Having never had a chance to play the original Mafia (didn’t have a powerful enough PC to run it), I was pretty stoked to find out that Mafia: Definitive Edition was a thing.
Remade from the ground up for current consoles? Yes please!
Now that I’ve played the game for a damn while, do I still think it’s worth the wait?
Read on and find out!
What is Mafia: Definitive Edition?
Mafia: Definitive Edition is a remake of the original, released in 2002 for the PC, Xbox and Playstation 2. It’s a third person action game, with the player controlling Tommy Angelo, a cabbie who gets tangled up with the Salieri Family.
Developed by Hangar 13 (who also worked on Mafia III) and published by 2K Games, the game is available on its own, or packaged together (with Mafia II and III) in the Mafia: Trilogy pack. It’s available right now for the PC, Playstation 4 and Xbox One.
As with any remake worth their salt, the whole game’s been given a visual facelift, as well as modern tweaks to the gameplay to make it feel fresh. Concessions to the original’s difficulty (like needing to follow traffic laws) are still in the game, though they’re optional now.
If you want to play the game like a modern title (think Grand Theft Auto) where nobody bats an eye if you’re driving on the wrong side of the wrong or breaking all kinds of traffic laws, you can. The cops won’t be up your ass about it no more.
The Need for No Speed.
Speeding is a bit of a misnomer in Mafia: Definitive Edition though. Due to the setting (1920s – 30s), the cars in the game aren’t really capable of high speeds. Even the ones that can move, take a while to accelerate to that point.
That’s why despite there being a ton of chase sequences, they feel much more tame compared to other games.
It’s not a diss against the game though! It’s quite the opposite!
Since you can rarely depend on outrunning your opponents (or being outran by them), it’s all about driving skill now. Dodging into cramped alleyways while maintaining your momentum or weaving in and out traffic (while avoiding the trams) all depends on you.
There’s no time slowing mechanic (ala Mafia III) to make things easier or handholding to ease you in. If you can’t cut it, you won’t make it. If that’s still too slow for you, there’s a fast forward feature available that allows you to get to your destination with a button press. It’s great if you don’t feel like driving around from one area to the next. You’ll miss some of the flavor dialogue for the missions, but that’s the price you pay for convenience.
The cars handle like they’re mired in molasses though but, it’s no fault of the game. They’re modelled about the vehicles from that time period, so driving them is meant to be an exercise in frustration.
Turning at high speeds is nearly impossible, as is getting any traction when you’re blazing through.
Bikes (which are a new addition unique to the remake), are much better but you don’t really get to use them in missions.
Unfortunately, that does make some of the missions much more tougher than they have to be. A deal breaker? Not really, but you’ll probably have to repeat a few missions until you get the driving down pat or get lucky.
Not So Open World.
Despite its open world trappings, the game is a pretty linear adventure. It doesn’t let you explore Lost Haven at all in the Story mode. You’re taken automatically from one mission (called Chapters) to the next.
Honestly? It’s a letdown.
As a remake, it’d have been perfect for Mafia: Definitive Edition to fully adopt the open world style of the genre, just like Mafia III did. One of the criticisms of the original Mafia was this very issue, and to not see it addressed in the remake is disappointing.
Now, there is an open world mode.
It’s unlocked after clearing the game’s first chapter, but it’s a completely separate affair from the main game. Why not just blend the two together? I have no idea.
Even then, the mode (Free Ride) is boring and pretty useless. There are no missions or anything. You just get to explore the city, adding cars to your garage and finding collectibles that you might have missed in the Story Mode.
There are also some rather archaic (and questionable) gameplay ideas at work here.
Health doesn’t regenerate, which makes long battles (a staple in the latter part of the game) more hassle than they are worth.
You can only carry two weapons at all times, and even then, ammo is limited. Finally, there’s no customization at all in the game apart from selecting your car colors in some missions.
Coming off Mafia III, playing Mafia: Definitive Edition feels like a massive step backwards in these regards, especially considering that Hangar 13 claims they’ve remade the game with an eye on modern gameplay systems.
It’s a good thing when a remake takes the look of the original and goes to town with it. Lost Haven looks exactly like you’d expect a major American city to look during the Great Depression (and a bit after).
It’s a bit too clean for my tastes but the architecture, fashion and everything else is spot on. It certainly looks like the pictures and films of the era.
Driving unfortunately shows off some of the blemishes of the new engine. Pop-up is really prevalent in the game.
Grass and other minor environmental details will suddenly pop into view as you drive, killing any immersion. You’d expect the PS4 Pro to be able to handle this better, but nope.
Traffic pop-in fares better. They fade into view further down but it’s still very noticeable on straight roads.
Thankfully, the frame rate doesn’t seem to dip below 30FPS. Even while being chased by tons of cars or during hectic shootouts, the game remains responsive. It’s pretty cool that the environments’ are littered with destructible objects. Gunfights will inevitably leave a ton of debris scattered around, which makes the aftermath of a battle pretty cool to look at.
Complementing the new visuals, is a whole new cast of voice actors. Since I’ve never had the chance to play the original, I can’t really compare them to the old versions but I’m satisfied with the ones that we got now.
The characters sound like wiseguys and made men, something anybody who’s watched Scorcese movies will be familiar with. I expected Robert De Niro, Al Pacino or Joe Pesci to pop up at any moment…or hell, even Marlon Brando or Robert Duvall reprising their Godfather roles. God knows there are a ton of references to a ton of Mafia movies in the game.
The Bottom Line.
Mafia: Definitive Edition is a pretty spectacular remake of the original. It’s not perfect by a long shot (due to some really questionable gameplay decisions) but for an updated version of a game that’s nearly 20 years old, it does its job well.
Don’t go into the game expected a modern game. Instead, expect something from the past (with all the design decisions from that era), just with some modern enhancements.
A great remake that’s bogged down by some questionable gameplay mechanics.
- Awesome new visuals.
- Decent story.
- Driving can be skipped.
- Good voice cast.
- Satisfying destruction.
- Object pop-in.
- Archaic gameplay elements.
- Story too linear.
- Barely any customization.
- Boring open world.