Godfather II advises its players to "act like a mobster, but think like a don." Like Electronic Arts' original Godfather, the sequel is a Grand Theft Auto-style open world adventure, in which players can explore a large urban area and take part in violent mafia crime. From a third-person perspective, players engage in gun battles, fistfights, and deadly driving assignments, often as part of larger, overall missions. In Godfather II players also take a leading role in determining those overall missions. In a separate mode of play, a "Don's View" strategy map perspective lays out the whole city, showing the players which competing crime family has control of which criminal enterprises in which areas, and allowing them to plan a strategy for conquest that considers location and profit-boosting monopolies. The goal is to take control of the entire city's organized crime -- one mission of violent intimidation at a time.
As their plots cross and overlap, characters and events from the Academy Award-winning film are found in the game, but even more than the original Godfather, the Godfather II game tells its own story, with its own characters and 1960s settings. Players take the role of an up-and-coming mafia don named Dominic Corleone, who is asked by Michael to move from Havana, Cuba, and take the lead of the family business in New York City, replacing the recently deceased Aldo Trapani -- the main character in the first Godfather game. As the story progresses, players will also have a chance to do some work in Miami as well. Dominic is as cool as they come, even when he's mercilessly beating a rival to a bloody, broken pulp, with the game's enhanced "Black Hand 2" melee combat system. After all, it's only business.
Alongside the single-player campaign, gamers can go to war against as many as 15 other virtual mobsters online. Multiplayer game modes include standard deathmatches and capture-the-flag styled rounds, as well as more map-specific multiplayer games, such as Firestarter, in which the team that causes the most property value damage wins, or Safecracker, in which teams compete to locate and unlock the most safes, hidden throughout the map. Gamers can bring any member of their single-player crew with them into multiplayer battle, taking the role of any henchmen they've recruited in the solo campaign. Characters retain their campaign skills in multiplayer play, such as hand-to-hand combat, safe-cracking, or demolitions expertise. In turn, points earned from play in multiplayer matches can carry back over into the single-player game, granting characters access to more powerful firearms and skill improvements.