Let’s start with a disclaimer – I have never played the original Mafia game that released in 2002. In fact, I have not played any game in the Mafia Trilogy aside from Mafia: Definitive Edition. It’s not that there was something I had against the franchise; it’s just something I never really got my hands on. Playing Mafia: Definitive Edition has in a way shown me what I’ve been missing all these years. I’m also really glad that this was my first Mafia experience, because now I’m going be on the lookout for what the franchise has to offer next – after playing other games in the trilogy, of course.
The point I’m making here is that whether you’re a fan of the series or, like me, new to the franchise – Mafia: Definitive Edition is an excellent gateway into the world of organised crime in the city of Chicago Lost Heaven. Here’s why.
The plot itself is clichéd – the story of a nobody stumbling upon the world of organised crime and making it big through hard work and honesty. But Mafia tells it through its amazing gameplay moments tied to tight narration. You play the role of Tommy Angelo, a humble cab driver who makes his way up the Salieri crime family thanks to his excellent driving skills and his ability to keep a straight head in tough situations. A lot of the game’s missions are focused around driving, complete with chases, races, and escapes, when you’re not just moving from one point to another.
Driving feels great thanks to the highly assisted Regular option in the driving menu. You can opt for the Simulation option if you’re a car enthusiast or a masochist and take on the massive challenge of moving the 1930s’ terribly handling cars through the cities turns. With the Regular option selected, I found the car controls tight and responsive, allowing me to focus more on the task at hand rather than keeping the car on the road.
Though you’re technically in an open world – with the entire city of Lost Heaven and beyond available for you to navigate – the mission-based structure of the game keeps you moving in a linear direction. Unlike GTA or just about any other popular open-world game – every mission has a start and an end, with cut offs in between. So, if you’re the type who likes to go messing around with the game world in between missions, this is not for you.
But that’s not really a bad thing. The missions themselves are tightly paced with excellent cutscenes and voice acting to give you the direction you need. The voice acting is notably different and (in my opinion), way better than the original 2002 release. There are even several quality-of-life improvements that make the game a much better play this time. For example, there are road signs that appear at every turn and junction that guide you to your location, so you’re not constantly glancing at the mini map.
Action in Mafia: Definitive Edition is mainly divided into gunplay, stealth takedowns, chases (on foot), and hand-to-hand combat. All four work well, except for melee combat, which does feel a little off when you’re in a proper fistfight. Gun play is good overall, but enemies can feel like bullet sponges at times, especially when they get right up after Tommy Gun rounds to the chest. Levels are usually sprinkled with well placed explosives to give you that cinematic moment when you’re overwhelmed with enemy numbers. Overall, the action and the driving have a great mix of challenge and responsiveness, and make you feel great about your skills as a gangster.
I played Mafia: Definitive Edition on the PS4 Pro, and frankly I wasn’t expecting it to look as good as it did, considering some of the complaints I’ve heard about the game’s performance on PC. The game is bright and beautiful. The cars have shiny finishes, the lighting and hues come off clearly, whether it’s day or night, and the city feels alive with a good amount of pedestrian and vehicular traffic. There are even puddles and wet surfaces that make excellent use of reflections, almost mimicking the results you would expect from real ray tracing. All this with rarely any drop in performance. You do see certain foliage pop-in when you’re driving outside the city, but in the city itself, things look good.
My one little niggle is that this game could have had a few more additions, like a 1930s black and white cinematic filter to make it look more time appropriate – similar to what Ghost of Tsushima did with its excellent Kurosawa mode. It’s not necessary, but it would have been fun to play with in this particular game.
We’ve had some brilliant remakes in the last few years, with Resident Evil 2 and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2 especially setting the bar high. While Mafia: Definitive Edition is a lot safer and more straightforward in its approach as compared to the examples I mentioned, it still makes for a really good game. The linear approach to its open world with tight story-telling and doing away with any form of padding or bloating makes this a very enjoyable experience for the ten hours of play it offers. There are way too many games out there riddled with fetch quests or RPG-like growth and loot mechanics. Mafia: Definitive Edition feels like a much-needed refreshing break from that.