The general idea seems to be to take the racketeering and extortion activities that were sidelines in the first Godfather game and put them centre stage. Basically, you have three urban environments, based in New York, Florida and Cuba, and a number of rival families to eliminate. To do so, you need to take over their businesses - drugs, prostitution, diamond smuggling, money-laundering and the like - and eliminate their bosses, until they retreat to their compounds, at which point you can wipe them out for good. All the time, of course, they'll be doing their best to put you out of the way, attacking your businesses and trying to recover those they might have lost. All this happens in a new interface called 'The Don's View'; a 3D map of the area in question with the various businesses highlighted and access to all the information that a budding Mafia boss might need.
Up to a point, you can play The Godfather II as a strategy game. As the game progresses, you recruit 'made men' to your family. Each has a speciality, such as arson, enforcement or demolition, and you can put them on missions in The Don's View, asking them to, say, take over a business, bomb a rival family's facility or defend one of your businesses that's under attack. To make things work, however, you really need to get your hands dirty yourself. That means driving around, assaulting businesses with the aid of your crew, and generally showing everyone else that you're the biggest, most brutal fish in the pond. This is where the more conventional GTA-style action kicks in. You and your guys burst into the joint, and either slap or shoot the opposition until you're left with the manager's full attention. Convince him that he needs your patronage, and - hey - the business is yours. And when the opposition tries to take over one of your outlets? Simple. Make sure you're there to give them a big, warm welcome with bullets attached.
All this stuff uses enhanced versions of The Godfather's 'Blackhand' close-combat system and ranged weapons systems. Against soft opposition you can get away with using fists, golf clubs and baseball bats, and while I don't think the grabbing, slapping and headbutting options are half as flexible or interesting as EA seems to think they are, the close combat works pretty well. Gunfights are still a bit of a mess, unfortunately. EA has tried to put more focus on cover and accuracy, but it hasn't really worked. Enemy AI is rotten, the AI of your own Mafiosi is no better, and it seems easier just to race around blasting everyone in no particular order, picking up health upgrades on the way, than to rely on any sort of stealth or strategy. Sure, you can sneak around garrotting people if you like, but why bother when a full-frontal assault works just about every time?