They don’t make games like Mafia II any more.
On the surface, Mafia II: Definitive Edition, a remaster of the 2011 crime epic, looks like your typical open world game. Play it, however, and you might be disappointed to find that outside of the game’s story missions, there’s little else to do. You can rob stores to get a quick influx of cash, or steal cars and either take them to a crusher or export them, but the focus here is on the story.
It’s not such a bad thing when a game’s narrative is as compelling as Mafia II‘s. Assuming the role of Vito Scaletta, Mafia II charts his life from being a petty criminal to made man. The journey getting there is eventful, however, and along the way he discovers that it’s not perhaps all it’s cracked up to be. Vito just wants the taste of the good life, but like everything, it comes at a cost
“The story is the focus here, and it still grips you like a vice”
Vito’s story spans 15 chapters, with each chapter generally covering the events of one day of his life. With nearly ten years passing between the first and the last chapter, what’s really cool is how the world changes throughout the game. You’ll find different cars lining the streets, civilians will be wearing the latest fashions, and radio stations will be playing the best music of the period. It does a great job of getting you more immersed in the game’s world, and effectively gives the sense that time has moved on.
In some missions you’re not much more than a lackey running errands, but as Vito and his friend Joe get more involved with the Mafia, the jobs you’re given get more risky. Eventually you’re engaged in elaborate plots, which more than often lead to massive shootouts. There’s plenty of opportunity to employ stealth, too. Overall, Mafia II delivers a decent mix of gameplay.
“Nearly 10 years on from its original release, Mafia II‘s mechanics now feel somewhat dated”
It’s just a shame that nearly 10 years on from its original release, Mafia II‘s mechanics now feel somewhat dated. Stealth, shooting, melee combat, driving; they’re all serviceable, but they just don’t feel as intuitive as they once did. The save system is also archaic, forcing you to rely to checkpoints located at various points in each chapter. If Mafia II had a lesser story, there’s a good chance that many would drop it mid-game, as the mechanics themselves simply aren’t good enough to hold your interest. This remaster only goes skin deep. And even then the improvements are modest at best.
Upon its original release, Mafia II was a gorgeous-looking game, especially on PC. Now, with some updated textures here and there and improved lighting, it simply looks okay. Compared to the recent Saints Row: The Third Remastered, which feels like a gargantuan effort to bring the game visually up to date, Mafia II: Definitive Edition is a let-down. It’s not en eyesore, but much more could have been done to make its world and characters beautiful again.
“This remaster only goes skin deep”
The worst thing about Mafia II: Definitive Edition, however, is its console performance. While it runs just fine on PC, and is a free upgrade for those who own the original version of the game, on console its is blighted by framerate drops. On PS4 Pro, performance is utterly terrible in certain areas, and though the Xbox One X version fares quite a bit better, it’s still disappointing. And then there are the bugs to deal with.
At one point in the game, I had to drive to a remote area on the map, and on the way there the world began to develop a pink haze. As I drove through it, the framerate slowed down to single digits, but then recovered as I emerged from the other side. Having to make the same journey to get back to my house for the night, however, when I reentered the purple haze it went on forever, forcing me to restart my Xbox One X to continue the game.
That’s perhaps the most problematic issue I’ve encountered, but there have been numerous others. Sometimes dialogue only comes out of the left speaker on Xbox One, for example, while PS4 owners have to listen to awfully distorted voices. It just gives the impression that Mafia II: Definitive Edition hasn’t been playtested very well on console.
At its core, Mafia II: Definitive Edition is a good game. Its mechanics don’t impress like they used to, but they get the job done. And besides, the story is the focus here, and it still grips you like a vice. It’s just a shame that it’s plagued by technical issues on console, particularly on PS4. If you’re someone who can work though them, Mafia II: Definitive Edition is worth picking up due to its budget price – it even includes all DLC previously released for the game. Those who prefer more polished experiences, however, are better off waiting to see if it gets patched.