Mafia 2

Welcome back to the City of Lost Heaven...

Swept aside by the tsunami-like GTA 3, the original Mafia never really stood a chance on Xbox. On the PC, however, this cinematic sandbox drive-'em-up - which played out like a 30's version of Goodfellas - found its niche and scored massive with both critics and punters alike.

Now, after more than half a decade in the wilderness, original developers Illusion Softworks have got the nod to revisit the City of Lost Heaven (cough Chicago cough) - and, apart from a shift forward into the '40s, it's looking very much like a next gen remake of the first game, where - once again - an innocent Italian-American gets taken 'under the wing' of a powerful Mob outfit and turned into their most fearsome hitman. Ba-da-bing!

Pizza the action
Two things the original did with considerable aplomb were its driving and shooting. Trouble is, driving and shooting are now de rigeur, with crazy chases through the city streets being reworked for everything from Saints Row to Mercenaries. So, this time around, as well as tyres and bullets, there'll be, er, legs and bullets, with on-foot blasting really improved; in fact, the results look distinctly Gears of War-like, such were the similarities when our hero started dodging behind cover.

One problem the driving did have in the original Mafia was that those crusty old period cars with their 40mph top speeds paled in comparison next to the Cheetahs and Diablos of GTA 3. In Mafia 2, Illusion have set about changing that with the curvy cobwebmobiles given a real injection of nitrous to make city-wide bumper-to-bumper action a bit more exciting.

Otherwise, the spirit of the first game seems to have been recaptured perfectly, all cool jazz music, gangland executions, Tommy-guns, cheap suits, greasy haircuts and 'begging for your worthless life' moments. Sick, grisly and impressive - looks like Illusion have don good. And that there was a 'don/done' pun. Cheers.

GTA IV will be hogging all the hype, but - much like in 2002 - it might just be Mafia that takes the high-end plaudits. If the narrative and vocal quality can match the incredible looking engine, then this'll be like a night in with Meadow Soprano.