There are certain elements that any self-respecting Mafia-based game has to include. Trench-coated hoods, 1920s cars, stereotypical Italian names and lots of blood-letting gunplay are all absolutely essential if you're going to have any standing among the organised crime competition. Scarlotti Mafia Wars 2 ticks all these boxes emphatically, placing you in the role of Joe Scarlotti, a wronged man seeking revenge for the murder of his wife and child by the Spinelli family and the nefarious Don Carlo.
Mafia Wars 2 simply oozes class; from the first stylised menu and the loading screens’ jaunty piano music, it sets high expectations and seldom fails to live up to them. Each level is introduced by a conversation with a key character that sets the scene and goals for the level as well as continuing the overall plot. Then it's up to you to guide your trench-coated hero through the wonderfully detailed isometric 3D levels (check out the snow effects!) to meet your goals that include locating key characters, blowing up targets and generally taking out the bad guys before hot-footing it to the getaway car. The controls are insanely easy to pick up, with joypad or buttons moving Joe in all 8 directions and '5' letting rip with your current weapon in the direction you’re facing or at the target in your crosshairs. Buildings open up or disappear as you pass into or behind them to ensure you don't get stuck when prowling the streets and a red arrow points the way to the next major objective, although not necessarily the best route towards it. To work this out you'll want to bring up the map which shows the location of your objectives, police (keep your gun out of sight or they'll try and take you down), civilians, first aid kits and your enemies.
By observing patrols, cutting through buildings and using cover you can try to sneak up behind enemies to dispatch them or even avoid them altogether. This becomes particularly advantageous as you progress through the levels and the bad-guys get increasingly tough, from simple pistol-toting goons to hit-men with machineguns and even Molotov-cocktail hurling hoods. Fortunately your ammunition is unlimited and your arsenal also evolves from a basic pistol (requiring 3 shots to take out even the lowest grunt) to the more satisfying and devastating shotgun and machine-gun.
Whilst the levels are all relatively small (most will fit snugly into a 5 minute game break), each mission is lovingly crafted offering a solid challenge, some neat twists (on some levels you can use cars and gas canisters to take out enemies, on others you get some support from a fellow hit man to clear out an enemy hideout) and the opportunity to adopt your own strategy (do you want to methodically clear all goons out first or get to the objective and then try to outrun them?). The only real downside is that you could play through the story mode in just a couple of hours if you get hooked. Although it's unlikely you'll get through each mission first time out and, even if you do, you'll probably come back to try and beat your score or kill rating (we did it in 51 minutes, 49 seconds with 316 kills) and there's always the action mode (kill as many hoods as you can in 3 minutes) to add a little longevity. While it does last however, Mafia Wars invites you into an immersive, entertaining and adrenalin-pumping world, and that is an offer you just can't refuse!