Take-Two Godfather Strauss Zelnick has dismissed allegations that Mafia II portrays all Italians and Italian-Americans as violent gangsters.
He said his game took a "thoughtful and responsible" approach to a subject matter that had been used "for decades" in film, book and television. What's more, the Take-Two chairman said no one from accusatory organisation UNICO had actually seen Mafia II, let alone played it, according to Gamasutra.
UNICO, an organisation that represents Italian-Americans, accused Take-Two of "indoctrinating" young people into believing a false and "demeaning" stereotype.
"Why would [Take-Two] foist a game on their targeted audience of young people wherein they will indoctrinate a new generation into directly associating Italians and Italian-Americans with violent, murderous organised crime, to the exclusion of all of the other 'mafias' run by other ethnic and racial groups," wrote president Andre DiMino to Zelnick.
"Take-Two is directly, blatantly and unfairly discriminating and demeaning one group to the exclusion of all others. We are demanding they halt release of the game and cleanse it of all references to Italians and Italian-Americans".
In response, Zelnick wrote: "At Take-Two, we balance our right to free expression with what we believe is a thoughtful and responsible approach to creating and marketing our products. Mafia II is M-rated in accordance with our industry's strict standards. It is specifically not targeted toward young people.
"We will only release a title that meets our standards: as art, as entertainment and as a socially responsible product. We aim to distinguish creative and compelling story telling that advances artistic expression from subject matter that gratuitously exploits or glorifies violence or stereotypes.
"I fully and completely stand behind our creative teams and products, including Mafia II," he added.
Mafia II will be released next Friday on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.