The world of Mafia II is as open and as expansive as any of the “sandbox” style games I’ve played. The down side to this is that the developers didn’t seem to take advantage of that very openness to fill the game with side missions and other things to do.
The storyline of Mafia II neatly and succinctly guides you through the game with minimal chances to be side-tracked. This works well in a game that is as story-driven as this one. And it also works well in a game world that is as well-built and well-detailed as this one. Spanning the time from 1943 to 1951, the game’s environment of Empire Bay (a city based on New York City of the 1940s) is well thought-out and expansive.
The game varies the action from driving to gunfights to fistfights to … the action is varied and decently implemented. The voice-acting is fine, as well, and the storyline seems to be a bit more tight then the first game (which, I admit, I never finished). The audio for the game is great, including lots of classic songs coming from the car stereo when you are driving (and you’ll be doing a pretty large amount of that). I’m currently about to start on the downloadable content that has become available for Mafia II since its release.
Actually, now that I think about it, the DLC route could be an interesting way to fill out Empire Bay. Though I wonder about why the city itself was finished and stuck into the game without much use beyond being a set-piece backdrop. Seems like it could have made more sense to reduce the real estate of the city and make the DLCs slightly bigger by including even more new areas to explore. Of course, that then gets into the issue of publishers and developers “nickle-and-diming” the players with micro-transactions. In the end, I’m not sure which way would have been better. Which is probably why I’m not a game developer or publisher!
Regardless of your stance on the DLC issue, Mafia II is a solid, enjoyable third-person game which successfully evokes Cosa Nostra of the ’40s and early ’50s, has an enjoyable storyline, and has the potential for expansion via upcoming DLC.