Fresh from active service in the winter of 1945, Sicilian immigrant Vito Scaletta returns a war hero. Stepping gingerly through the icy streets, locals take the opportunity to stop him and praise his efforts, engage in neighbourly conversation and offer a cup of tea. A nearby shopkeeper slops out his bucket as steam rises from a drain. Workers brave the elements on their way home, umbrellas in hand to the strains of Vaughn Monroe's 'Let It Snow'. You couldn't wish for a more evocative introduction to Vito Scaletta's world.
Arriving at his Mama's modest urban apartment, there's a palpable relief, but the brusque exchanges reveal an emotional detachment. All is not well in the Scaletta household, with a hard-working, worried and downtrodden mother burdened by the $2000 debt of her late husband, and a sister who continues to struggle to find the "right man" in this lowdown part of town.
With Vito resigned to returning to army duty, his wise-cracking childhood friend, Joe, offers him a predictably illegal way out, and a chance to get involved in a career far removed from the dour struggle he's used to. It's classic Nobody-Becomes-A-Made-Man fodder, of course, but Mafia II consistently dodges parody territory with the kind of sharp script and atmosphere that the forgettable Godfather games would have given a horse's head for. As you discover over and over again, context is key. Even routine driving assignments avoid contemptible familiarity with sparkling dialogue as Joe runs through his endearingly awful chat-up repertoire.
Crucially, there's a great sense of pace that makes the story feel like a reward, and a welcome break from the intensity of the action. The narrative genuinely adds to the sense of progression without becoming overbearing or wallowing in faux grandiosity. Despite the reported 700-page script, cut-scenes never seem to outstay their welcome. Missions don't sprawl, meander, or focus on one thing for too long
2K Czech keeps things concise, and pulls every trick to keep you playing on.