By Joe Osborne From games.com
Most of the down and dirty events that take place in Mafia Wars--the hits, the robberies and the all-out wars--are implied. If there is one shining difference between that game and its upcoming direct sequel by Zynga, it's that all of those activities are laid out before you.
And yes, that includes all of the gory details that are normally alluded to in Mafia Wars behind the scenes.Mafia Wars 2 is, in a nutshell, the visual representation of what you've been up to for the past three years in Mafia Wars proper.
During a sneak peek of the game provided by Mafia Wars 2 Lead Product Manager Ian Wang and Art Director Christy Schaefer, it was almost shocking to see a player literally pull out a gun and blow an approaching thug away. Sure, the blood and gore is mild in Mafia Wars 2, but seeing that happen before your eyes after years of it portrayed in stylish concept art stills is quite jarring.
For those of you who have been digging on Mafia Wars for awhile now, it will definitely be the sort of jarring effect that spurs an "Oh, hell yeah!" However, those coming from the CityVille crowd or even elsewhere might be a bit shocked--this could very well be the first Zynga game to feature animated blood and buildings like "grow houses" that generate profits. This certainly isn't anything new on Facebook (See: Weeds Social Club; strategy games like the new War Commander), but perhaps new territory for the massive developer.
Social games are growing up, and Zynga looks to keep up with the Joneses. "What we wanted to do with Mafia Wars 2 is take the core of the violence, the ability to escape into a different world and act out your fantasies, and visualize that," Wang tells us just before his fully customizable in-game character blasts an approaching thug until the red stuff spurts out. "We actually found, with the success of the first Mafia Wars, that people actually really want to be violent and act out the fantasies. We want it to be gritty, we want it to be visceral, and we want the experience to be pretty climactic."
You've been let out of prison for an unknown crime and a modest sum to revive your crime empire. But this time, it's off to the outskirts of Las Vegas to make it happen. Mafia Wars 2 takes on the common isometric perspective and property building mechanic of previous Zynga games like FrontierVille and FarmVille. (And, as it appears to this writer, competitors like Funzio's Crime City.) However, that experience is constantly peppered with action as enemies from the game's storyline sic thugs on you. And the action is presented in a fun, comic book-inspired art style that looks to help get players hyped about their exploits.
During your time in the game, you will grow your seedy shanty town of sorts into a thriving, crime-ridden metropolis that might put the Vegas strip to shame. And just like in its predecessor, there will be plenty of jobs to do and, yes, bosses to take down across seven sprawling sections of Las Vegas and its outskirts. This all happens within the game's combat system, which is decided by your character's equipment as it's sized up against your enemies' weapons. Clearly, it's important to build weapon and armor shops to increase your strength, and most weapons have uniquely gruesome animations.
In fact, it's easy to simply take the design tropes of the first Mafia Wars and apply them to this more direct approach to the franchise when imagining what the sequel will be like. That's not necessarily a bad thing, and Zynga compounds upon that, touting features such as over 100 decorations at launch to improve the look, feel and function of your Turf. Over 300 different types of weapons, armor and vehicles will be available in the game at first, and players can deck out their digital mobster in over 600 pieces of clothing.
Of course, player vs player combat is as major a focus in this sequel as it was in the original. While players can invade their enemies' Turf and rob their properties, they can also rally their friends to form crews and defend or restore each other's Turf. To take the fight to even more random players, three Battle Arenas--Bone Yard, Badlands and Area 51--in asynchronous combat to spur longstanding rivalries of back-and-forth robberies.
While the game is under development in Zynga's San Francisco headquarters with many members from the original Mafia Wars team, Wang assures that the first game will be maintained alongside the sequel for some time. And the giant social game creator is reaching further than any gang ever has with 16 languages supported at launch (including English): French, Italian, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Indonesian, Turkish, Traditional Chinese, Korean, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, Japanese and Thai. Mafia Wars 2 will be available on Facebook within the next few weeks.
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