The Mafia series has always been about going back in time to explore the world and its ways through the eyes of a budding mobster. The last one in the series was Mafia 3 and it brought the storyline closer to the 1970s. However, the original game from 2002 had a classic Godfather-inspired storyline that has its own cult following. Hence, this festive season, developer 2K Games has come up with a ground-up remake, called the Mafia Definitive Edition.
The Definitive Edition is a full-on remake of the 2002 original. By remake, I am not hinting at 2K Games just slapping high-resolution textures on the original. This is a completely new game that borrows the storyline and its era from the first installment. For fans, this is nostalgia served with some extra spice. The story is refined, the gameplay is improved, and the graphics are from the modern era.
Is it worth buying though, at Rs 2,199, especially given that this is essentially old wine in a new bottle? I slipped into the shoes of Tommy Angelo for the last few days to find out.
Disclaimer: I played Mafia Definitive Edition for review on an HP Omen 15 powered by an AMD Ryzen 7 4800H processor, 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD, and an Nvidia GTX 1650Ti graphics card.
How much of the old is new?
Practically, it looks as new as a new game from 2020. Alright, being cocky aside, Mafia Definitive Edition looks and feels like a brand new title despite carrying the original’s story. Developer 2K Games has lifted the story and re-written it to exclude all the plot holes and inconsistencies. It then married it to modern-day graphics and a new game engine (much improved when compared to the original). The result is a fantastically detailed remake with the modern cinematic take on a classic story.
You play as the Tommy Angelo in the city of Lost Heavens and make your way up the mafia ladder. You will encounter some beautifully staged missions that are intertwined with the story. The story itself is short and you don’t get to explore the city in-between GTA-style. However, after spending more time in Tommy’s shoes, I did not want to roam around aimlessly shooting people like a maniac.
Classic mafia plot is irresistible
Mafia Definitive Edition puts you back in the shoes of Tommy Angelo – the same old taxi driver from the original one. The story mode starts with Tommy meeting a cop to arrange for the safety of his family. In the process, he ends up narrating his story in the form of a flashback. 10 years prior to the conversation, Tom is making bucks as a taxi driver when lady luck shoves him into a gang-fight involving Don Salieri’s men.
Tom saves Paulie and Sam, Don’s hands, and eventually gets drawn into the world of the mafia. The story shows his rise from a simple wheelman for basic jobs to a deadly crime boss, ending up fighting the top brass of the crime world. You even see a small romantic quest that ends up marrying Tommy to Sarah and raise kids eventually. I won’t spoil the story but if you already played the 2002 original, you know what happens. The entire story in the remake does make you think of alternate endings at times throughout the missions, thanks to the brilliant acting.
There are two crucial elements to the storyline in Mafia Definitive Edition – cutscenes and acting. Before, and in between, every cutscene is crucial to understand the story. The acting is superb and coupled with the modern graphics, it delivers an experience closer to a Hollywood mafia movie. The voice acting is superb, bringing out emotions every time Tommy is making hard decisions. Coupled with the emotive and detailed faces, Mafia Definitive Edition pulls you more into the story as your progress.
Apart from the cutscenes, the story leaves its few elements within the missions. You will often find interactive items that add the pieces of the puzzle you are trying to solve. Some of these elements are crucial whereas the others are simply there to make it seem more realistic. I have not seen such a clever kind of storytelling in an open-world sandbox title in a while.
New-age graphics, magical audio enhance the 1930’s America
While the storyline itself is a great one, Mafia Definitive Edition is helped by the generous use of modern technologies involved in game development. The graphics is up there with the latest titles, although it isn’t leading the race. In fact, in the first few minutes, you will often be reminded of the graphics from Red Dead Redemption 2 and Grand Theft Auto 5, at times. None of these look bad and hence, that’s not an issue, in my opinion.
The world of New Heavens is based on a combination Chicago and San Francisco from the America of the 1930’s. Cable cars running down the streets accompanied by old vintage cars and men in hats – a common sight in New Heavens. There’s a greyish pale tint to the game always that helps you settle in the mood – a nice touch. The game uses lighting to its advantage too for the intense storytelling sessions. For example, in the mission where Tom has escort Sarah to her house, the street lighting in the dark alleys along with the bluish night sky prepare you for a set of romantic exchanges. In certain missions, you will eventually see 2K Games flaunting the new graphics engine with stunning visuals.
However, the best visual experience comes during rainy nights in the town. Heavy rains tend to create a foggy ambiance, with few people on the streets returning to homes in the dimly lit streets. Neon lights marking hotel billboards make for a grand feast to the eyes. If you are driving around, the period music from the single radio station adds into the mood. Headlights of cars looming from the distance did send chills down my spine at times – the only game that pulled me so nicely was Control (2019). Overall, Mafia Definitive Edition transported me from the realities of a pandemic-hit world in 2020 to the romantic lazy world of the 1930’s America.
Since I am on the subject of sound, I can say that the developers need a standing ovation for the impeccable job. Mafia Definitive Edition comes alive with detailed audio design. Whether it is the thump from Tommy’s shoes while he’s walking, or the monstrous roar of a V12 luxury coupe tearing down the streets, or cinematic gunfights, everything that touches you, or you interact with, makes ungodly realistic sounds.
Adding a tasteful period background score to the missions makes for a superbly interactive experience. The single radio channel that crackles to life while driving joins in with some of the classic items – all of them reminiscent of the Godfather movies we have come to love.
Gameplay mechanics make a friendlier 1930s
The original Mafia from 2002 was notorious for its appalling vehicle and weapon handling. Mafia Definitive Edition improves in that department by a huge margin. Cars are easier to drive, although they behave like huge boats waiting to bid goodbye to the grip. The cheaper-looking cars take forever to gather speeds while the motorcycle truly behaves like a death trap. Damage is realistic as cars do lose body panel after collisions (your player will lose life too). There’s GPS to make navigation easier, although you will see marking as old road signs on the streets instead of floating arrows – bravo 2K Games.
Of course, you can turn down the difficulty from simulation to regular and make your life easier around New Heavens. Gunfights are quite tough in the Classic difficulty and it takes a lot of skill to pass a level. There’s a very limited selection of guns at your disposal and, just like the olden pre-WW2 days, it took some time to reload the magazines. Aiming is a challenge and I found an easy learning curve to get accustomed to. Enemies in diverse surroundings (dockyards and warehouses) will often flash lights to give you a sense of their positions.
You can alter the difficulty level for law enforcement but I had the most fun in the simulation settings. Cops will be after you for speeding and even hitting other cars at moderate speeds. Since helicopters were not around in the 30s, cops have a hard time to catch you. On foot, they resort to simple gunfights that may turn tough at level five. While driving, the cops try their best to ram into you or hold with roadblocks. You can always shoot them to disable their cars or drive smartly to outrun them.
All the excitement of an open-world game can be had in the free roam mode. You can go around as Tommy and act like a complete lunatic, i.e. killing people and outrunning cops, GTA-style. You can change outfits too at Salieri’s bar. There’s a Carcylopedia mode that lets you test drive unlocked cars at the race track (sounds fun for killing time). You can backup your progress via logging into a 2K account as well.
Mafia Definitive Edition verdict: Should you buy it?
Mafia Definitive Edition is a true masterpiece in the RPG genre and as a remake, it does an impressive job of re-telling the cult story with new-age game mechanics. It looks beautiful with its highly detailed world that immerses you in the 1930s without shedding sweat. The acting is superb and the new emotive faces do add to the brilliant storyline. Whether you re escaping mobsters and cops, or driving around a hot rod racecar in a vintage racetrack, the thrills of playing as Mafia is second to none. If you love exploring the cultures of the pre-WW2 ear, Lost Heavens is a great place to do so.
Overall, Mafia Definitive Edition is an absolute recommendation for lovers of the mafia-based movies and literature. If you love a solidly constructed narrative coupled with interesting gameplay elements, you should definitely try Mafia Definitive Edition.