The “Mafia” series started out in 2002 with their first game simply titled “Mafia,” which was a stark contrast to the “GTA” games as these games tried to be more grounded in reality and tell us a serious story. Upon its release, the first “Mafia” game got a ton of praise from people who played it and critics alike, both talking about how well-written and interesting the story was and how rich the world felt back then. Right off the bat, this game opened strong, and with a new IP making a much-acclaimed name for itself with its first entry, it’s bound to get multiple sequels and spin-offs, right? Yes and no. Though the first “Mafia” was a success, the second game in the series, “Mafia 2,” won’t arrive till much later. After what felt like forever with fans who had given up all hope for this franchise to continue, 2K released “Mafia 2” in 2010 with a new character, set in a new era in a new city. This game was an even bigger success and was praised for its attention to detail and the immersion and realism it brought on to the table. While much more limiting once again when compared to its peers, the “Mafia” games stood out and differentiated themselves from the crowd by being their own thing and focusing fully on their stories and characters and the world they inhabit instead of being a sandbox for you to spread carnage in. What next, then? I mean, this franchise has a two-for-two record when it comes to praise and success. Well, fans had to wait for much longer once again as “Mafia 3” came out in 2016 from a new studio called Hangar 13.
Set in the ’60s this time in a city inspired by New Orleans, “Mafia 3” gave players control of a new character once again called Lincoln Clay, a war veteran who joins the black mob but is betrayed by the Italian mob and left for dead. The game was praised heavily for its documentary-style storytelling with interesting characters and a very well-written and well-acted script; everything else, on the other hand, fell apart. The game was criticized heavily for everything but its story, with its gameplay being repetitive, the world bland, and the graphics odd. It looks like the “Mafia” series fell from grace rather quickly and its streak came to an end. Despite all of that, however, there was hope for the franchise, as the people who loved the game absolutely loved it, and I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed it myself as well. Fans of this series eagerly waited for the next entry of the franchise and wished to see where it’ll take us next with rumors circulating about a game set in the 80’s while others stated that it’ll go back in time and take us to the 20’s. It’s almost 2023 now, and we still don’t know what the future of this franchise holds, if it even has one.
2K and Hangar 13 didn’t disappear into thin air though and gave us a bone, a juicy one to chew on. The bone by the name of “Mafia Definitive Edition”, a full-blown remake of the first game was released in 2020, eighteen years after the first game. Alongside, they also released the definitive versions of “Mafia 2” and “Mafia 3,” which aren’t anything special but are a good way to play these games if you missed them when they originally came out. “Mafia Definitive Edition,” on the other hand, was a remake, not a remaster, of the original game, and they built everything here from the ground up. Let’s take a look at the game and see what makes it worth playing.
‘Mafia: Definitive Edition’ Premise
The game is set in the 1930s, during the Prohibition era, and opens with a beautiful tracking shot taking us across the city of Lost Heaven. The camera takes us inside a diner where we see our protagonist, Thomas “Tommy” Angelo, smoking a cigarette while looking scared out of his mind. A detective approaches him, and they start having a conversation about how long they have been in town. Tommy asks Detective Norman if he has any new clues on how to solve the Morello case. Tommy offers to give everything he can to solve the case in exchange for the safety of his family. The detective doesn’t mock him and promises him nothing, but Tommy, with no options left, starts to spill the beans. This trade would be mutually beneficial for both of them, and the game takes us back to where it all began.
Tommy was a cabbie back in those days, and one night he happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time and is held at gunpoint by two Mafia guys, Sam and Paulie, who hijack his cab in an attempt to escape the rival gang. Upon successfully escaping, Tommy drops them off at little Italy and was paid his compensation handsomely and was told that the boss owes him a favor so he can feel free to redeem it anytime he wishes. Tommy opens the envelope back at his house and was left in shock at how much money it carried. The next day, however when he was enjoying some coffee, he was attacked by a couple of Mafia guys from the other gang from last night. They wrecked his cab, and in a desperate attempt to escape, Tommy charges across town, all the way back to Salieri’s bar, where he dropped Sam and Paulie off last night. He was greeted by them, and Paulie pulls out a shotgun to scare the other guys away and asks Tommy to come visit the boss. He meets Don Salieri for the first time, who thanks him for rescuing his boys last night and pays Tommy back for the damage the other guys did to his car. Tommy refuses it and tells the Don that he doesn’t need a handoff but just needs a chance to get back at the boys who wrecked his car. The Don sends Paulie and Tommy to get proper payback. Upon their return, Tommy was asked if he’d like to join the family, an offer he accepts, and is taught the ways of the Mafia lifestyle and told to be always loyal to his family. This is where the game begins, and the story here is fantastic across the board. All the characters you’ll meet are very well written and acted, and the tale itself is Buono, as the Italians say.
‘Mafia: Definitive Edition’ Gameplay
“Mafia Definitive Edition” is a third-person open-world game where the world itself serves as a backdrop and the story is told in a much more linear fashion with chapters dividing it. The gameplay on offer here is much simpler and doesn’t come with any upgrades, skill trees, level-ups, or any of that jazz. You go from mission market to mission marker and take in the atmosphere as you drive, shoot, and fistfight your way across the story. The guns on offer here are also quite limited, with a revolver, a pistol, a shotgun, a lupara, and a Tommy gun. You can also carry grenades and molotov cocktails, and that’s the extent of that. The shooting here is satisfying with limited ammo in your inventory, but don’t worry, you can pick up more from the enemies you kill. There is also a melee-fist-fighting system, which could have been a lot better as it is very stiff with the same animations overlapping each other.
Driving plays a big part in this game as you’ll be driving a lot from point to point and the physics and simulation they used for driving are fantastic here. Each car feels distinct, and with the game being set in the 1930s, you can expect these cars to be slow and controlled like tanks, and they nailed that feeling. Some cars are better than others, but each one is unique in how it looks, sounds, and performs. New to the “Mafia” series for the first time ever was the addition of motorbikes in this game, and while there are only a couple of them available here, they are incredibly fun to ride around on. You can expect sedans, coupes, trucks, bikes, and more when it comes to the variety of vehicles, and the way they look and function is just fantastic, and I can’t praise it enough.
You can also explore the city of Lost Heaven using the Free Ride mode from the menu, and while the city isn’t alive like in most open-world games, it does have a few secrets you can find, from collectibles to hidden cars. You can also play the role of a cabbie here, as Tommy was originally a cab driver and picked up and dropped passengers from one side of the town to the other. It’s calming that you can just be a part of the world without having to worry about a billion things to check off from your checklist, but at the same time, a little more would’ve worked wonders for the beautiful world they created for this game.
The difficulty options available for this game also dramatically alter your gameplay experience, and I’d highly recommend that you play this game in Classic mode, as it is the hardest one but incredibly fair. The AI is smarter, the cars drive on simulation settings, the police will stop you for speeding, and your health will not regenerate on its own here, so this experience becomes as authentic and close to the original game as it can be. There is a race midway through the game, which was incredibly challenging in the original game and will be your biggest challenge to overcome in Classic Mode as well, but everything else you can easily get through.
I know this game sounds incredibly limiting in the number of things you can see and do here, but trust me—what little this game does, it does wonderfully. They tried to keep the remake in line with the original, and they did a fantastic job with that in terms of gameplay, though not much. Everything is solid and very well done.
Let’s take a quick look at the city of Lost Heaven. Inspired by cities like Chicago, San Francisco, New York City, Los Angeles, and more, Lost Heavens is a blend of a ton of landmarks from these iconic cities put in one place. It’s gorgeous and very believable in its architecture, but what has my attention above everything else is the era the game is set in. 1930’s Prohibition-era United States. I wasn’t around back then, obviously, but from what I have read in history books and seen in the movies, Hangar 13 did a fantastic job of recreating that era. The attire people wear to the way they talk. The cars on the street had fully functioning radios playing music from that time and even had full-blown radio talk shows and sports commentary. The buildings, the roads, the massive countryside—everything in this game is crafted with love and care for the era. I love this game’s aesthetics, and as I said before, I wish they did more with the city itself, but I digress. The city of Lost Heaven is a place I’d love to visit and live in.
The Technical Stuff
Stunning visuals, incredible voice acting, and good sound mixing are what you can expect here. Special praise goes to the lighting here, as it pops and makes every scene look fantastic. I played it on my Xbox One X and later on my Series X, and it ran at a solid 30 fps at 1800p. This game can benefit a lot from a current-gen patch with an added performance mode or even raytracing, but I don’t think we’ll be getting one. This was a very consistent and bug-free experience for me personally, and I think the game is very well made and is a solid package from beginning to end.
In a lot of ways, “Mafia: Definitive Edition” is an old game with old gameplay mechanics and storytelling all wrapped in a fresh coat of paint, and you’ll be right to think that. 2K and Hangar 13 wanted to capture what made the first game special in the first place and deliver it once more with a modern look using modern technologies. I think they did a fantastic job by being distinct and staying true to the original’s vision and not ruining it by adding health bars, damage numbers, endgame content, and other stuff like that. “Mafia: Definitive Edition” is a period piece in my eyes, one that does its job phenomenally and is a refreshing breath of fresh air in more ways than one. First of all, we don’t get many period pieces that take us to a different era of our time in video games, with the exception being the “Assassin’s Creed” series, but that’s a whole thing. Secondly, this game is not marred and ruined by modern AAA game “standards” like adding unnecessary RPG elements or turning everything into a live service. “Mafia Definitive Edition” is a short, sweet, and fun game that knows what it is and delivers a solid story, fun gameplay, and an amazing world that you can get lost in confidently. It’s a solid recommendation from my end, and here’s hoping we get confirmation that “Mafia 4” exists soon.