It’s a beautiful day to join to Mafia. After all, it’s the 1930s, booze is illegal and cops are easily bought. What could possibly go wrong? That’s the setup for Mafia: Definitive Edition, the ground-up remake of 2002’s Mafia.
You play as Tommy Angelo, a cab driver pulled into the world of gang wars, protection rackets and smuggled booze. Along the way you meet several characters, all with their own plans for the 30s-era Lost Heaven.
So how does Mafia play? Does it truly replicate the criminal experience? or does it leave you wondering, ‘is this how mafia works?’ Read on and find out.
Rather than simply retexture the original Mafia, Definitive is a ground-up remake. This really works, considering the original game is almost twenty years old.
This especially works well in the game’s cutscenes, with every character beautifully animated. Many of the cutscenes are more than just 1:1 remakes, rather, they add more small details to make the scene feel more natural. Characters have nice little flourishes, like Don Salieri’s hand gestures when he speaks.
In addition to this, the voice acting is also greatly improved. With the benefit of hindsight, the original Mafia’s voice-acting is somewhat lackluster. Characters speak with a generic nondescript American accent, with a kind of monotone to them.
In Definitive Edition, however, that all changes. These characters speak with a much more natural accent, without going too far into blatant stereotype. My only complaint would be that Tommy’s accent is almost too good, in that he sounds like he’s already been with the Mafia for years when he first meets Don Salieri. That’s only a minor nitpick though, because overall Andrew Bongiorno is killing it as Tommy. As he should, since the game is narrated by the protagonist.
Mafia’s greatest strength is it’s story. I’m not a particularly big fan of Crime dramas- the reasons why aren’t relevant here. The story of Definitive is the same as the original Mafia, which works out because it’s a great narrative. It has some genuinely suspenseful moments, owed largely to its small cast. Since you know who most of these people are, it’s easy to get invested in their stories.
Without going into spoilers, the adventures of Tommy in the Salieri crime family are deeply compelling, with stakes that never feel too far out there. I won’t use the word realistic due to my own inexperience with the genre, but they certainly feel believable. The game has a core cast of characters, and things rarely involve anyone outside of that circle. It’s a good trait for a story since you never get lost in the flurry of men in suits.
As mentioned previously, the improved animations in the game also help sell the story better. I’m particularly a fan of Sam, one of the two mobsters responsible for Tommy’s involvement with the Salieris. In the early cutscenes, he constantly has this classical Mafioso air to him, complete with constant pursing of his lips.
While no new quests have been added to the game, many of the game’s story missions have been fleshed out. These include more sections before a quest where you talk to NPCs, such as acquiring an outfit for infiltration-based missions. These can be particularly risky in any type of game to include, as more gameplay-focused fans might get annoyed at having to stall for time while an NPC talks to you. Thankfully, the game’s characters are likeable enough that these sequences can be quite enjoyable.
The world of Lost Heaven is created to represent Midwest America in the thick of prohibition. The city is rooted in the map of the original Mafia, so many old fans will find themselves rewarded for their memory of the map.
Like the cutscenes, the world is a lot more than just an up-scaled version of the original’s game. The city is absolutely brimming with life, with plenty of billboards and people that reinforce the setting of the game.
Additionally, navigating this world is a lot easier in Definitive compared to the original, in part thanks to its seamless nature. Since graphical processing has advanced so much in the 18 years since the original’s launch, some of the world’s terrain has been changed to allow you to better take in the sights of Lost Heaven.
A lot of the gameplay is very similar to our previously covered first impressions, but that won’t stop us from covering the broad strokes again. It’s very similar to games like GTA and Red Dead Redemption. Your mileage may vary with this type of gameplay, but it’s pretty useful for a story-based game like this. The game never asks too much of you skill-wise, so you can focus on the story.
Your weapon options are good, with a healthy selection of guns and melee weapons. While the guns don’t get as dramatic as GTA’s rocket launchers, Mafia instead leans more towards replicating an experience that feels authentic to its era.
While a bit of a cliché, the tommy gun is a personal favorite. Sure, it’s got recoil issues, but it’s a classic. Standing around mowing down oncoming gangsters is a great feeling, though don’t expect to kill anything unless you know how to get headshots.
Even if you’re bad at shooting, the game does you a solid by having you do most missions with some AI partners. They obviously won’t clear the missions for you, but it’s good to know that enemies aren’t going to totally overwhelm you when you’ve got Sam and Paulie watching your back.
Driving In The 30s
Similar to real life, however, getting shot hurts. While you can recover some health by taking a breather, it’s ultimately not much. Your main source of health will be health packs, which are especially scarce since they’re only in first-aid cabinets. This can be quite frustrating, especially with the headshot-focused combat.
As we mentioned previously, the driving can be a little too authentic to its time. You won’t be getting into too many high-speed chases here, though that can be for the better. As is, the game punishes you strictly for minor infractions like crashing into things. So maybe it’s for the better that you don’t break mach 5 in the cars here.
Though inauthentic to its era, the driving also improves on the original with the addition of a GTA-style map. The GPS on the mini map is much obliged, since it points you in the direction of the next mission. The in-world prompts are also really clever, taking the form of roadsigns that disappear after you drive past them.
Mafia: Definitive Edition is a great open-world sandbox that’s absolutely dripping in atmosphere. The game’s story is gripping, and it fills the air with a tension as you never fully trust any of its characters. It’s no Godfather, obviously, but it was enough to win over this non-crime-drama person.
On top of that, its status as a ground-up remake rather than a remaster means its absolutely filled with lovingly-made performances that really sell the game’s characters. Add that with the redone voice acting, and you get a game that’s an absolute delight to sit through the cutscenes of.
As a shooter though, this game doesn’t particularly push any boundaries, and the driving can be particularly frustrating. But the story and presentation certainly carries this game hard enough to make it worth picking up.
|Beautiful cutscenes||Shooting can be frustrating|
|Great story||Driving is slow|
Review copy provided by 2K Games, and played on a home PC.