Mafia: Definitive Edition is quite possibly THE Mafia game ever created for consoles. The music, the smoke of Little Italy, the old-sound-y car; the game feels like you’re playing your favourite Mafia film: escorting bootlegged hooch, collecting protection money, taking your injured buddy to a mob doctor, etc. To top it off, every character is complex with their own motivations and flaws. None more so than our protagonist, Tommy Angelo, who finds himself falling deeper and deeper into the seedy underbelly of crime.
However, the story is somewhat short, and there is barely anything to do outside of the main story. Despite a beautiful city with intricate neighbourhoods, it’s a dead world where all you can do is drive and shoot. Sure, you can zip around the circuit in a timed ‘hit the checkpoints’ race, but aside from that, there’s little else to do but hunt for collectibles.
Having only played Mafia II and Mafia III, I found the story to be engaging and compelling. It stands out from most films and games about the Mafia, but some cutscenes do feel like rehashes of cliches. In fact, the game treads the line between ‘classic’ and ‘cliche’ so well that I’m not sure anyone knows where it falls.
When talking about the story, we need to mention what it gets right. In a video with ex-mob boss Michael Franzese, the depiction of mob protection, assassinations and general day-to-day life in Mafia: Definitive Edition is revealed to be very true-to-life. A story of power struggles, brotherhood and betrayal, it’s undeniable that the story is equal to the music and graphics. After all, the story from the original release in 2002 was engaging and immersive, why change it? But when you work by the adage ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, you’ve got to face the fact that some things will be broken.
The shooting and melee combat are heavily dated. If you weren’t a fan of combat in Mafia II or Mafia III, you won’t be too fond of this game. Every mission is a mix of ‘drive, melee/shoot these men, watch a cutscene’. In the game world of 2020 where we are getting releases like Watch Dogs: Legion, Cyberpunk 2077, Ghost of Tsushima and countless other games…it’s just not up to scratch.
Despite having beautiful backdrops to your shootouts, including a battle-torn restaurant, a high-class art gallery and mob-run brothel, you’ll find that’s all they are: pretty. Combat is, on the whole, unimaginative, unfulfilling and unmemorable.
Since Tommy Angelo is a driver, you can expect to spend most of your time behind the wheel. It’s a joy to see that driving is extremely enjoyable. Choosing the ‘simulation’ setting in the ‘Options’ menu gives the vehicles a lot of weight, and you feel like you’re really hurtling through the rainy roads and sunny streets.
Navigation is also revamped in this game. As well as a route on your mini-map, you’ll also find some handy road signs appearing before each turn. They blend seamlessly into the gameplay, still catching your eye but not breaking your immersion with the rest of the world.
1930s Lost Heaven
Lost Heaven, a depiction of Chicago during the Great Depression, is gorgeous. An old cathedral, a grand bank with a classic vault door and the serene countryside. It’s a joy to see such a world recreated, but for a game with a world as carefully crafted as Lost Heaven, 2K’s pseudo-Chicago, it baffles and confuses me why you can’t explore the city between missions. Why can’t you change your outfit like in Mafia II and III?
There’s something to be said about being able to just enjoy the scenery in a game. From chasing through the backstreets with billowing laundry to charming Italian restaurants, it’s all stunning. Breathtaking, even. It’s just a crying shame that they decided to not introduce new missions so we could explore this city they’ve taken so long to recreate.
One thing to commend Hangar 13 and 2K on is their genuine love for their game. You just don’t recreate a game like they do unless you absolutely love the story. Maybe 2K saw what a poor reception Mafia III garnered from fans and tried to go back to their roots. Then again, this could also have dire implications – have Hangar 13 run out of ideas for the Mafia franchise? Have they resorted to trying to get every single penny out of what they already have?
Let’s hope they don’t – this game is a perfect start for a reboot to the series. A sequel may be a generation-defining game. But Mafia has to change with the times (pardon the pun). You either have a chapter-mission structure, or you have an open world. However, in spite of all this, the game itself is beautiful, emotional and immersive at the best of times. Let’s hope this has rekindled 2K’s love for the franchise, and hopefully we’ll see a sequel in a similar vein.
Developer: Hangar 13
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: 25th September 2020