Mafia: Definitive Edition – Cannoli Time!

Mafia – Definitive Edition is a remake of the classic PC game Mafia, and it’s made by the developer Hanger 13, which also did Mafia 3. While I do remember Mafia, at least parts of it, and I do recognize its cultural impact on the PC gaming scene, I was not that blown away with it back then. I did think it was an okay game, but funnily enough, the open-world fatigue had already set in for me back then, even in its infancy. Or well, you can say, I did recognize the pointlessness of having a big world if nothing is going on in it. A thing, this game masterfully remade as well…

To be fair now, this remake is not bad. It got class visuals, good voice acting, and an excellent cinematic direction. But it’s a story already told, and as mentioned – it suffers from open world syndrome. The main difference to say from Ubisoft open world games is that it’s not filled with extra content, like having you collect 5000 different things, and it does not have bases to liberate or anything like that – it’s just there. In the background, artificially lengthening the gameplay since the only thing to do in it is to drive from mission to mission. If the missions themselves are not scripted to have a car chase or something like that, it’s just a massive backdrop with nice scenery, void of anything gameplay related, unless you go out of your way to create something.

Just two friends debating Tolkien lore

Like the original, you play Thomas Angelo. A hardworking taxi driver getting caught up with the mafia. As it is, the mafia pays a lot more than driving a taxi, so the allure of fast money gets a bit much and Tommy joins the crime family of Salieri. In the beginning, times are good, but as in almost all crime stories, crap eventually hits the fan, and instead of living the high life and making money the heat gets turned up with cops and betrayals waiting around every corner. It’s not bad. It’s a typical story of crime doesn’t pay type of thing, but as in almost all games where violence is involved, there is a clear disconnect between gameplay and the story the game tries to tell. At one point in the story, Tommy gets upset over killing an innocent, but for most people, you have already killed multiple cops, and probably crushed a few civilians under your car. It just doesn’t fit that well with the narrative presented for our dear protagonist.

Tommy going full monkey on a guy

The gameplay is very similar to Mafia 3, and it’s clear the design team has almost copied and pasted the moment-to-moment gameplay from that game. While on missions, you either stealth around, or pop-a-mole dudes in a third-person-based style cover shooter. What kind of gameplay you will be getting depends on where the game leaves you off when the cutscene ends, though. The most fun I had with the game was when the game let me do whatever I wanted, like starting with stealth but then ending the mission with a massive shootout – or just stealth through the whole darn thing, which some missions surprisingly allowed for. Between that, you have forced stealth segments and forced shootouts, and a “turret” section that really pissed me off.

See, there are a couple of different difficulty settings, going from easy all the way up to classic, which is the hardest. I picked that one since I want deadly damage from guns, and in this regard, the game didn’t disappoint. But then you have this turret segment where it just breaks the game thanks to the difficulty. You are sitting in the behind of a truck, and you have to defend it from an endless onslaught of police cars that all have cops shooting at you. The problem is not the damage to you, but the truck. Within 5 seconds of starting this segment, the truck has already lost 50% of its health. I tried many times, but man, this mission felt just impossible, and I had to lower the setting just to pass it.

Another segment that made me lower the difficulty was the infamous race. The original had a race that you had to win to progress the story. It was hard as nails, but from what I remember you could cheat in it like a true mafioso by taking a shortcut. No such luck in the remake, from what I can tell. You have to win fair, and holy hell, it’s the toughest race I have ever taken part in, in any video game. I think I tried for at least 2 hours before giving up and lowered the settings. It didn’t piss me off like the turret section. I was just baffled by how hard it was, so if you want a real racing challenge, go with classic!

If you flip, you die… basically

Otherwise, the game was pretty undemanding. The damage is high, so death comes quick, but headshots kill enemies with one bullet, which means if you know how to aim you won’t have too much trouble. One aspect of the gameplay I enjoyed was the crime system, even if a bit easy to manipulate. There is much easier to get reported for a crime than in other GTA-like games. Even speeding can get the cops after you, and I have to say, it was pretty enjoyable being forced to drive like a normal person instead of just bulldozing through the traffic to get to the next mission. Another cool aspect with the police is that they are not omnipresent. Someone must witness and report your crime, and then the cops will investigate the crime area. This is a cool system since it makes it possible for you to escape on foot. You just have to avoid getting spotted, and it’s an exciting feeling ducking in and out of dark alleyways avoiding the man. Unfortunately, though, even when you have murdered half the police force and got full stars after you, the cops just give up way too quickly. You don’t have to change clothes, or car, or anything, just hide somewhere for a few minutes, and everything is good. It’s a bit absurd, and maybe could be considered another disconnect going by the story.

Looks nice, feels nice!

Visually Mafia looks great, at least lighting, mood, atmosphere, and the general models of cars, houses, and so on. It all looks very authentic, but, sadly, the engine used is very aggressive in the culling of models. It makes random stuff very blurry for some reason, and the pop-up can be noticeable at times. The animations during cutscenes are great, however, during gameplay, well, I would say they are okay too, but the game is riddled with visual glitches when it comes to certain animation stuff, especially when it touches ragdoll effects. Bodies constantly ends up in goofy positions, which did take me out of the game a couple of times – mostly with me having a chuckle in a supposed tense situation. Music and sound are good too, it’s nothing too out there exceptional, it’s what is expected coming from AAA gaming. So I can’t complain about anything here. The radio station music seems to have a good selection too, fitting the time period.

While I did enjoy my few hours with the game (it’s not very long) it did leave me with a feeling of “why?”. Sure, the old game is dated visually, probably gameplay-wise too, but the story is old hat, and I would rather have something new to experience. It feels like many other remaster and remakes, like a waste of time, especially as mentioned at the beginning of this article – the city background, and for it to get used this little during actual gameplay. I’m not sure if I can recommend the game, at least not for full price. If you can find it cheap, it might be fun for a quick romp in the 1930s. But if you played the original as I did, there are no real surprises when it comes to the story, it got almost exactly the same beats.

During my time with the game, I couldn’t help to fantasize about this engine, but in some kind of WW2 town, or maybe even something set during the Cold War. Imagine having a whole hostile town, with you as an agent, getting jobs to infiltrate heavily guarded bases and other places with a mature story to boot. Talk about paranoia! What is funny here, is I remember thinking almost the same thing when I played the original as a kid, hoping the engine, vehicles, and weapons inside could be used for something grander like a WW2 epic. To be fair, we kinda got that with Hidden & Dangerous 2.

Thanks for reading.

/Thomas


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