Mafia II is a third-person action shooter that combines Grand Theft Auto-like game mechanics with a world heavily inspired by the classics Godfather and Goodfellas. It is no coincidence that the protagonist is a soon to be made man named Vito. The game is a direct sequel to Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven, which was released in 2002 and has received largely positive reactions from critics and gamers alike.
Mafia II was developed by the same team as the original (2K Czech, formerly Illusion Softworks) and released on August 24th for the Windows platform. The game was launched for PS3 and Xbox 360 at the same time, but the visual quality of the PC version doesn't suffer from the "shitty console port" syndrome. Rather, Mafia II seems to be one of the best games of 2010 to demonstrate the capabilities of the current generation of high-end GPUs.
We'll tell you beforehand that if we see a fair battle between ATI and Nvidia GPUs when testing this game, we will be a little skeptical. Nvidia was very interested in Mafia II and as a result, exclusive features such as PhysX, 3D Vision and surround games were incorporated into the game. While this isn't a bad thing at all, it does mean that the game is likely optimized to perform at its best with Nvidia GPUs.
Of these three exclusive Nvidia features, we're most interested in PhysX, which is designed to add a new level of realism to action sequences (see video below). Mafia II includes Nvidia's APEX, a scalable dynamics framework that provides artists with easy-to-use authoring tools to take advantage of PhysX. APEX supports a number of modules including destruction, vegetation, particles, clothing, and turbulence. As far as we know, Mafia II only uses the clothing and particle modules.
Very few games have adopted PhysX to date, and we believe APEX is Nvidia's attempt to increase the number of titles that will benefit from it.
Interestingly, Mafia II only supports DirectX 9. Despite all the discussions behind DirectX 11, 2K Czech played it safe and stuck to the proven DX9 rendering mode to improve the game's impressive graphics. The illusion engine was specially developed for Mafia II. Some say it can keep up with the CryEngine 2 game engine (Crysis Warhead). Even so, even the most meticulous gamer will find it difficult to tell the difference between Crysis in DX9 and DX10 modes.
With a new full version of Mafia II loaded onto our test system and two dozen graphics cards ready for testing, we set out to deliver another article on GPU and CPU performance. In addition to testing a wide variety of graphics cards, we also examined the effects of PhysX on performance with and without a dedicated card. As usual, we'll also take a quick look at CPU scaling performance for those affected, if they have the courage in that regard too.