Mafia: Definitive Edition Review

October 1, 2020

It’s difficult to get through a month without seeing some sort of remake hit game store shelves. Practically every classic game that was any good has been remastered or revamped for modern hardware. Now, it’s Mafia’s turn.

The remastered version, Mafia: Definitive Edition released on September 25 for PC, PS4, and Xbox One. It is developed by Hangar 13, with has some pedigree with the franchise. They also worked on Mafia III in 2016.

With this latest release, Hangar 13 has reworked the entire Mafia experience. In fact, compared to the original 2002 game, the remaster is hardly recognizable. But, despite the flashy visuals and improved presentation, Mafia: Definitive Edition’s gameplay still ends up feeling dated.

Story

Immediately upon starting Mafia: Definitive Edition, players are thrown into the plot. For fans of the original, the opening story beats will feel awfully familiar. That’s because Hangar 13 has ensured it captures the essence of the original story perfectly in the remake.

The missions are all the same and the plot plays out in pretty much exactly the same way. However, that is not exactly a bad thing. After all, the original Mafia is widely regarded as having a great story. So, it makes sense not to mess around with it too much.

Taking place in a fictional city known as Lost Heaven, it’s obvious that 1930s Chicago clearly inspired the setting. The game starts with the protagonist, Tommy Angelo, forced into helping some mobsters. These criminals make the cabbie their own personal getaway driver and turn the law-abiding man’s life upside down. Fired from his job after a rival gang targets his taxi firm, Tommy is left with little option other than to join the Salieri crime family.

The fact that the narrative lasts for just a dozen or so hours might disappoint some. Especially when other open-world games can have stories that last for up to 100 hours. Yet, the shorter length of the campaign means that it is more focused and impactful.

The storytelling in Mafia: Definitive Edition is nuanced and packed with drama and suspense. It’s more akin to a TV series rather than a traditional game and it works exceptionally well. Few games from this era nail the plot as well as the original Mafia, so the remake still has plenty of punch. 

Presentation

The sheer fact that the original Mafia launched in 2002 means that a simple remaster was never on the cards. The visuals would just look too dated considering that this is a title from the PlayStation 2 era.

To compensate for that, Hangar 13 has committed to a full reworking from the ground up. While that decision means lots more work for the developer, it is certainly worth it for the end result.

Simply put, Mafia: Definitive Edition looks absolutely fantastic. There is an incredible amount of detail in practically every part of the game. Whether it is the sweeping landscapes, imposing skylines, or just the gorgeous character models, it’s tough to find fault.

Perhaps the best example of this is at night when it is raining. The lighting system and sophisticated tech behind the scenes really shine through, giving realistic reflections and shadows. 

A near-perfect soundtrack backs up the excellent visuals. Reminiscent of The Godfather films, the musical score has been re-recorded to give it even more gravitas.

Meanwhile, the radio stations can give the likes of Grand Theft Auto a run for its money. Although there’s none of the humor or wackiness of the radio in that series, they feel authentic and genuine.

Of course, the voice acting is every bit as good as it was last time around. Although certain people might prefer the work of the older actors from the original title.

Gameplay

Out of all the aspects of Mafia: Definitive Edition, the gameplay is perhaps the weakest element. That’s not to say that it is particularly bad but it can feel a bit bland compared to modern-day equivalents. For the most part, Mafia: Definitive Edition is a standard open-world game. You can drive around the world, get into gunfights, engage in hand-to-hand combat, and complete side missions. 

Hangar 13 has done its best to update the gameplay as much as possible. So some of the more troublesome parts of the original are no longer present in this remake. However, the combat and driving can still feel stiff and unresponsive.

Fortunately, the developers have also introduced new difficulty settings so that players can fine-tune their experience. Some might find the gameplay relatively serviceable, although this will definitely not be the case for every player.

Players unlock Free Ride mode after completing the very first mission. It essentially allows the player to explore Lost Heaven as much as they want. As motivation to go out and travel around the city, there’s a good supply of secrets and side missions.

Those who can get past the tricky driving and somewhat stale gameplay might be able to find a lot of pleasure here. Just don’t expect the level of collectibles and quests available in other open-world games. 

Final Verdict

Anyone who has yet to play the original Mafia will want to check out this remake. Mafia: Definitive Edition is simply the best way to experience the original story. It has the air of an HBO series, teaming with quality and cinematic moments.  While some parts of the gameplay can feel archaic and out-of-date, the narrative still shines strong. Couple that with a very strong presentation and this game is easy to recommend.

Category: Reviews

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