Mafia: Definitive Edition Review – The 30s Have Never Looked Better

Mafia: Definitive Edition Review – The 30s Have Never Looked Better

The Mafia series is one that evolved in some fantastic ways when compared to its original release. When it first launched in 2002, it brought players to the 1930s in ways that no game has really done before. Held back by hardware limitations at the time, I felt that the game did the best it could. Now, in order to preserve the narrative and series for a new generation of gamers, developer Hanger 13 has recreated this gangster story with the release of Mafia: Definitive Edition. With the beautiful scenery of the era now able to shine, the only thing missing is a competent AI.

Mafia: Definitive Edition has been completely reworked to the point where you won’t see reused graphics and textures here from the original release. Suffice to say; the game looks beautiful. Hanger 13 did a stellar job with the character models, city design, and voice-over audio. From the earliest moments of gameplay, you’d be hard-pressed even to recognize that you’re playing Mafia as it fits in so well with other games released this year.

In Mafia, players are introduced to Tommy Angelo, a taxi driver who finds himself in the middle of a turf war as two gang members jump in his cab and command that he take them back to their base. The two are members of the Salieri family, which Tommy ends up in after a run-in with a rival gang.

Players get to follow Tommy across a few years and see him evolve into a different type of character. He has authority and eagerness towards the family and the utmost respect for his colleagues. The story takes players through events such as the Great Depression and prohibition, which each affect the narrative and missions that players find themselves on. Like Tommy, the city and rival gangs evolve as well to meet the demand of this changing world.

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The story takes center stage in Mafia. The entire experience almost plays out without any real input from the player. As open as the city is, the game is quite linear as you find yourself one mission to the next. There is a Free Ride mode option, but it doesn’t do well to slow down the beats of the story, mostly because what you do there doesn’t affect the main campaign. I would have enjoyed the two being married together in this entry, if only to give me the idea that I’m in some way shaping the narrative on my own.

Mafia is heavily focused on driving as well and many moments of the adventure are spent in the car. I love the way the game opens, and you’re forced to take on three taxi missions, which show just how boring the life of a taxi driver can be. Each fair gets worse until you want for nothing more than another gunfight to break out like the opening. Still, the flow of this game will have you driving during every mission while you listen to these guys talk about random things.

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It’s when you actually get in a gunfight that you’ll wish you were back in the car looking at the city. The AI, although aggressive, can be extremely haphazard and often insanely dumb. If they don’t appear from behind you, then they are running into walls, shooting in the wrong direction, or just standing in front of you waiting to be shot. There’s limited stealth mechanics here that rarely work, but I found these shoot outs to be more comical than fun.

Also, there are some strange controls where I would randomly stop running up stairs or get caught on invisible barriers during chase scenes. It was extremely disorienting, but the controls became unresponsive during these moments, and I didn’t understand why. The cops also need a lot of help because seconds after breaking through a roadblock, I would lose them. Also, there are these scripted moments where you can avoid a tailing pursuer, but I found if you can just get around it without triggering the scene, you’ll lose everyone a lot easier.

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The mission structure and story pacing are very much a product of its time. The game doesn’t really trust you to do things on your own, so you’re always being led somewhere. This only hurts the wonderful remade city because you don’t really get the chance to explore it during the main campaign or have any real impact on it.

On the other hand, the game is impactful in several ways. It tries to sell you these characters and make you feel attached to them, but only a few moments really stick. Luckily, the improved character models make this easier, but I wish the developer took some liberties here with additional story scenes.

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Mafia: Definitive Edition is genuinely one of the best remakes of this generation. It gets so much right in terms of staying true to the source material and preserving what makes it so awesome. Sadly, that only ends up hurting it due to a dated mission structure and poor AI. Still, it was fantastic to be able to play such an updated version of the classic.

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