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Mafia II

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre: Action
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: 2K Czech
Release Date: Aug. 24, 2010 (US), Aug. 27, 2010 (EU)


PS3/X360/PC Preview - 'Mafia II: Joe's Adventures'

by Adam Pavlacka on Nov. 12, 2010 @ 11:00 a.m. PST

Mafia II immerses players in the mob underworld of a fictitious late 1940s-early 1950s scenario by fusing high-octane gunplay with white-knuckle driving and an engaging narrative. Players will easily become engaged in the game's cinematic Hollywood movie experience with strong, believable characters in a living, breathing city.

Joe's Adventures is coming to the PlayStation Store, Xbox Live Marketplace and PC on Nov. 23, 2010, for $9.99/800 Microsoft Points.

On the PC side of the fence, expansion packs have always been part of the gaming landscape, but on the consoles, the idea of additional content never really took hold until the current generation of gaming boxes hit the market. With viable distribution systems, the traditional expansion pack made way for the vaguely named "DLC." Typically a small addition to an existing title, DLC is seen as a way to extend gameplay for an hour or two. When 2K sent over an early copy of Joe's Adventures and casually mentioned that it would take about eight hours to play through, we stood up and took note.

Set squarely in the middle of Mafia II's main storyline, Joe's Adventures tells the tale of what happened to the pudgy womanizer during the years his good buddy Vito was in the slammer. After all, when Vito returns to civilian life, Joe's made quite a name for himself. With Joe's Adventures, you don't just get to see the result. You get to make it happen.

Things start up immediately after Vito is nabbed by the feds. Joe sees it go down and is tasked with tracking down the rat who snitched on the gas ration scheme. Initially, everything looks and feels just like the original game. You have to drive to the gas station and then end up chasing the attendant when he tries to escape in a waiting car. Once caught, the first guy flips on a second, who's currently at the train station and trying to skip town.

At the train station, Joe has to chase the little bastard on foot, in a sequence that could almost be parkour-inspired — assuming you forget the fact that Joe's a bit overweight. It's an amusing juxtaposition that was likely not lost on the designers. With the second guy caught, you finally get the info on the key witness, and it's up to you to take him out. This is when Joe's Adventures starts to show that it's not just a quick retread of existing material.

It turns out the witness is holed up in a cabin by the lake, at the top of the dam. This is an area that is completely new to the game, yet still seamlessly integrated. Driving up to the cabin, everything is rendered to the same standards as the rest of the map. If you had never played the core game, you'd never know this was an after-the-fact addition.

At the cabin, things take a turn for the sneakier side, with Joe going into full-on stealth mode. A full complement of officers means that shooting your way through really isn't an option because the gunfire would alert the witness. Instead, you must carefully navigate from blind spot to blind spot, making it up to the house without being seen. Alas, once at the house, the witness manages to make it out the door and speeds away. Thus begins a chase over the frozen lake.

Yes, you read that right. A chase. On a lake. Even though the lake is mostly frozen over, it's not totally solid. There are breaks in the ice at places, and it's up to you to ensure that you don't end up driving to an icy doom. A few deft maneuvers, however, and it's possible to ram your victim's vehicle at an opportune moment and force him into one of the open holes. From there, the mission more or less wraps, offering up a story twist that forces Joe to leave town.

And that's just the first mission.

Had Joe's Adventures continued on in the same manner, delivering missions and story just like the core game, we probably would have been happy, but 2K Czech takes things a step further. When Joe returns to town five years later, the DLC doesn't just give us more of the same; it actually offers up new methods of play.

Expanding a bit on the open world part of the game, Joe's Adventures doesn't go totally sandbox, but it does allow you to roam about the world and take on missions as you choose. Mission indicators appear on the map. Starting one up is simply a matter of driving over and choosing to accept.

City missions, as they are called, differ from classic missions in that they aren't simply story drivers. They're performance-oriented, so you're scored on how well you play each one, and the results are posted to the worldwide leaderboards. Points are awarded for standard goals, but you can also earn bonus points for skillful kills (headshots) or getting a bit tricky with your vehicle. We picked up an extra hundred just for launching off a ramp while racing to a target location. Killing multiple enemies in rapid succession also triggers a multiplier, which helps you accrue points even faster.

The addition of a scoring system may be a bit superfluous for someone who simply wants to experience the story, but for many players, this has the potential to add a great deal of replay value. After all, there's always someone to beat on the leaderboards.

Last, but certainly not least, are the new Playboy centerfolds. Joe's Adventures brings another collection to the mix, promising to keep fans of vintage boobs coming back for more.

We may have only experienced the first hour or so of Mafia II: Joe's Adventures, but it's obvious that there is plenty more to see and do here. With many other DLC offerings, we'd have already done it all at this point. Add on the fact that 2K plans on selling Joe's Adventures for a mere $10 (PC/PS3) or 800 MSP (Xbox 360), and you're looking at quite a bit of gaming value for the money.

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