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Mafia II

The don of GamesCom wants GTA to sleep with the fishes.

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After the meeting with Giuseppe another dynamic interlude kicks in. This time we stroll outside the building and encounter a pair of two-bit muggers attempting to hold us up with a knife. They scamper away at the sight of our gun, but turning the tables on our would-be attackers has its own pitfalls: the cops. A lonely patrolman runs over and demands to see our gun license. Sorry officer. What license?

Locked in a dialogue choice there are three options. Offer a bribe; show a fake license or run. We scarper into the nearest alley, ducking behind a shadowy dustbin lid and then staying behind a well-placed pallet as a patrol car slides by. The Wanted icon which flashes up when the policeman give chase only disappears when we swap clothes at a convenient store, and walking down the pavement in our smart new threads we can't help but chuckle at a man protesting his arrest: the poor soul was unfortunate enough to be wearing a similar looking jacket to the one we were spotted in earlier on.

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Moments like these are scripted. You're allowed to choose your actions freely but as each area, time of day and cop presence has been carefully predetermined there are usually one or two clear ways forward. For us the alleyway, the dumpster and the pallet all screamed to be used - not with flashing lights or on-screen instructions but just by meticulous placement. Open world connoisseurs will cry shouts of smoke and mirrors and they will have a point, but Mafia II's proud of its predictability; it's a linear-ish game in a non-linear world, and the controlled design adds a layer of quality so often absent from games such as Godfather II.

Police evaded, we skip forward in time to Derek's mission. It's darker now, and swirling fog sets an ominous tone. The infiltration and ultimate destruction of the garage ahead comes with one small caveat. There are to be no casualties. It sounds workable, but arriving on the scene we clock too many guards for comfort.

The first is easily done away with as he helpfully ducks into the bushes to relieve himself. The second is a bit tougher - walking into the garage we're forced into a confrontation. He's armed with a truncheon and we're defenceless, but the wrinkles on his face betray the man's age and the one-two combination of agility and punching power soon puts him down for good. (Vito has one heavy attack button, one light attack button and one evade button which can be combined for different combos.) Melée weapons, we're told, are plentiful, and objects such as bottles, tyre irons and bats can all be plucked from the surroundings and used on anybody without a projectile weapon. Brutal, but fun.

To complete the mission two of the three cars inside the garage are torched, but well aware that shit and fan are on a direct collision course the third car, a rare little red number, is salvaged for a getaway vehicle. With no keys in sight Vito has two options. He could go to the trouble of slowly picking the lock by knocking each tumbler into place, a method that will only rouse suspicion if a cop has a clear line of sight and is already watching Vito. With sirens blazing nearby it seems like a waste of time, so the more direct method of smashing the window and unlocking the door from the inside is employed.

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Rain-slick roads are tough to stay on, especially in the more powerful vehicles. The car skids like a rhino on an ice rink, eager to wrap itself around lampposts and hydrants at every opportunity. Realism is key. Whatever you struggle with troubles the cops easily as much. Ducking in front of a passing train will halt any pursuers in their tracks, and the occasional jump is likely to make the cops either bottle the chase or flip their vehicles. The one advantage they do have, however, is organisation, and within minutes of the first alarm roadblocks will be established at every major junction, and denser police patrols will sweep neighbourhoods adjacent to your last known position.

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