Social game maker Zynga has launched a number of uber-popular games over the past couple of years, but today we’re seeing it launch its first ever sequel, Mafia Wars 2, a Facebook crime family game with revamped graphics and game play.

Mafia Wars 2 is a deeper and more graphically appealing version of Mafia Wars, which was released in the ancient days of Facebook in April 2008. The original Mafia Wars was a simple text-based game. With the new game, you get to fight players in real time in cartoon-like gun battles and level up in a more complex role-playing game.

As we noted earlier, the title is an important one for San Francisco-based Zynga because the company is trying to generate as big an audience as it can now as it prepares to go public in an initial public offering. Zynga’s audience has been slipping, with its biggest game, CityVille, well below its peak, in part because of a resurgence of competition from rivals such as Electronic Arts’ The Sims Social.

The game is debuting in 16 languages, the most ever for a Zynga title at launch. It features more modern game play and graphics compared to the text-based game, but it still uses a lot of still frames to communicate the story and the art style is cartoon-like in what Zynga calls a “modern graphic novel style.”

The game was built by the team that created the original Mafia Wars game and is set in Las Vegas. After a five-year stint in prison, your character emerges from jail with a reward from the mob for not squealing on them: you get to develop your own casino turf and fight it out with other crime bosses. You are soon betrayed and have to embark on a mission of revenge. The game includes social player-vs.-player combat with both real-time and asynchronous fighting (where players take a turn one at a time). The goal is to create a crime empire.

Players can perform single-player missions and visit friends’ turfs to enhance their criminal empire and character abilities. The graphics for the live game play are two-dimensional, with an overhead view. The game is violent, which is something new for Facebook game players. You click on enemies and your character hits them with a baseball bat. Little squirts of blood fly when you defeat them. In that sense, the game is more hardcore than other Zynga titles, but the cartoon style art is meant to make the game appeal to the mass market.

Players can purchase more than 100 decorations to personalize their home turf and casinos. You can create knock-off DVD stores, banks, and “grow houses.” There are seven different subworlds to visit such as Casino Row or Neon Strip. You can rob the turf of your rivals or stop them as they break into your bar. The game has 300 types of weapons, armor and vehicles. Players can customize their avatar, or virtual character, with more than 600 pieces of clothing.

While EA is Zynga’s biggest rival, this title competes with titles such as Crime City. Zynga has 262 million monthly active users on Facebook.