Mafia II tells the story of Vito Scaletta, a handsome young dimwit who stumbles into crime after returning to America from a stint in World War II. He starts off with low-level jobs knocking over jewelry stores, but the plot eventually escalates into a tangle of twisted loyalties, betrayal and conflict between family and "The Family." Every beat you'd expect from the genre is here, some unabashedly appropriated from "The Godfather" and "Goodfellas."
The best part of Mafia II is its evocation of mid-20th century New York, here called Empire Bay. Developer 2K Czech has lovingly re-created the architecture, cars and clothing of the era, and the soundtrack glides from 1940s swing to '50s rock and roll. From the cramped streets of Little Italy to the leafy suburbs across the river, the Empire Bay metropolitan area feels vibrant and fully lived-in.
Unfortunately, the 15 missions at the heart of the game are disappointing. There are a couple of exciting shootouts, but you're required to spend far too much time watching cut scenes or driving.
Add in such mundane chores as selling bootleg cigarettes and cleaning urinals (seriously), and you'll wonder when the fun starts. It does, eventually, but by then the game's almost over.
RATING M for Mature
PLOT Live a life of crime
DETAILS Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, $60
BOTTOM LINE Play it (watch it) for old New York