With Mafia II's August 24 release date inching closer, 2K Games gave us the keys to the Studabaker so we could cruise through 1940s Empire Bay, the setting for protagonist Vito Scaletta's rise from errand boy to made man.

The demo starts with an impressively edited cinematic that cuts between a flashback where Vito and his friend Joe agree to help kill a man and a scene in Vito's living room where he's loading his gun clip with bullets one by one in front of the fireplace. Once the scene is set, we're free to roam around Vito's house. The well furnished place is in the middle of an idealistic American neighborhood complete with flags hanging from every porch -- a far cry from the rundown tenement apartment we've seen him use as home base in other missions. This wack job must be deeper into the game, because Vito's living the good life.

The telephone rings and we walk over to pick it up. It's Vito's best friend and partner in crime Joe Barbaro, who relays the spot to meet for the hit. Before we head over to kill in the name of Don Clemente, I decide to take the car for a joy ride and check out the open world sandbox. Mafia II has three radio stations playing hits from the times; I stick with the channel playing Buddy Holly. The city is bustling with activity -- cops walk their beats, pedestrians go about their business, and visitable businesses are scattered throughout the area. I start by paying a guy in a park $1 to shine Vito's shoes, then visit a diner, body shop, clothing store, gun dealer, and gas station. The cars in Mafia II have a gas meter, and I don't want to be running on empty in the middle of a police chase.

Once I've wrapped up our tour of the city, it's time to wreak some havoc on the general population. I open fire in a burger joint, and within seconds the police descend on the place. As I rack up my kill count, the police response grows accordingly until I see a wanted icon pop up in the HUD. This means the cops will be on the look for me even if I escape the burger joint alive and lose the cops on the scene. Once I empty my clip I steal a car and drive away. A license plate icon appears next to my wanted poster, indicating the blues will also be on the lookout for the car.

I arrive at the mission location without incident, and a cutscene begins with Joe, Vito, and their mafia contact holed up in an apartment across the street from a warehouse. Workers are bustling around the entry, and I'm told to be on the look for a fat man. When a couple cars pull up we see him exit the back seat, but before I can open fire a warehouse worker spots us in the window and starts yelling to his boss that we have guns. Our target makes a run for the warehouse and I open fire on a mounted machine gun, taking down his bodyguards in the process. We make a mad dash down the stairs to tail the fat man and move through the warehouse shooting through his last defenses. When we finally corner the porker, our mafia contact takes over and aims the barrel of his gun at the cowering man. A shot goes off, but it's not his gun. The target sneakily pulled out a derringer and plugged our guy. As he slumps over to the side in agony, he gives Joe and Vito the go ahead to fill him full of lead.

After escaping through the burning warehouse while protecting Joe as he carries your fallen friend, the mission wraps up in frantic police chase that abruptly ends as Vito slams on the brakes in front of a police blockade. We'll have to wait until August 24 to see how Vito escapes this sticky situation.