I have just finished Mafia II so I am going to record a quick "Last Impressions" while the game is fresh on my mind.
The story line is very good although as a piece of interactive fiction it suffers from the fact that it is hard to like any of the characters in the game. There is no honour, no loyalty and no morality among the criminal underworld in which the game is set. As a result it is hard to care about what happens to any of the characters and since you don't really care what happens it is hard to feel immersed in the storyline.
The game-play is fun, the city is fabulous and much bigger than it appears at first. I particularly loved being able to compare the city in two time periods during and after the war.
I have already complained about the fact that you cannot use the buses and trains. I do think though that given the amount of effort that went into creating this fictional city there was a huge lost opportunity in not making it more interactive. In fact looking back over the game I now realise that the tightly scripted story never really gives you the chance to just wander around and goof off in this fabulous place.
I believe that the game developers made an absolutely fundamental error in not providing any save game mechanism outside of the mission checkpoints. Think about it - the only way to save your progress in the game is to advance your current mission. If you do decide to wander off the story then any progress you make, any nice cars you have discover, any money you earn, any clothes you acquire will be lost the first time you crash a car or take a bullet from the cops UNLESS you get back on mission and follow the storyline. You are forced to keep progressing if you want to save your progress.
Inexplicably the game doesn't even provide a free ride mode that allows you to drive around the city without following the storyline. Why not? Why not?
Overall the game was enjoyable and I would recommend it. It was certainly better than I had feared but certainly not as good as I had hoped from the first game.