Most of the games we managed to see or play at Gamescom were already familiar thanks to solid outings during E3 around six weeks ago. However, 2K at least had something new up its sleeve. Five years after the last game in the Mafia series was released the company and new in-house studio Hanger 13 unveiled a sequel.
What's more, we were treated to a gameplay demo that quite simply blew us away.
Set in 1968 - which is frankly a superb year and era to base any open world game let alone a crime caper - Mafia III is heavily stylised, not least in it's incredible soundtrack. We only got to see one reasonably short mission but had already been treated to The Rolling Stones' Paint it Black, The Doors' Light My Fire, and Sam and Dave's Hold On I'm Coming. Then there's the Jimi Hendrix version of All Along the Watchtower that plays over the launch trailer. It all made the hairs on our necks stand on end.
What's more, the soundtrack isn't confined to the car radio - although that's cool in itself thanks to an analogue tuning bar rather than station presets. As you walk past clubs and bars in the city, you can hear classic songs playing from inside. It sets the tone superbly, as do the peace and hippy symbols and people you encounter that add further ambience for the period.
They also serve as perfect counterbalances for the combat in Mafia III because, as we found out in our hands-off gameplay session, it is quite possibly one of the most brutally violent games we've seen in some time.
The recently formed Hanger 13 explained that to give the second sequel a different feel, it decided to create a new lead character and protagonist in Lincoln Clay, who is far removed from the Mafia foot soldiers in the first two games. He's a black Vietnam war veteran who decides to create his own criminal empire and, for once in the series, you actually take on the Italians rather than play as them.
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There are still call backs to the former titles. Mafia II's Vito Scaletta appears as one of three lieutenants who are recruited by Clay at certain points in Mafia III - each of which offer new abilities and features to draw on. And in the trailer, Clay kills a gangster simply referred to as Tommy, could that be Tommy Angelo from the first game perhaps?
Naturally, the other things that the third game shares with the first two are that it is at heart a third-person shooter and open-world driving game. But thanks to the era, the cars are now inspired by 60s and early 70s action films like Bullitt and French Connection. And,as we've already touched upon, Clay is a war-damaged brute who is capable of dispatching enemies with extreme prejudice.
During the gameplay session we saw him stab foes repeatedly in the face, thrust shotguns into the midriff of others and blast their guts out, and beat others to death in quite explosive fashion. It can be uncomfortable to watch for some, but to be honest makes sense for the character. And as he's simply dispatching rivals that are worse than he in their crimes, you can't help but grin.
In technical terms, combat is mainly cover based and even at this early stage in development looks natural. Indeed, we were very impressed with the entire mission we saw played out and think the franchise is in very safe hands.
We could even say that, of all the games we saw and played at Gamescom this year, it was in our top five, maybe even our favourite. It is coming out in 2016, for PS4, Xbox One and PC, so there's a lot of work to be done on it yet, but we cannot wait to see more.