Mafia II: Hands On Impressions

A serious hat makes a dangerous man.

I’ve had my hands on a preview build of Mafia II, limited to four missions but with the whole city open. Below you can read my impressions at this stage, a couple of months ahead of release. You should be warned, at the end of this article is a picture of a lady with her boobies showing. It’s from the game, I swear.

Wanting an opinion on Mafia II, I decided to ask the man on the street. By punching him in the face. Giving pedestrians a shove will initiate a fight, switching to a micro-mini-game in which you can dodge and jab at people until one of you can’t get back up again. Take that, innocent bystander!

As he fell down, a small crowd gathered around to look at his limp remains, and a police car pulled up. The policeman got out to inspect the scene, and fortunately no one grassed me up. So the cop, he looked at the body without comment, then got back into his car, and drove toward a nearby fence. And stared. Where he’d still be now if I hadn’t tried to steal the police car while he was still in it.

After I’d bribed my way out of arrest, I walked back over to my dead victim, and stood on his corpse. “Hey, watch where you stand!” shouted an Italian-American onlooker. So I punched him.

This isn’t really how you’re supposed to play Mafia II. But mucking around in the preview build I’ve been playing does highlight some of the game’s strengths and weaknesses pretty usefully. The grand plans offered a year ago, in which elaborate AIs would operate on individual and group levels creating patterns of behaviour in the streets to rival reality – well, they don’t seem to have panned out. While there’s certainly a lot more going on here than in (four paragraphs in before I mentioned it!) Grand Theft Auto, perhaps this isn’t entirely to the game’s advantage.

Oblivious bystanders aren’t realistic. But they’re written off as nonsense as you play. However, pedestrians who act like they’re about to get involved but then spin on the spot and walk off, are unignorable. Cops pulling up to investigate crimes is brilliant. Cops then ignoring that crime and driving into alleyways like they’re having some terrible mental breakdown, is not.

This is definitely the most living living city so far, but perhaps rather unfairly, in heading in this direction it seems they’re only going to highlight quite how much farther there is to go.

But I shouldn’t take too much away. It’s quite extraordinary to see the city getting on with life around you, little set-pieces taking place, fights breaking out, people chatting. At one point early on I walked past a bar when a glass came flying through the window, a fight going on inside. Stood in an apartment you can see out of the windows at the busy streets. There’s a lot of life here.

The version of the game I’ve had my hands on offers four of the missions, set in two time periods of the game’s span of ten years. It’s not yet known how many missions there will be in total, but my guess would be 15 to 20. If it’s any fewer than that, then by the length of the missions I’ve seen it’s going to be an awfully short game.

Beginning at the beginning, our character Vito returns from the war, his family in terrible debt, and his childhood friend Joe offering him some work for a whole other Family. Compared to Mafia’s Tommy Angelo, Vito is seemingly far more prepared for a life of crime, presumably his time in the war having emotionally flattened him. Joe is an eccentric buffoon, overly excited about their various jobs, and seems to be a pantomime version of Paulie.

The four missions follow a very similar format. Get yourself out of an apartment to the start of the mission, drive, yourself and others to where shooting needs to happen, shoot people, head home.

The driving and combat both seem extremely solid. Cars aren’t quite as wobbly as Mafia’s 1930s boxes, but still aren’t sleek, power-assisted future-wagons. Driving in the early sections in a heavy Winter offers a decent challenge of slippery surfaces and clunky vehicles. Later things get more powerful, driven in better weather, but still handle in such a way that you have to concentrate. And I stress this is a good thing.

Shooty-bangs tend to take place in areas offering plenty of cover, letting you choose your own route through an area as you pop the heads off enemies. Cover works extremely well, with a far more fluid means of moving from one area of safety to another than I’ve experienced elsewhere. Hitting E when in cover glides you around corners, toward new objects, etc, letting you make sneaky paths toward or around the baddies.

My only concern at this point, having played chapters four chapters, is that it’s all far too easy. It should be stressed there’s no difficulty levels in this build, so it could well be sticking me on something far too easy to lull me into thinking I’m brilliant. I know I’m not brilliant, and thus I know whatever it’s set at, it’s not tough enough.

Of course these are only four of the total number of missions in the game, but it seems a shame if they have any sections that deviate from this mould, they didn’t choose to reveal them yet. All four were extremely quick, and none required me to do anything other than follow the minimap to the next red circle, shooting anything that doesn’t like me along the way. Thinking back to the original Mafia, and quite how enormous some of the missions were, it makes me wonder if this game will have its Omerta with its enormous airport sequence, or its You Lucky Bastard! With that vast sequence at the warehouses.

It’s very chatty. And it’s extremely good at being chatty. As has been much touted, the standard of voice acting is extremely high, and really well delivered. Recording actors together has led to fluid, believable scenes. And cor, they’ve got potty mouths, those Mafioso types.

But from the small bits I’ve seen, it’s not the most enigmatic script. It’s a decent job, but nothing has stood out as being exceptionally good. It’s mostly been people swearily chatting about the upcoming tasks, and how cross they are with someone else.

There’s one niggle that they could easily solve before release. And I’m going to write this in capital letters to make sure they can hear me all the way over in the Czech Republic:


It’s like every single review of every single open city game ever hasn’t SCREAMED about how incredibly stupid it is to put checkpoints before laborious travel and lengthy cutscenes. Here they’re placed with Vito in his pants in his apartment. Just to get back to the street, let alone anywhere near where a stray bullet may have killed you (inevitably because you were running over old ladies in the street), you have to go through the awful menu system for choosing clothes, answer the phone, and trudge your way down flights of stairs. Then steal a car, then drive to wherever you were heading before. It’s insane, there’s no fathomable reason for it, and they can easily fix it before release. Checkpoints AFTER cutscenes and tedious plodding scene-setting nothingness.

And one other peculiarity that can’t go unmentioned at this stage: the nudity. While anything in The Witcher is clearly going to be wildly contended, where I tend to lose respect for someone is when they defend the nude cards. While Mafia II’s bare ladies aren’t issued as a reward for doing sex on someone, their presence is absolutely mystifying.

Hidden around the game, like some daft platform collectable, are Playboy magazine photos of naked women. But clearly not of the era, as they’re in colour. And Photoshopped beyond belief.

What they’re for is mystifying. Perhaps there was concern that the open city game, lacking prostitutes and peskily preventing you from being able to punch women, wasn’t alienating to a female audience. Anyway, there they are, completely at odds with the theme, and boy are they ridiculous. But none is so hilarious as this one. I’m almost loathed to mention it here, as it means they could fix it before release. But see a problem with this?

Some people miss it. Much like she misses her right leg. Exactly.

What’s available in this preview of four missions is an absolutely beautiful game. The city is vast and remarkably detailed. The lighting is phenomenal, and the business of the place is almost believable. Weapons fire satisfyingly, enemy AI can often be great (although sometimes is a bit daft), and the destructible environments are a great pleasure. (Although, tragically, it’s not longer so fun to drive through phone boxes – in the first game it was the best bit, here you’ll have a realistically nasty crash.)

There’s cause for concern over the length of the missions, and the volume of cutscene interruption. And the sodding checkpoints. But at least they’ll be fixed before release, right 2K Czech? Good.

Right now I couldn’t guess which way the full game will go. Clearly playing four missions scattered throughout can’t give any impression of the story, which was of course the greatest strength of the original. If that works, then most of the issues mentioned above will be easily brushed aside, since the driving and combat both stand strong.

And importantly, even though I’ve finished the few missions, I’ve still got an enormous city to explore and muck around in, making even this limited code extremely replayable.


  1. mod the world says:


    Anyone else scrolled right down, completely ignoring the text?

  2. Kommissar Nicko says:

    The more I look at that naked lady’s lower torso, the more it freaks me out. It’s like they’ve jumbled together different naked ladies into one contorted Picasso-esque horror.

    • MD says:

      It really is quite an unsettling picture. To me she looks like a doll who has been twisted in all different directions.

    • stahlwerk says:

      As they say on…

      “My girlfriend can do that”

    • stahlwerk says:

      @myself that’s what I get for not checking the url before opinioning. It’s of course.

    • Lack_26 says:

      I think her leg fell down the back of the sofa.

    • battles_atlas says:

      I’ve just watched ‘A Serbian Film’ (link to which is probably the most twisted, disturbing film my poor eyes have ever had to experience. The picture of the nude twisty lady is actually more unsettling.

    • Alastayr says:

      How? When? Is it out somewhere? I heard them saying it’s deffo not coming out this year, they want to tour the festivals. Did you attend one?

      And how was it?

    • PeopleLikeFrank says:

      @ Alastayr

      Fantasia, in Montreal would be my guess:
      link to

    • Mhhhh says:

      Indeed! The horror!
      And dare I add.. *fapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfapfap*

  3. toni says:

    jealous !!!!
    btw, AI doing stupid stuff sounds familiar from STALKER and I think that game turned out to be much more than its buggy parts. This actually makes me look much more forward to the game. I didn’t read the rest of the interview to not get spoiled but the first bit about the city is already enough. Rather have them take risks than make a shallow, boring, tame version of GTA, SaintsRow or similar – imo – bad games.

    • The Pink Ninja says:

      Stalker is a good comparison… I was going to say Oblivion but whatever…

  4. Choca says:

    I’m playing this right now and having a lot of fun :o

    Too bad you can’t get into fistfights with old ladies though (those cowards flee like the wind at first punch thrown at them)

  5. Booblooker says:

    I’m ashamed to say yes, I did too.

  6. Irish Al says:

    I really hope they don’t arse this up with broken checkpoints. R* have got it almost sorted now in Red Dead Redemption, they should take a leaf out of that book.

    Also, retro nudes = good.

  7. lethu says:

    Second world war, perhaps, rare pinup cards would have been much better, much more authentic, would have given a feminine feel to the game and would probably have posed no issues with anybody imo.

    This nude photo at least looks too recent and artificial for this kind of setting.

  8. Rinox says:

    Female nudity is completely alienating to a female audience? Uhm…wouldn’t that make the entire history of the world ever be completely alienating women?

    • John Walker says:

      Female nudity as a collectable bonus item in a game, I’m suggesting, is the issue. I have no issues with nudity.

    • Rinox says:

      Fair enough John, I misread that.

      I just have a fear that the excesses of nudity/sexualization in gaming in general (and the subsequent counterreactions) will lead to a complete absence of nudity in gaming. Needless to say it can be an important artistic tool.

      I suppose these pin-up style girls could have made a logical addition to a 50’s universe, too bad the idea seems to have been mishandled then.

    • c-Row says:

      Wonder if there are any games that include some male nudity…?

    • TheBlackBandit says:

      I think that The Lost and The Damned does. I’ve never played it.

    • jeremypeel says:

      I would still have found it pretty bizarre if it was period porn, to be honest. I don’t think there’s much of a defence to be made for it, as we all know what the intentions are.

      I’m not sure if I’d miss treatments of sexytime in games in general right now – 99.9% have been cringeworthy or horribly crude.

    • John Walker says:

      The Longest Journey and GTA: The Lost And The Damned both contain male nudity, but not photographic. And you can see Larry’s winky in Magna Cum Laude.

    • Rinox says:

      @ Jeremeypeel

      Yeah, sexytime has always been a joke, because it seems to be very hard for developers to get the animation ‘right’. Nudity has no such problems however, and can easily be done by good artists (like in The Void).

      @ c-Row

      Yes and no. There have been some games (but they were niche and/or old) that did full male nudity, but they are rare. If you define ‘male nudity’ as not necessarily showing a penis it’s rampant, however. Come to think of it, I have rarely seen a vagina in mainstream gaming either. Boobs and butts to trip over, but vaginas seem to be a big no-no.

    • Clovis says:

      Yeah, even with our fancy pixel shaders and billions of polygons a character still doesn’t look 100% right when they are just picking up a glass of water. Having two characters give each other a very special hug is just a mess.

    • Ian says:

      For crying out loud, John. It’s any excuse to namedrop your favourite game, Magna Cum Laude, with you isn’t it?

    • Nallen says:

      @Clovis I’ve been having a hearty laugh at the characters in Mass Effect 2 drinking glasses of water and smoking of late. I wonder at what stage they decide “Ok well it looks shit, but you know, fuck it.”

    • Vandelay says:


      Yep, it is the fact they are collectibles that bothers me too, as it did in The Witcher. Having the city inhabited by prostitutes and strip clubs in certain neighbourhoods or having nude pictures hung up in homes of some of the characters would be fine. Using the nude images to create an atmosphere and give areas a sense of place is not objectionable, rewarding people for exploration with pictures to ogle over is.

      Please tell us that the collectibles are not highlighted by a large glowing spinning magazine.

  9. Freud says:

    Enjoy the sandbox. Please don’t break it.

  10. Lilliput King says:

    “Much like she misses her right leg”

    Oh monkey trumpets.

  11. jeremypeel says:

    Well, the number of complaints is a little disappointing but I still fully expect this to be as great a game as the original.

    It better be, as the last time I reinstalled Mafia, all the voices and car horns and such were all squeaky and high-pitched. Which was funny, and then unplayable.

  12. james b says:

    ai sounds poor- maybe some devs can comment but is it so hard these days of plugin style ai like ai implant and massive (i know there are others these are just examples) to make is so that the ai is a bit more convincing—eg police man gets up in morning- travels to police station gets in police car – drives /walk patrol route for 8 hours if spots crime investigate if crime committed act (chase player etc ) if not get back on patrol…etc etc. it seems to me that if one developer put half as much effort in to ai as they do art assets they could crack this. i do not expect the police man to pick his nose -eat or even talk to me -just do the basics in a sensible fashion- ie not stand around when being shot at etc….
    a recent example_i kinda like just cause2 on xbox for this- the ai was not great but it was consistent…it always tried to kill me if it saw me doing something wrong – or even got suspicious…it was not ambitious but what it did it did ok
    i would say one of the main issues is ai just stopping…ie if the path finding breaks- the ai just stands around doing nothing–trying to get back on path etc… surely in a city an ai always walking purposefully somewhere is more convincing than one staring at a wall…..

  13. Slamelov says:

    Text?. What text?

  14. Silly games industry says:

    The reason, if you’re wondering, is that in the original photo you could probably see a bit to much of her and they would risk getting a Adult Only (18+) rating instead of Mature (17). Wallmart doesn’t stock AO games so therefore they shopped together two different pictures.

    • MD says:

      If true, it reminds me of something I read about porn magazines in Australia. Apparently there’s a fairly fine line between the unrestricted and restricted classifications; in order to sneak under the bar, the soft-porn magazines routinely airbrush photos to remove the offending parts of the female genitalia. This leads some women who see these pictures — and perhaps have not seen many/any real vaginas in detail, aside from their own — to assume that their own genitals are not normal. There’s anecdotal evidence that this, like other unrealistic portrayals of the ‘ideal’ or ‘normal’ female body, has led some women to undergo plastic surgery to ‘correct’ their own normal bodies.

  15. Ian says:

    Clearly the lady is a job for PhotoshopDisasters!
    link to

  16. malkav11 says:

    I don’t remember what timeframe the game is meant to span, but I’m pretty sure Playboy’s always been in color, and it’s been operating since the 50s.

    • Raum says:

      I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the case.

      Esp. the centerfold.

    • Dave L. says:

      And colour photography has been around even longer than that, so I don’t know what John’s on about. Hell, The Wizard of Oz came out in 1939, and that was a movie.

    • Red Avatar says:

      No kidding – that was a bit of a dumb thing to say by John. Even movies were already being shot in colour. This is 1950, not 1850, John. And pin-ups were pretty big back then, albeit not with actual nudity AFAIK.

  17. DanPryce says:

    That lady looks like a Rob Leifeld illustration come to life.

  18. makr says:

    Right click boobies image, Copy Image Location, Paste URL into tineye dot com.

    The lady is Nancy Jo Hooper, Playboy’s 1964 playmate of the month February. Not of the era but not a frankenstein photoshop either.

    • Dominic White says:

      So, it’s from a few years after the game is set, but not photoshopped at all.

      John Walker, you are looking very silly right now.

    • Helm says:

      The uncanny valley effect with photoshopped images of sexy women that aren’t really photoshopped is fascinating to me. You can look at any picture with a critical eye for long enough that the anatomy in it starts to look broken. It’s a powerful effect. And there are so many legitimate photoshop disasters that people have their snark set on on by default and it leads to this.

      As it were then, ‘my girlfriend *really can* do this’.

    • Alastayr says:

      Before I read your post, I wondered if what John wrote is true, did a TinEye search (thanks to the nifty TinEye Chrome extension) and came to the same conclusions. Knowing about us RPS dudes I did a quick search (Ctr + F) of this page for “Tineye” and – absolutely no surprise, someone was quicker. You dun goof’d up John!

      The only ‘shopping on the pic is the removal of two background items and considerably enhancing the brightness. Looks like they didn’t lie when they promised “period authenticity” in the pics.

    • jozga says:

      Besides, they didn’t even have Photoshop in 1964.

    • Tei says:

      “Besides, they didn’t even have Photoshop in 1964.”

      Thats don’t mean people where not photoshoping before 1964.

      By the time photography was invented, photoshoping was invented too. There are some neat tricks, that are bloody obvious, like exposing two different images on the same photo, to overimpose “ghost” on other images.

    • Red Avatar says:

      John would make such a great Daily Star writer. *ducks and runs*

  19. Jimbo says:

    I’ve just studied that photo very carefully indeed and can confirm that there is nothing wrong with it at all.

  20. Chandrose says:

    “Some people miss it. Much like she misses her right leg. Exactly.”

    Hah! Awesome. I do enjoy this site so very much.

  21. EoL says:

    Naked women are an abomination to nature, I hate nudity in my games. I’d much rather just kill men and suck on their bone marrow than watch nude women. I also hate sarcasm.

  22. Tei says:

    I feel enough has been written about the naked women pic, but after checking the web I have found this website about the naked women in art thing (SFW). I found the one of La Maja Desnuda specially hilarious.

  23. I'm at work says:

    nsfw. Thanks

  24. Urthman says:

    I just read RPS for the articles, actually.

  25. Premium User Badge

    Hodge says:

    Man! I’ve been looking forward to this for ages, but it sounds like it’s not going to be the supergame I want it to be. Woes!

  26. The Sombrero Kid says:

    I’m starting think with the whole treating objects like they’re women thing, there might be a bit of a culture clash happening between eastern Europe & Britain.

    • Dreamhacker says:

      Nah, its much more complicated. There is definitely no cultural mold valid for all of Eastern Europe. Heck, theres no cultural mold valid for any part pf Europe larger than a city block.

    • bill says:

      what was that Sunday Papers article from a few months back about mini-skirted blondes in one eastern european country trying to fight for women’s rights?
      Don’t remember the details, but remember it being scary and depressing.

    • Dominic White says:

      I will say this – I’m living in France now, and I see worse than that oh-so-shocking (and not photoshopped in the slightest) photo every time I go down to the supermarket. They had bare lady-chest-bits on French MONEY until they moved to the euro.

    • Mil says:

      RPS: game journalists by day, preachy cultural imperialists also by day. How do they find the time?

  27. Uhm says:

    When blood, death, violence and swearing doesn’t stop parents from letting their kids play mature games, some boobs often do. So, hurrah for that.

  28. Mr Labbes says:

    Compare the “shop” with this image (NSFW!) though: link to
    I mean, where is her leg supposed to be in the “shop”? The way the light falls directly behind her left leg means that she has to spread the right leg in an angle behind herself…I don’t get it.

  29. MycoRunner says:

    “You should be warned, at the end of this article is a picture of a lady with her boobies sho…”

  30. PleasingFungus says:

    I actually completely missed the italicized bit – probably because I was going through my RSS, so all the pages started at ‘below the cut’. Was very surprised when I got to the end – “dubious AI, repetitive missions, bad checkpointing NAKED WOMAN SURPRISE”

    Not that I’m complaining.

  31. Jambe says:

    OH GOD WONKY CHECKPOINTS! *sigh* It certainly looks nice, and I’m glad to hear the core mechanics are solid. I’m not sure what to think about the missions given your experience. I certainly want an entertaining story, but I spent a lot of time in GTA IV and Saints Row II just screwing around.

    It’s nice that the VA lives up to expectations… do you get the sense that it’s overdone at all? Or is it just well-polished?

    Regards the naked lady: color photography has existed since the late 1800s; by the fifties color prints were ubiquitous. That particular image is a mid-sixties Playboy centerfold, and not any more risqué than what was regularly published a decade prior (I know because a girlfriend bought me the Playboy centerfolds book). Her right leg is *gasp* directly behind her left. She’s really quite beautiful.

    What is wrong with nude pics being collectible bonus items in the game? They’re a collectible bonus item in real life, John. They’re just laying around alleys and shops in the game, right? Just as they would be in reality? If you’re not forced to consume it, it’s just a bit of ambiance. If a woman is off-put by the odd nudey mag in a game, god help them living in the real world, or going virtually anywhere on the internet.

  32. Raum says:

    Hidden around the game?

    Are there Playboy magazines laying around that you can pick up, then suddenly you’re presented with some fake vintage centerfold?

    If that’s how it works, it’s pretty damn hilarious.

  33. Vandelay says:

    This doesn’t sound as enthusiastic as I was hoping for. I know you defend the AI by saying it is more lively then most games, but having cops react to crimes is surely one of the first things you deal with in a game about being part of the Mafia (or maybe them running away and staring at something else is part of the point…)

    The core elements sound good though. I’m glad the driving is remaining a challenge. The original had some great driving sequences when the cars got a little more powerful and that was significantly enhanced by the handling of them (GTA IV also benefited from a slightly more realistic feel to the cars.)

    Difficulty is a little disappointing. I hope that you were just on a lower difficulty, as well as that the missions you played were just short ones and that others are more elaborate. The sense of achievement you got from the original when you finally completed the levels was so fantastic, mainly because of the realistic feel to the gunfights.

    Still looking forward to this. It at least sounds as if it will be a really good game, if not the best of the year I was expecting.

    • Red Avatar says:

      The article isn’t very clear about this but from the sound of it, they turned off certain AI routines that were not completely working yet which made them go back to default behaviour. Common thing to do to test case software. It may well be that the code is 90% done but AI code is complex enough for that 10% to be vital enough for the other 90% to be practically useless without it.

  34. Dhatz says:

    I’m not sure if 2k czech read comments on, but I mentioned this article there. i know it’s stupid having only one autosave (you can replay or skip what you want without having the crysis-y large sums of saved data if there are 2), Max Payne 2 proves that by having 2 quicksaves.

  35. I'm not at work anymore says:

    I didn’t read the summary; just saw the title and jumped right in. Didn’t expect nudity on a blog about video games. I’m used to looking out for the letters “NSFW” in article title, like how they do it on metafilter. Not a big deal though, good writeup.

  36. clive dunn says:


  37. Choca says:

    “My only concern at this point, having played chapters four chapters, is that it’s all far too easy. It should be stressed there’s no difficulty levels in this build”

    Actually you can select your difficulty level (at least on the PC build I had which should be the same as yours I guess) when you pick your mission at the bottom of the screen if you click on “easy” you’ll get access to medium and hard difficulty.

  38. Kadayi says:

    “While anything in The Witcher is clearly going to be wildly contended, where I tend to lose respect for someone is when they defend the nude cards.”

    Pretty sure no ones ever defended the cards in the Witcher, they just haven’t hysterically labelled it a bad game as a result of their inclusion.

    Also as other others have pointed out there’s no major photoshop going on in the picture (save some age retouching and saturation work). Her right leg is hidden behind her left because she is lying down on an angled sofa.

  39. SFII says:

    Why am I the only one thinking “That fight picture needs a SHO-RYU-KEN!!!!1 subtitle” and daring to post it out loud?

    Also: Will there be gore/dismemberment/decapitation as suggested in the preview? How realistic will gunshot wounds be? Can we run over people? Will we see broken arms and legs and twisted necks?
    If we can’t even hit wimmin, then how is this game realistic for a period piece?

  40. stone says:

    Immediately! What’d you expect from a pig?!

  41. stone says:

    EDIT: This was of course meant to be a comment to the FIRST comment in this post.

  42. CRAWL says:

    Kate Winslet debut pose painting in Titanic anyone?