You have to walk a fine line to create the perfect remake. And that’s something Hangar 13 has pretty much done with Mafia: Definitive Edition.
Released in 2002, Mafia was notable for a few things at the time, including its realism and its hard-hitting story. Cutting edge visuals were another thing the game was praised for, but nearly 20 years later, they’re not all that impressive any more. And so that’s what Mafia: Definitive Edition mainly addresses: remade from the ground up, this is a faithful recreation of the original game with visuals that are once again cutting edge.
Everything on display here is top notch. I’ve been playing Mafia: Definitive Edition on Xbox One X, and I’ve been wowed by the character models and the lighting and the… well, just about everything. This is truly one of the best-looking games currently available. It’s the city of Lost Heaven, where the game’s events take place, that impresses the most, though – it feels so rich and believable. It’s just a shame that there isn’t more to do in it, but I’ll get to that later.
You’ll be pleased to hear that it’s not only the visuals that have been touched up; various aspects of the gameplay have also been improved. For example, whether you’re shooting or driving – and you’ll be doing a lot of both in Mafia: Definitive Edition – you’ll find that they’re both brought bang up to date. A range of difficulty settings have been introduced, too. While the original game was truly challenging – if you so much as drove a little over the speed limit the police would be onto you – here, various parameters can be tweaked to allow players to fine-tune the experience to their tastes. The game’s still no walkover even on easy, however, and a “classic” difficulty setting will appease those who want more of an old-school challenge.
There are some less impressive aspects of Mafia: Definitive Edition‘s gameplay though. Movement can be clunky at times, and while the game’s major systems have been updated, it’s still a rather basic game overall. Some elements even feel a little archaic. Healing, for example, requires you to interact with first aid boxes hung up on walls, while melee combat is punctuated by cinematic scenes that take you out of the action. As if simply hammering the attack button after avoiding an enemy’s attack to put them down isn’t mundane enough, the drawn-out cinematic finishers often lead to awkward moments where other adversaries just stand there like lemons waiting for you to finish your brutal onslaught.
Still, you probably won’t mind about the odd gameplay misstep too much, because it’s the story at the heart of Mafia: Definitive Edition that’s the real draw. Charting the rise of Tommy Angelo from simple taxi driver to one of Lost Heaven’s most capable gangsters, it’s full of twists and turns and moments that will have you staring at the screen in disbelief. The story has been respectfully fleshed out in this remake, too, making you care more for its characters as you move from one mission to the next. For ten or so hours it will have you absolutely gripped, and once you’re done, you’re likely to want to jump straight into Mafia II if you haven’t already played it recently.
It’s just a shame that once Mafia: Definitive Edition‘s story is over, there’s not much else to do. You can replay the missions if you’d like, whether it’s to find collectibles or simply beat them on a harder difficulty level. There’s also a Free Ride mode, where you can explore Lost Heaven at your leisure. You can even change the time of day and slip into any of the game’s unlockable outfits. It is said that there are secrets to find in Free Ride, too, but you’ll have to work for them. Overall though, the city of Lost Heaven feels a little wasted considering how much care has gone into making it. If only it had some side missions or activities for you to enjoy.
Unfortunately, I’ve encountered some bugs playing Mafia: Definitive Edition as well. The audio cut out during one mission, and numerous times I was placed in conflict without a gun. Thankfully, simply reloading the last checkpoint was the solution to both of these issues. A couple of crashes were more troublesome, but the game’s checkpoint system meant that even those weren’t too problematic.
Even with its faults, Mafia: Definitive Edition is a fantastic remake of the original game. Its story is as engrossing as ever, tempting you to play just one more chapter before hitting that quit button. And while the gameplay isn’t perfect, it’s solid enough to keep you entertained. However, it’s a shame that more hasn’t been made of the game’s open world, as so much care has obviously been put into making it. Still, if you’re after a story-driven single-player game to sink a decent amount of time into, you can’t go wrong with Mafia: Definitive Edition, especially considering its somewhat budget price. It’s simply an offer you can’t refuse.