Back in 2002, Rockstar and Grand Theft Auto Vice City were the kings of the crime sandbox world. What then spawned a magnitude of what would be dubbed as “GTA Clones”. One of the more successful ones was from Illusion Softworks called Mafia. Which followed a wouldbe taxi driver who gets drawn into the life of the 1920s Gangster, and unlike its more successful rivals it had an emphasis on realism. With damage physics and a police who would come after you for menial stuff like speeding, running red lights. The system would even escalate depending on the crime. It was relatively well-received and spawned two sequels Mafia 2 (We’ve already covered one here). Mafia 3 however, despite it’s amazing setting and stellar soundtrack, the rest was a bit vanilla.
So as its nearly 18 years since its beginnings and remake are all the rave. Hanger 13 has decided to give the first game the remake treatment. So shall we?
Also, there will be spoilers, so you are warned.
So as briefly mentioned, we play as Thomas Angelo, local taxi driver In Lost Haven during the height of the Great Depression. until he gets strong-armed by two members of the Salieri family to help them escape an ambush by a rival family. He does however get compensation for his services, but then turns down their employment offer. That is until the rival gang retaliates against him causing him to lose his job. He then turns to the Salieri family for help. In which he gets his retribution and begins his life of crime in the Salieri Family. Rising to be one of the most notorious gangsters before getting a case of the wobblies before his downfall. Pretty much how the original goes, even the missions are pretty similar. So you can re-hate that racing car mission now in glorious 4k.
But while the story plays out the same, there are a few notable tweaks. Given after a quick watch of the original game on YouTube, (I never played the original, I know right?). Which I think elevates the remake over the original. One example that needs mentioning is right at the beginning. Paulie introduces Thomas to Ralph, who is the resident mechanic to the family who has a speech impediment. Which other members of the family do take the piss out of. Notably Paulie. Now in the original, it’s swept under the carpet as banter. But in the remake, Ralph pushes back, even going as far to mutter to himself without stuttering. Ralph threatens to cut his brake line. Another instance is Paulie towards the end in the remake was getting tired of the life of crime and was looking for that one last big score before bowing out. In the original however it was done on pure greed.
Don Salieri himself in the original was more of a General. Telling people what to do, but never get his hands dirty. In the remake, he’s not afraid to. Even goes as far as kicking someone to death because he ratted on him. Now, I can go on forever about this, but my point is as the story is enjoyable, definitely the best in the series. I absolutely love the small tweaks they’ve done to the characters. Makes them more likeable, interesting. Adding new dynamics compared to the original.
Gameplay-wise, a lot of the game does have the framework of Mafia 3. So the cover-based combat is pretty much identical. The system wasn’t the most exciting system I played with, but it has been modernized to 2020 standards. It’s competent enough to enough in the sense it’s fun but I’ve played better 3rd person shooters. Not exactly smooth with its movement and controls on foot, a bit drunk on hooch I would say. The same can be said about the AI. They’ll throw grenades and molotovs at you to try and flush you out, but if you’re quick enough you can almost hear them shout “throw a Molotov at him”, upon which you can shoot the poor sap who thought it was a good idea. If they were more aggressive and less telegraphing their moves and just threw one at me and one of my guys reacted to it or I have to be more observant? it would make it more exciting and unpredictable.
And the police depending if you’ve got it set to normal where it behaves like a police in a normal Sandbox. They’ll go after you if they catch you stealing cars or killing civilians. And in realistic mode, they will pick you up for running red lights and speeding. But they are too easy to escape from. It does get a bit more challenging when you’ve really pissed them off and they bring tommy guns and faster cars to take you down. But they have the crime-fighting abilities of Paul Blart. The driving itself follows on from the footsteps of Mafia 2 and 3 with a more casual mode or a more realistic mode for driving. And given I like my driving to be relatively realistic, I played in realistic mode and it’s really enjoyable. Given the period of cars are prone to understeer and weight transfer at the speed that would topple yachts.
But once you’ve mastered on-throttle oversteer in a controlled manner. It becomes easier and fun, and with the nice assortment of cars to drive from the 1920s and 30s, from family cars to race cars and all sorts in between. Even Bikes of the same period as well, but not as nice to drive, a bit too floaty for my taste. Also, you can shoot them as well. Also unlike in the original Mafia where you had to earn the ability to drive the cars almost. You’re given the run of the mill and can drive any car both parked and hijacked. You still get taught to pick the locks. But it isn’t that needlessly complicated.
As mentioned earlier it is a mission-based story mode, so you wouldn’t be exploring Lost Heaven at your leisure. It’s a better structure for the story than Mafia 3 format. But other than the missions there isn’t much else to do. There is a Free Roam mode where you can explore the city and there are some secret missions to do if you can find them. However, you’re going to be making your own fun if you want your money’s worth and some. You can also test drive the cars In the game and complete challenges in them as well, but it’s just not offering much more than the story mode isn’t it?
So gameplay is a marked improvement, while not exactly captivating by modern standards. The police are a bit slow and the combat AI is very dim-witted. Not exactly offering much more than a story mode and free roam with limited things to do. On the other hand, driving is very good fun, combat is fun enough and an assortment of options to change to cater to your experiences. Enjoyable enough.
Now the Graphics, it’s a massive improvement over the original to get that matter out of the way. But given the fact it’s also on the same engine as Mafia 3, which at the time the environments look so lifeless and uninteresting, and in close up shots of characters in cutscenes in particular. It’s really poor quality in most cases. With this remake however they have certainly learned their lessons and some, bringing to life what would have been Chicago back in those days. It looks full of life and colour wherever you go in the city. Numerous advertisement boards in and around the city. Trams going about the city. It’s just nice, with the added bonus of the character models being much more improved over Mafia 3.
The soundtrack is fantastic as well. Full of songs direct from the 30s, and the stuff they’ve done with a full orchestra which was done during a pandemic where they had to record all the different elements separately and then mix them afterwards is simply incredible. Everything sounds like it should be, really helps immerse you in the city itself. On a technical side of things, nothing really breaks gameplay but ragdolls that get flung about like play toys and weird spawns with cars where they are on their side or roof or a foot or two off the ground. Amusing on a rare occasion, not so much when it happens on a nearly regular basis.
Mafia: Definitive Edition
Mafia: Definitive Edition is an incredible game. The story is an enjoyable blast and improved upon, particularly with the characters, who are way more likeable in the remake. Gameplay is enjoyable enough with the driving and the assortment of options, and a variety of missions to play through. The soundtrack is great and the job of bringing Lost heaven up to modern standards has been exceptional. But does have some downsides with the combat AI a bit dim and the police being too “Inspector Clouseau'' for my tastes. Other than the story, not a lot else is on offer and it needs the words “Open World” in quote marks. You can go anywhere but can't do a lot in it. but it's easily the best Mafia game that has come out of Hanger 13. And maybe the best Mafia game of the series.
- An improved story
- Fantastic soundtrack
- Fun gameplay with enjoyable driving mechanics
- AI programming is a let down
- Not exactly filled to the brim
- Not exactly as open world as you would expect
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- Gameplay 0
- Narrative 0
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