In a win-or-die-trying romp through America's happy days, Mafia II players vie for underworld ascendancy, in the role of a young thug who's willing to drive and shoot his way in and out of whatever trouble it takes to get the job done. The original Mafia won a gangland of fans by combining the open-ended driving adventure and on-foot urban action of Grand Theft Auto III with a more tightly scripted story, set in a romanticized 1930s inspired by films and pulp fiction. Coming a console-generation later, Mafia II presents a grittier, less linear, more personal adventure, but with the same goal of enveloping the player in a cinematic experience of action, violence, and storytelling.

Mafia II is set in Empire Bay, a fictional metropolis inspired primarily by New York and San Francisco, and influenced by other major American cities during the 1940s and early 1950s. Most of the game plays out in a ten square-mile area, created from hundreds of photographs and illustrations of the era, in interactive detail worthy of Illusion Softwork's (now 2K Czech's) original setting of Lost Heaven -- but in higher definition and greater intricacy. Players are free to walk, drive, and move all about the area with no artificial restriction, but the choices made there have realistic consequences. Laws, both capital and minor, are expected by in-game authorities to be obeyed. In many common situations, players can choose between "normal" and "violent" interactions with objects or people.

Instead of unfortunate circumstances leading the main character to a life of crime, as in the original game, Mafia II's Vito Scaletta is an outlaw hero at heart, whose ambition outweighs his moral reservations right from the start. When he was busted in a small-time robbery that went wrong, he took an opportunity to join the military instead of serving time in jail. The game begins as Vito returns from his tour of duty in World War II, ready to get back to work on his career. There are at least three competing crime families running the Empire Bay underworld. With patience, some luck, and a little dirty work, one day Vito hopes to be the man in charge of the one that puts the other two out of business. ~ T.J. Deci, All Game Guide