2K Games and Hanger 13 invite us to return to the city of Lost Heaven and sample Mafia: Definitive Edition.
Originally released back in 2002, to critical acclaim, Mafia spawned two sequels, 2010’s Mafia 2 and 2016’s Mafia 3. Both Mafia 2 and Mafia 3 have recently been re-released, with Mafia 2: Definitive Edition getting updated textures for PC and console and Mafia 3: Definitive Edition bundling up all the game’s DLC. Mafia: Definitive Edition is a complete re-imagining of the classic gangster game.
Mafia: Definitive Edition completes this re-issued Mafia: Trilogy, available as a three-game pack or separately.
The game follows Tommy Angelo, a former taxi driver that unwittingly ends up working for the Salieri mafia family in the 1930s. With the repeal of prohibition, the mob needs to diversify and ends up on a path to all-out war with the rival Morello family. The story is well told, if not particularly original and occasionally a bit on the nose. It does have all the trappings of a gangster movie with some great set pieces, dialogue and characters.
Unlike the 2010 sequel (that I’ve returned to quite a few times on PC up until quite recently), the 2002 Mafia game has not aged well. This first game has also not been available on console since the PS3/Xbox 360. With Mafia 3 being absolutely amazing and introducing the series to a whole new generation of fans, many have missed out on the game that started in all.
Unlike the other games in the reissued trilogy, Mafia: Definitive Edition is a complete reimagining of the original, with new graphics, animations and cut-scenes. Whilst it retains the story and the characters, to all intents and purposes, it is a brand-new game modern game.
For me, it is possibly the surprise hit of the year.
It’s a while since I played the original game. I don’t really remember the story. I remember being blown away by the city (open-world games of this scale were not common in 2002) and enjoying the free drive mode (which is in the remake). The driving was average, the cops were annoying and the combat good fun.
Lost Heaven looks astounding in this remake. Absolutely astounding. Nowhere can I find anything that says that the game uses ray-traced reflections, but the way the neon signs reflect in puddles at night suggests some use of the dark arts. The cars, as well, are meticulously rendered. The modern lighting not only brings the city to life, but also does a pretty good job of adding a cinematic look to proceedings.
A lot of work has been done to make the cars fun to drive, and this has paid off in dividends. Even ropey old 1930s jalopies can be slid around the city streets, dodging turning cars and swerving around police blockades. Unlike a lot of games, the cops of Lost Heaven are quite proactive and don’t take kindly to your speeding past them, breaking the speed limit. This is a bit of a problem if you need to get somewhere fast as you’ll end up with LHPD in hot pursuit.
It would seem that more time was spent on rebuilding the city and tuning the driving rather than refining the “on-foot” animations and character models. The character models, whilst better than the original, and better than in the Mafia 2 re-jig, are still a bit behind the times, even compared to the four-year-old Mafia 3. Now, this is in no way bad; in fact, it’s all better than most games out there. It’s just in a game that otherwise is polished up 110%, I felt this aspect was a little lacking. But I am picking hairs. This is, after all a remake of a game almost 20 years old that, in order to be authentic, has to reflect design decisions made back in the day. It’s also not a full-price title, making the whole package much more than we deserve.
The gameplay itself has been updated to feel a lot more like Mafia 3. So much so, that it makes Mafia 2 look like the award middle child. As I’ve mentioned, the driving is smooth and refined, similarly, the combat cover mechanics work a treat. Don’t, however, expect the enemy AI to be too smart.
At the end of the day, Mafia: Definitive Edition is a careful restoration of a classic video game. It has been masterfully reworked whilst retaining the essence of the original, even if starting afresh would have made for a more rounded result. I believe that the developers achieved exactly what they set out to do in creating the definitive version of the first part of the trilogy.
Mafia: Definitive Edition comes highly recommend, but, if you’ve not played the others, I strongly recommend that you go out and get all three games in the Mafia: Trilogy bundle.
Mafia: Definitive Edition is available now, separately or as part of the Mafia: Trilogy bundle for PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4. A copy of the game was supplied by the publisher for review.