Mafia Definitive Edition Review
Mafia Definitive Edition is a current-generation remake of a 2002 video game of the same name. The remake was developed by Hanger 13 Studios and published by 2K studios. This review will not be comparing the remake to the original, mainly because I was four years old when the first game came out, and my parents weren’t cool enough to let a preschooler play an M rated game about the mob. Now that eighteen years have passed and I’m a big boy now (at least I’m told) it’s time to dive into Mafia and try to find the answer to, “Is this a game worthy of a big-budget remake?”
One of the mechanics of Mafia Definitive Edition that players will quickly notice is the graphics. For coming out during the last year for the current hardware of systems, this game really seems to be pushing the PS4 to its limit. Everything in this game is a gorgeous recreation of pre-WWII America. The game takes place in Lost Heaven (yes that’s really the name) which is built to resemble Chicago, with its large city with more rural outskirts. But this fictional city really comes to life thanks to the game's wonderful lighting effects. The large skyscrapers darken the city with their shadows and reflections of the city can be seen in the paint jobs of cars driving through it. The character models look great as well, however, the updated facial animations for the characters can seem a bit stiff at times, but nothing too noticeable/upsetting.
Mafia Definitive Edition is a third-person open-world game, with a big emphasis on driving and some light cover-based shooting and hand-to-hand combat. Driving is the majority of what is done in the game and truly seems to be the best performing mechanic in the game. Driving feels great when it needs to, and terrible when it makes sense. As each car handles a bit different from the last, especially when comparing different styles of vehicles. Some cars are smaller/compacted and can reach a high speed yet also have a high chance of spinning out when making sharp turns. Then heavier vehicles drive and accelerate way slower but handle a bit better and have little to no chance of spinning out. This is a good balance because the low-end rusted cabs don’t ride nearly as nice as some of the expensive, shiny luxury cars. It’s a nice little detail of immersion, that adds to the performance of the game.
Now to look at the combat, shooting in this game is best described as mediocrely standard. It’s the classic third-person, “put the reticle over the bad guy and shoot” style of shooter. The aiming and gunplay are not super stiff or clunky, but it doesn’t flow smoothly like in other third-person games like Max Payne 3 or Gears of War. To be blunt, the cover system in this game is a bit of a joke. Tommy (the main character) sticks to cover with the click of a button and requires the same thing to leave it, which isn’t a huge deal, but on higher difficulties, the cover system is a waste of time as NPCs can just run around the cover and shoot Tommy before he has the chance to leave cover. It seemed like a better tactic to keep Tommy behind a wall, just standing and strafing back and forth to pop out and shoot enemies. Hand-to-hand works decently, but its mediocrity isn’t really noticed since hand-to-hand is not used very often in the late game. Tommy can either punch or carry a weapon like a bat or a knife to melee enemies with. In the beginning, there are several fistfights, but as soon as firearms get introduced, this mechanic fades away.
The game’s narrative is arguably the main selling point of the game and seems to be where most of the effort was put in at. The issue is that mobster narratives are something that’s been done probably a quarter of a billion times. If you took the Godfather trilogy, Goodfellas and The Sopranos, ground them up into a big pepperoni pizza, then some sweaty Italian guy said, “Bada bing, bada boom” over top of it, you’d have Mafia’s storyline. The mob narrative cliches are all here and in full effect. The main mob family is the kindest mob family, the newcomer is the most trusted guy, everyone kisses each other on the cheek and there’s a guy named “Paulie” stuff that’s all been done before. Yet even though, Mafia is full of these cliches, its story is still very compelling, as the game makes you care for each character, and truly want to hang on to see what happens next. Without going into spoilers, even though Mafia’s story may not be revolutionary or bring in a ton of new ideas, it’s still an enjoyable narrative from start to finish.
Mafia: Definitive Edition shines brightest in its personality. Since there are very few open-world games that take place in the 1930s the presentation on the city is enough personality to carry the game already, with its vintage cars and old-styled building and streets. However, all the characters in the game are where the real personality comes from. The characters alongside Tommy like Paulie and Sam, always have a fun dialogue with one another due to their drastically different personalities. Sam is a more reserved mafioso, while Paulie is more loud, violent and would for sure be played by Joe Pesci in a Mafia movie. The developers also put a lot of love and personality into creating their side characters as well, most notably, Ralph and Salvatore. Ralph is a humble mechanic that works for the Salieri family who has a pretty bad stutter and gets picked on by a lot of the mobsters. He and Tommy form a fond friendship with one another and the scenes between them always add a nice wholesome moment in this dark game. Then Salvatore is an Italian safecracker that doesn’t speak a lick of English and adds some hilarious scenes as he and Tommy try to communicate. The game even goes to add personality in small details, such as getting in trouble with the cops if you’re driving over the speed limit, small turn signs appear to show you were to take turns to get to your objective and cars even have a gas tank that players will have to periodically fill up. But don’t worry, the gas station visits are few and far between throughout the main campaign.
The main menu presents that there are two separate modes to the game, the main storyline and a free roam mode. Now free roam is essentially a waste of time until you finish the main story. Because the story mode does in fact take place in an open world, but once the mission is over, the player gets taken out of the world and brought into the next story sequence. So, the player can drive wherever they would please while playing the story, but they are required to actually do the mission, so there isn’t much leeway. This is exactly why the free roam mode was included because a player can log into this mode and are free to explore Lost Heaven to their heart's extent. The only downside to this mode is the open world is all there really is to it, it’s a big open sandbox with not a whole lot of toys to play with. That is until you beat the main game, then more content gets introduced into free roam.
The new content that is introduced are phone booths and postcard missions. Phone booths act as little side quests, which can be a variety of different tasks. Some require you to drive a tractor across town without taking damage and others have you going into a bank and killing a clown with a golden shotgun. Needless to say, there’s quite a bit of variety with these missions. There are roughly a dozen or so of these and they offer a fun little activity to keep you playing, but also give the player rewards such as golden guns, new cars, and different outfits. The postcards offer a different task, as they’re simply a picture of somewhere in the city, with a small written note attached to it. These cards offer a nice little challenge to the player as there is no real indication on the map where these locations are, so it is up to the player to use their detective skills to pinpoint the location. These postcards are all worth doing too, I won’t spoil what you get for completing them, just know they’re totally worth doing.
Regarding the playability of the game, it’s important to address what is probably the most hated mission in the game, the race car mission. This happens pretty early on in the game as the player needs to win a formula one race and it arguably proves to be the most difficult thing in the game. As stated earlier, the driving mechanics in the game work pretty good but for some odd reason in this mission, the unique formula-racing car speeds up insanely fast, can’t navigate the tight turns, and often spins out pretty easily. So, driving this car is already a difficult part of the mission, but the player has to come in first place as well, after three full laps. This is made even more difficult when sequenced events start happening during the race like when one car in front of you completely wipes out and blocks a portion of the road, or when other cars attempt to ram you as you pass them. I’d hate to spoil a mission in the game, but it seems best to bring this mission up as there are numerous online forums talking about how the difficulty of this mission led to some players walking away from Mafia, both remake and original.
Mafia: Definitive Edition is a really well-made game, that would be easily recommended to anyone who’s a fan of open-world games like Grand Theft Auto. The story is a bit cheesy at times but is very enjoyable. Driving around the city is really fun and the combat (although pretty bland) does its job. Its beautiful graphics and 1930’s location makes enjoying Mafia’s presentation very easy. Really the biggest issue arises with bland combat and the insane spike in difficulty in the racing mission. Mafia: Definitive Edition probably isn’t the next big mobster form of media, but it’s a very enjoyable game worthy of your time and money.
And that’s the Borderline Bottomline for Mafia: Definitive Edition
Review Written by Dan Lasure