The Good: Excellent narrative, top notch voice acting, looks good, sounds authentic, tight shooting, good amount of extra content
The Bad: Open world is almost wasted, some low-res close ups, no side missions, just feels like it's missing something
The original Mafia may not have been the best shooter in the world, but it gave us a great narrative and likable characters, and Mafia II tops this. You play as Vito Scaletta who's parents migrated from Italy to New York, and you follow him through his ups and downs in the Mafia. The game's narrative is amazing with lots of plot twists and excellent character development. The game isn't just mind numbing shooting, but it's delicately spread out with menial tasks and interactive narrative bits that really keeps you hooked.
For example you start out during WWII in Italy helping the rebels. This is completely unexpected and is a nice touch to delivering the background of Vito. Another bit I can not explain (due to huge spoilers), but let's say you do some gross tasks and some hand to hand combat in a place you don't want to ever end up. You will actually go 3-4 chapters with no shooting at all, and this makes you savor the shooting bits because they get thrown in a lot in the last few chapters.
The shooting has tight cover mechanics and the 50's era weapons pack a punch and really feel powerful. Knowing a guy out with a shotgun or even popping a guy in the head with a .44 Magnum and it just feels right. I never experienced issues during fire fights with controls, and this is great so the shooting part is pretty much perfect.
Of course you have a huge open world, but I guess the biggest flaw to the game is that it's only used as a "portal" to mission objectives. You don't go around and get missions from people a la Grand Theft Auto, but maybe this is a good thing and keeps you sticking with story. Each chapter has you waking up in your apartment and you have to complete missions as told, and they are varied and never get old. Driving around town feels right and the cars handle real well. There's a large variety of them and driving down the road listening to 50's era tunes just feel so authentic. If you aren't careful and follow the speed limit (there's a speed limiter button) cops will try to pull you over. If you're wanted you have to either change your plates or your clothes.
You can pull into body shops and change the color of your car, repair them, change rims, tune them up, and store them in your garage or just go sell them at the junkyard. You can buy threads, guns, food and it really feels authentic and doesn't pull to far away from the main game. One thing that you can collect will completely surprise people are Playboy centerfolds. Yes, fully nude centerfolds, and while finding them may be a pain since they are well hidden, but it's well worth it. These are 50's Playboys and they are interesting finds, and you can also collect artwork, and read about cars in the Carcyclopedia.
The game looks really good with well animated characters, excellent lighting, highly detailed textures, but up close some of the characters look a little lacking in the texture quality department. The game sounds great too, and it's just all the little details that make the game that much more authentic for it's time setting. People arguing in the streets, cops pulling other people over, it's just really great to see all this detail. However, the 2K Czech could do a lot more with Mafia III, and I'd like to see side missions, a bigger world, and more little extras.
Overall Mafia II is an excellent game with wonderful characters that you truly care about, the voice acting is top notch and everything just feels almost perfect. The game needs more extras and a little some thing to stray away from the main game, but what's here works and is solid with excellent shooting mechanics, driving mechanics, controls, and just enough content to keep you going. There isn't really any incentive to play through this again at all unless you really need those Playboy centerfolds.
Collector's Edition: If you want to shell out the extra $20 you get a nice poster of ads in the game, the soundtrack, a steel case, the Made Man DLC pack, and a color art book. Is it worth $20? Probably not for most, but hardcore collector's will like this a lot. Most people should just pass, but what is provided is worth it.