2K Czech's Denby Grace talks to PlayStation.com about mob life, gangster movies and bringing Empire Bay to life on PlayStation 3.
Mafia II takes place over two eras, the 40s and 50s. Why did you decide to move it forward from the 30s - which was the original setting in the first game - and split it over two decades?
The first Mafia really ended at a stopping point where everyone either died or went to jail. Even the player character was killed so, from a story point of view, there really is no going back. Also, we felt that having done the 1930s, we wanted to try something different and move things forward to another really iconic period in American history.
The story in Mafia II spans nearly 10 years of our characters' lives, and we tell the story in a manner that really hooks into that cinematic vibe. This was a major focus during the development of this game; our inspiration came from such movies as Goodfellas and The Godfather, along with many other great epic mob movies.
In Mafia, Prohibition anchored the storyline somewhat. Is there a similar hook in Mafia II or is this story solely about characters and how they develop over the course of this journey?
The focus this time is on our main characters' journey, their progression up the ladder of an organized crime family and the story of what happens when they get there. Events like World War II, along with the birth of rock 'n' roll and the invention of television sets in the 50s all paint an impressive backdrop for the game.
Can you tell us a little bit about the game's main character, Vito Scaletta, and how he fits into this new world you've created for Mafia II.
Vito Scaletta is an Italian immigrant who came to the US from Sicily when he was a small boy. When our game starts out Vito has returned from fighting in World War II, he's been injured and returns to Empire Bay where he is greeted with the fact that his deadbeat father has died and left the family with a large debt. This is the driving motivation behind Vito being pushed towards the Mafia life, that and of course his best friend Joe who already has some connections with the mob.
With such a huge world to explore, can you talk us through some of the mission types that players take on over the course of the game?
Players are required to use a variety of different gameplay mechanics throughout the game and these are incorporated in different types of missions; there are stealth, driving, gun combat and melee based missions. The missions in Mafia II, much like in the first game, are very grand in scale and setting. They are not simple shoot-outs; they are very expansive set piece events.
You've mentioned previously that Mafia II is based on all the great gangster movies. Is that just period pieces or have you taken ideas and themes from today's modern gangster cinema too?
References have been taken from all over, not just gangster movies. Goodfellas was a big inspiration to us; the format, and the buddy story elements are what really attracted us. The Godfather is a classic movie series as well and I think you'll see some similar elements from that era and time period in the game. As for some modern references, we are big fans of The Sopranos and Mad Men: the first gives you great gangster references and the latter has really strong period references, even if it's a different period.
What kind of research did you have to do on the eras before you set out to build Empire Bay on PlayStation 3?
Well, we watched a lot of movies and read a lot of books! Additionally, we did a trip with our art team to New York and Chicago to soak up these great historic cities and really immerse ourselves in the architecture and layout.
Will there be decisions that you make along the way that may affect the outcome of the game and how the storyline moves forward?
With the Mafia II storyline we really embraced a linear experience. We wanted to deliver a strong and controlled experience in order to deliver a certain engrossing pace, character exposition, development and atmosphere, for every single player.
How many different types of vehicles and weapons are there for players to get to grips with in Mafia II?
A lot is the simple answer. The game features more than 50 vehicles and over 15 weapons. One cool feature that we have in the game is that you can personally customize your vehicles. They can be repainted, tuned, have performance upgrades and so on.
Can you tell us a little bit about the exclusive downloadable content for PS3 and how it fits into the Mafia II story arc?
PS3 owners will get The Betrayal of Jimmy exclusive download when they purchase the game. The content actually sits away from the main Mafia II storyline but it makes great usage of the expansive city of Empire Bay. The content is much more arcade based in its gameplay and game types. Players will play Jimmy who is a hitman for the mob where he carries out the Mafia's dirty work across the city, while completing various city quests. One of the coolest new features in this add-on is the fact that missions are scored and the scores are posted onto high score tables so you can compete against your buddies to see who the best is. It really adds a different dimension from the main Mafia II experience.
And finally: which is your favourite movie gangster movie of all time and why?
Goodfellas is such a great film. Harry Hill's journey up to great heights within the Mafia then all the way down to rock bottom again is just a great story. Also, I'd like to give honourable mentions to The Godfather: Part II and Donnie Brasco!
Download the Mafia II demo from PlayStation Store today and start your journey to become a made man on PS3!