here, and a little more story driven than anything else. The differences are subtle, but it will help to really accent Mafia II as a separate entity in the long run. What will help even more is if 2k Games manages to make Mafia II truly interactive on an environmental level, such as how people in the game's world will react to Vito's rising mafia rank. Not just those close to him, but the everyday people of the world.
Gunplay, fist fights, car chases, and general gang wars is what will be featured in Mafia II. The graphics look to be fantastic, the sound design to set a nice stage, and the voice acting seems pretty top-notch. But what will really make or break this game, and what makes previewing a game like this so difficult, is its storyline. There are many things in this title that are really poised for greatness, ready to strike out and make its mark as one of the great 'setting games' of our time. But it all depends on the writing and if those writers at 2K can hold up their end of the deal.
To be fair, it looks like things are moving in quite a positive direction for Mafia II, and though it's always wise to hold off judgment on a title before it's been released I don't think there's much to worry about here. Considering the amount of detail that has been poured into just about every single nuance of the game, I doubt they would let the plot fall by the wayside. Either way, in a few weeks we'll all know how things turn out. As a fan of art, gaming, and the era that was 1900's mobster culture, I personally can't want to see if the game truly lives up to the reputation it's building. Much like Red Dead Redemption before it, I get the feeling this game will be nothing short of a work of art.