Mafia is one of those games that if you played during launch, you’re probably from a different generation of gamers. Those days, open-world games rarely innovated, and Grand Theft Auto had barely begun dominating the market. Mafia made quite an impression with an excellent story, immersive setting, and innovative gameplay. But that was more than a decade back, and open-world games have become dime a dozen these days, while the original Mafia hasn’t really aged well, the control scheme alone is enough to turn people away.
AT A GLANCE
GENRE: Action, Adventure
DEVELOPER: Hangar 13
PLATFORMS: PlayStation 4(Reviewed), Xbox One, Microsoft Windows
RELEASE DATE: 25 Sep 2020
FINAL SCORE: 9/10
But like many other titles coming out late into this generation, 2k has decided to give Mafia the remake treatment. Arriving after the not so well done remaster of the second game, Mafia: Definitive Edition is a ground-up remake of the original game.
Mafia: Definitive Edition tries to preserve as much of the original game as possible, and therefore does not tamper with the core gameplay too much. It’s still an open-world game with linear progression, and while the city of Lost Heaven has been expanded a bit, it’s still devoid of any side activities except the main missions.
The combat has been totally overhauled to have an emphasis on third-person shooting mechanics and has also been streamlined while still presenting a challenge on the higher levels. Every weapon feels authentic and carries a sense of weight, and it’s extremely satisfying to unload a shotgun in the face of an enemy.
You can get around Lost Heaven on a selection of period-authentic cars and for the first time, bikes. The cars handle as you would expect a WW1 era car to handle, but you can turn down the settings to have a more arcadey feel to the driving. I personally found the classic mode to be more satisfying, and the developers have done a fantastic job of making the driving feel excellent. You can feel the weight of these vehicles and it’s exhilarating to take a motorbike out for a spin in the countryside.
It’s a shame that the developers didn’t add in any side objectives or interesting things to do in the game outside of the main missions, because Lost Heaven feels like a character of its own. The entire city feels immersive and everything from the slums to the daunting buildings in the distance exhibits a sense of charm that is very rarely present in open-world games these days. So not having the motivation to explore such a well-crafted world except for main missions and boring collectibles is a disappointment.
One of the things that the fans love about the series is the offense system, which makes a return in this game. Although all of it is optional and you can chose to not have the police give you a hard time unless you turn into a homicidal maniac, I would still recommend turning this setting on as this one of the things that sets the Mafia series apart from the rest. While driving, you will have to follow certain rules such as maintaining the speed limit, following traffic signals and not openly displaying your weapon, amongst other things. Failure to follow these rules will result in you being fined for minor violations, while major violations will result in the police chasing you down.
The adjustments and overhauls in the gameplay while preserving the essence of the original results in a unique and modern open-world experience that very few other games in the genre can offer. But like any other ambitious game, the game has its fair share of troubles as well. There are some very odd glitches that can ruin your immersion, for example, characters would often get stuck, and more than once my car fell through the map. The iconic racing mission is also one of the few missions in the game that actually suffers from classic difficulty and will give you a hard time unless you exploit the mechanics or drive perfectly.
Like the gameplay, the story that is told in Mafia: Definitive Edition has not been changed much from the 2002 original, but the developers of Hangar 13 have managed to enhance the depth of the characters by adding new dialogues, nuances, and slightly adjust the narrative in places.
You play as Thomas “Tommy” Angelo, a Lost Heaven taxi driver who one ends up getting involved with the criminal underworld after a daring chase by helping two men of the Salieri family to escape from their pursuers. Initially employed as a simple wheelman, Tommy quickly rises up the ranks, fascinated by the money and luxury this life affords.
Set throughout the 1930s, the story follows the rise and eventual fall from grace of Tommy Angelo. It’s a story that holds up to this day, and the minor changes in the narrative manage to smooth out a few issues in the original game’s plot.
The game’s campaign duration is roughly identical to the original and will take you ten to twelve hours depending on how long you take to tackle some of the more complicated assignments. The story can tend to be poorly paced here and there, and some of the characters would have benefitted from additional screen time, but it’s an excellent story nonetheless.
The voice actors do a terrific job at bringing the characters to life and the game ends up feeling like an interactive movie. Combined with the gorgeous visuals, and the excellent world design, Mafia: Definitive Editions is one of the best narrative-driven experiences this generation.
This is one aspect of the game where Mafia: Definitive Edition hits it out of the ballpark. I played the game on the base PlayStation 4, and even on this aging hardware, the game looks absolutely gorgeous. Beyond the frame rate, which is limited to 30 FPS the performance rarely suffers even in the more hectic gunfights.
The characters have also received a very faithful makeover, and look exactly how you would expect them to look. The cutscenes do an incredible job at delivering the story and is a big part of why the story is excellent.
The atmosphere benefits greatly from rainfall and during the night when the city comes to life with glowing signboards and puddles reflecting from the street lights, but at no point during the game did I feel the game looked underwhelming. Driving through the streets with the radio on, soaking in the atmosphere, offers a level of immersion in gaming that few games manage to achieve.
Regardless of whether you’re driving down Lost Heaven’s streets or it’s surrounding countryside, it’s hard to not marvel at the visuals that the developers have managed to deliver.