Mafia II is 2K Czech’s second take on the open world crime game telling a whole new story in a new America. Taking place 10 years after the original’s 1930 setting and spanning a whole decade Mafia II tells the story of Vito Scaletta’s rise through the mob of New York City stand in Empire Bay. Mafia II attempts to tell a mature story and draws inspiration from Martin Scorsese and Mario Puzo rather than Grand Theft Auto, but is only somewhat successful in doing so. Despite a player's rise to the top of the mafia food chain, users remain little more than an errand boy accepting strings of missions from various bosses. This dynamic could have been used to show the unattainable “American dream” is the same for even hardened criminals, but instead just comes across as poor storytelling.
Mafia II’s biggest strong suit is the incredible world it has created. 1940 and 1950 America, a setting rarely used in advanced games, is employed here to great, stylized effect. During both decades everything from the architecture, music, cars, clothing and guns seem authentic and real; a little too real in the case of the cars which handle more like boats on the high seas. The whole city appears alive with incredible detail, but unfortunately, offers little incentive to explore outside of the missions. Unlike GTA’s open structure, Mafia II sends you directly from one mission to the next and lacks any sort of side mission to break them up. The missions are varied and usually involve fun and dangerous gunfights in beautiful rendered interiors but too often involve seriously long drives before and after. However these can be frustrating when a lack of checkpoints can force you to retry a whole mission.
With it’s incredible world, well-acted characters and interesting missions Mafia II does offer an engaging game, unfortunately the shallow depth keeps it from being greater than its original.