Mafia 2 and Nvidia Apex

If the mini-games and distractions aren’t worth getting excited over though, then the graphics and supporting technology that power Mafia 2 definitely are – put simply, the Illusion Engine that the game runs on looks amazing. Environments, both the open world and the closed-off sections that you explore in some missions, are impressively detailed and run very smoothly – though we’ve admittedly no clue about the hardware inside the demo PCs provided.

More importantly than the simple number of polygons is the fact that the game is artistically ahead of the curve, with a lot of thought going into both the structural design and the overall style. Mafia 2 is easy to navigate in the open world and a challenge to overcome when it comes to gunfights, while both areas make excellent use of colour and content.

There are old copies of Playboy and pin-up posters to be found in locker rooms, for example, while Empire City feels even more attractive through use of the warm colours familiar from films like The Godfather. Golden limestone and wood panelling give Empire City far more character than can be salvaged from Liberty City’s concrete streets and gunmetal skies.

Mafia 2 Hands-on Preview Mafia 2 and Nvidia Apex
Vito's training for the Fart Championship took it's toll on his cellar

On the more technical end, Nvidia was on hand to make a hoo-ha about the new Nvidia Apex technology that’s been woven into all builds of the game, consoles included. A lot of fancy words were thrown around, but it’s basically a new tool to allow developers to easily add new graphical and physics-based effects to games. My notes say 'Dyn/Phy, 3DS', which means that Apex is basically a scalable dynamics framework that comes as a module that developers can integrate into common tools such as 3DS Max and therefore use in games at many levels. The comma in the middle means that Apex uses, or is based on, PhyX but all that really means to most gamers is that Mafia 2 has a swanky physics engine.

To be honest though, my impressions of Apex itself were a bit mixed. While it seemed that it worked well for environmental details, like excessive debris from bullets gone awry or spilled rubbish, there were other areas that left us underwhelmed – especially when it came to ragdolls.

Mafia 2 Hands-on Preview Mafia 2 and Nvidia Apex
Don Corleone loves the Beano

It’s a shame for Nvidia really, as the things which impressed me the most (like shards of glass that can be knocked around or crunched underfoot) and which will make the biggest improvement to Mafia 2 can’t really be shown off very well. The stuff that can be shown off, like ragdolls, just doesn’t look as good as some of the methods used in other games, such as GTA IV’s Natural Motion which, while often buggy, is still the best we’ve got.

Aside from Nvidia’s Apex, there’s no denying that Mafia 2 looks great, both in terms of gameplay and technical achievement. In many ways it’s similar to Red Dead Redemption in that, while Mafia 2 may not bring anything truly new to sandbox genre in terms of scale or features, it still stands out simply because of how well put together it is. It is oodles more stylish and charming than most other games we get a chance to play, and bases itself in a setting which is criminally undernourished.

Whether this enthusiasm holds up in the face of the finished game will definitely remain to be seen, as while Mafia 2 is impressive at first glance, there’s always a risk that the game will prove to be tedious and tiresome when you’re not being quick-jumped to the exciting stuff by helpful PRs.

Mafia 2 will be released on the 27th of August on PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. It will be published by 2K Games.
Discuss this in the forums
YouTube logo
MSI MPG Velox 100R Chassis Review

October 14 2021 | 15:04