Mafia Hands-On

We take the PS2 version of the outstanding PC action game for a spin and get the word on the status of the Xbox and GameCube versions.

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During our sweep across the E3 show floor today, we took the time to check out the PlayStation 2 version of Mafia, which is based on the outstanding action game released last year for the PC. Something like gaming's equivalent of The Godfather, Mafia tells an engaging and epic crime story set during the Prohibition era, and it features some outstanding driving and shooting sequences. Superficially similar to Grand Theft Auto III or Vice City, Mafia is actually a story-driven and mostly linear game, though the driving sequences through the fictional Chicago-style city of Lost Heaven provide a great feeling of freedom--and of how lousy cars must have been back then. At any rate, we were impressed by how good the PlayStation 2 version of Mafia looked compared with the PC original, since we weren't expecting the PS2 version to be able to mimic the PC version's extremely good graphics.

The game seems to play very well, too. Mafia is a third-person-perspective game for the most part, though the camera seamlessly switches to a first-person view when you put your back against a wall or are otherwise in tight quarters. The action is reminiscent of games like Max Payne, though there are no fancy slow-motion effects to be found here--you just have to aim sharp and use cover and a few evasive maneuvers. Motion-captured animations and plenty of gore make Mafia look very convincing in its action scenes, and realistic weapon and damage modeling make the game's numerous shootouts very intense. We tried a couple of shooting levels from the game, which is all that's being shown at E3, and found the gameplay to be as solid as the PC version's.

A Rockstar Games representative pointed out that the driving sequences of Mafia, which were very realistic on the PC, would be somewhat more forgiving on consoles. The rep also mentioned that the game would be largely unchanged from the original, which is definitely a good thing. We asked whether the GameCube version of Mafia was still in development, since there's been some question, and the representative responded that, yes, the fate of the GameCube version is currently uncertain. However, Mafia will hit the PS2 in the fourth quarter of this year, and it's slated for release on the Xbox sometime thereafter.

Stay tuned for more on the console versions of this excellent game, or check out our coverage of the PC version for more information.

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