Mafia: Definitive Edition for PC Review

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The original Mafia released in 2002 and focused on organized crime in the 1930’s. It’s attention to detail, realism, and 1930’s setting made it standout in its day and it did spawn sequels. In 2020, a remake was released and it was included in the Mafia: Trilogy collection along with updated versions of Mafia II and III. Developed by Hangar 13 and published by 2K Games, Mafia: Definitive Edition was released for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One in September, 2020. This is a remake from the ground up meaning everything was redesigned and the gameplay was brought to a more modern standard.

The story is set in the 1930’s in the fictional city of Lost Heaven and centers on Tommy Angelo, a cab driver-turned-gangster, working for the Salieri crime family. The plot is basically unchanged from the original but it’s backed up by a new script. Some events are slightly altered but the script never deviates too far from the original plot points and I think the writing and character development is much better. Paulie, Sam, and Sarah are much more fleshed out and Sarah in particular is more than just a couple of cut scenes and a fuck. In fact, the brief sex scene was cut out. I think they could have went a little further with her development but at least she was given an actual personality this time. The Lucas Bertone side objectives were cut and his character was basically reduced to nothing which works out in the end because he didn’t really add much to the original plot anyway. In general, the story here feels more cohesive and focused. Along with the new script is new voice actors and I thought the performances across the board were excellent.

The Definitive Edition is a pretty faithful remake. Faithful in terms of plot, style, and atmosphere. It just looks a lot better and is much flashier. In terms of content, I would say it’s pretty barebones for a modern open world game and in terms of gameplay, it’s an improvement over the original. Just like the original, the story and open-ended nature are split into two game modes. The story takes you from mission to mission and the Free Ride mode lets you explore the city at your own leisure. In Free Ride, you can drive people around in a cab, race, find collectibles, change your clothes, and basically do whatever you want. The Free Ride Extreme mode was not carried over but Free Ride does come with several missions or jobs to complete.

Mafia: Definitive Edition comes with all the bells and whistles of a typical modern third-person shooter. You can walk, run, sprint, sneak, perform melee attacks, snap to cover, vault over obstacles, and silently take down enemies. The melee combat is better than that of the original but pretty average by today’s standards. You can counter enemy attacks by pressing the appropriate button when prompted and just mash the attack button to win fights. One of the best things about the Definitive Edition is that it’s faster-paced and all the realism stuff found in the original is optional. There’s four difficulty modes and if you set it to Classic, enemies are more dangerous, the police respond to more crimes, and there’s fewer UI indicators. On the other difficulties, you can configure options like the driving mode, type of police response, and enable or disable various aspects of the interface. Best of all, you can turn on the “Skip Drive” setting which will skip non-essential drives. But even with it turned off, most of the what I felt was unnecessary driving in the original was cut or changed to cut scenes in the Definitive Edition.

To put it bluntly, the Definitive Edition cuts out a lot of padding. And much of that padding in the original was simply driving from one location to another. As mentioned earlier, the plot is basically unchanged and it only took me about ten hours to get through. It took me around eighteen hours to get through the original game’s story. I left the driving mode and police response settings on regular. This meant I could get to places much quicker and the police would only respond to crimes that harm people. It was quite delightful being able to speed down roads and drive through red lights without attracting police attention. Keep in mind you can always change these settings to “Simulation” so the gameplay is more like it was in the original game.

I did play on the Medium difficulty and found that the gameplay provided a decent challenge. Compared to the original game, movement and shooting feel more fluid and if the driving mode is set to “Regular”, the driving feels more what I’ll call arcade-style. Overall, this remake is much more accessible. However, by today’s standards, it’s a pretty run-of-the-mill third-person shooter. That’s not to say the combat is dreadfully boring but it’s definitely not as intense or exciting as some other games in the genre. Cover plays a crucial role in combat. If you don’t take cover, you’ll just become a bullet magnet. Many of the weapons that were in the original are present and the enemy AI is decent. I did notice that enemies felt less spongey than those of the original and headshots with any weapon always seemed to drop baddies. They’ll shoot at you, run around, take cover, and rush you. Plus, they’ll frequently try to flush you out of cover with molotovs and grenades.

As I was playing, I created a list of what I perceived to be all positive changes and/or additions. It ended up being pretty long by the time I completed the story so I’ll only rattle off some. Reloading is faster, the in-game map shows the countryside areas, ammo crates are placed in the environments, characters will interact more during driving sequences, missions feel more focused, and objectives are more clear. I could go on but the only other thing I feel is worth mentioning is the car chases. They are more exciting here and it’s easier to lose cops and tails thanks to the conveniently placed construction obstacles on the roads that only seem to appear when you’re being pursued. In fact, I think they make evading cops and baddies a little too easy, at least when playing on the Medium difficulty.

Along with all the other changes and additions, noticeable changes were made to missions and objectives. Missions are structured better, objectives are more obvious, and several locations were redesigned. In my opinion, the only downside to the updated missions is that they feel more linear. Since the Lucas Bertone side objectives were cut, there’s no optional objectives. The game funnels you where you need to go and some missions feel completely different. Also, along with cutting out the unnecessary driving, the developers also cut out some of the more mundane gameplay elements that were present in the original missions. For example, during the bank job mission, this remake cuts out the boring walk and train ride with Paulie. A lot of things like that were cut or conveyed through cut scenes which is good and is one of the reasons why the pacing here is so much better.

The city of Lost Heaven has seen a significant upgrade in visuals and still manages to capture the atmosphere of the 1930’s. It’s still laid out the same way although some buildings and interiors look different and it still retains the authentic 1930’s vehicles and now includes motorcycles. There’s more cars on the roads and pedestrians on sidewalks this time around but much like the original, there’s not a lot of reasons to explore. This remake adds in some collectibles that you can find scattered around the city but other than that, there’s not much to do. It’s a little too faithful in that sense.

Visually, Mafia: Definitive Edition is a gorgeous game. I did notice some some pop-in and the character animations during gameplay were sometimes a little stiff when the characters would interact with each other or things in the environments. Character models in general look great and their faces will show expressions. During firefights, dirt and debris will fly through the air as a result of bullet impacts on surfaces. When characters are shot, blood puffs fill the air and blood can be seen on their clothes, and when they die, pools of blood form under their bodies. The presentation is colorful and the city and environments really pop. From the lighting to the texture work, everything looks incredible. Wet roads reflect lights and you can see reflections of the world in water and puddles. There are radio stations in-game that play music from the time and as for the sound effects, overall, everything sounds fine but I do think some weapons could sound louder or more powerful. On the technical side, I think the game is a little broken. It crashed on me several times and only after bypassing the launcher by launching the game directly from the executable did the crashing stop. I also noticed the frame rate dip and stutter quite often when I would drive around the city.

I was impressed with Mafia: Definitive Edition right from start. When I fire up a game for the first time, I always go through the menu and options just to see if there’s anything I want to change and when I saw that I could turn off what I perceived as the more tedious realism features, my eyes widened. I was so excited to jump into the game and see how these changes would improve the pacing. In the end, I was quite pleased with the results. It’s impressive just how faithful this remake is to the original game. Even with the changes and new features, it has the same spirit and making all the realism stuff optional is one of the best decisions the developers made in my opinion. With that said, it’s very faithful which also means it lacks content for a modern open world game. It’s primarily a story-driven experience with some additional missions in the Free Ride mode and collectibles to find. I think not adding more content, specifically to Free Ride, was a big mistake. Lost Heaven is a well designed city with plenty of atmosphere but simply running around, taking in the sights, and shooting random people just doesn’t cut it. It’s not 2002 anymore.

You can replay through the story on different difficulties or with different settings but the world has very little to offer gameplay-wise. Nothing dynamic or interesting happens in Lost Heaven unless the plot calls for it, there’s no Mafia-related side content, and the missions that are on offer in Free Ride are neat but after playing them, I can’t say I’m compelled to revisit them. In the end, you’re left with a beautiful world that gives you very little to do outside of the plot. As opposed to many others in the genre that have their maps filled with blips and things to do, Mafia: Definitive Edition is the complete opposite. Instead of overwhelming you with content, it underwhelms you. I’m not saying the developers should have filled the city with uninteresting bullshit but this is an open world game after all, with a beautiful and atmospheric world, released in 2020. The story mode is fine as is but I expected a little more from the Free Ride mode. I would have loved to see some kind of gang/family war stuff, taking over territories, robberies, assassinations, and other things along those lines. Things that would make the player feel like a gangster in a 1930’s world.

I would recommend Mafia: Definitive Edition to fans of the original game and to anyone looking for a decent action game. That said, as of this review, you can acquire it for forty bucks but I would suggest waiting for a sale. As a remake, the Definitive Edition is great. As a modern open world action game, it’s subpar. If you’re looking for a good story set in an atmospheric world, definitely check this out but if you’re looking for something more, you might be disappointed.

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