It feels good to be back. 18 years on from its launch, Mafia remains one of my favourite games of all time and a captivating deep dive into organised crime in the 1930s. After spending some time with Hangar 13’s ground-up remake of the Illusion Softworks classic, I came away mostly impressed with what I played. Significant steps have been made to bring the 2002 masterpiece to a modern audience, though not everything in Lost Heaven was as mesmerising as I’d hoped.
I had around three hours of content to play through, opening with the first five missions of the game and capping off with A Night in the Country – the mission showcased as the official gameplay reveal for Mafia: Definitive Edition earlier in the year. Seeing iconic scenes and moments remade from the ground up — like the infamous ‘Fairplay’ racing mission – was special. I was particularly impressed with the new voiceover work and reworked script, which gave more depth and levity to the cast involved in Tommy Angelo’s mafia journey. I had a genuine sense of attachment early on, and am truly excited to see what other changes have been made later in the game.
It’s worth noting I only had time with the game’s story mode – which looks to be a straight-up, linear telling of the narrative – and didn’t have a chance to freely explore Lost Heaven, though there is an option for that in the menu. I also noticed a classic mode option in the game’s difficulty settings, which will increase police presence and boost the difficulty of enemies. Perfect for veterans of the series and those that want a proper taste of what made Illusion Softworks’ original so great.
Detail in various character models and vehicles were a particular highlight, though some of the general world detail tended to fade away into smears of brown and grey during daytime sections. This was a non-issue at night, with puddles of water lit up by the warm glow of Lost Heaven’s various districts. I did notice general brightness levels were all over the place during my time with the game, however this was noted as a bug in the preview build and should hopefully be sorted out for the game’s September release.
Driving in Mafia: Definitive Edition felt crisp and vehicles were responsive and controlled as expected for the time period. Vehicles cling to the ground and have a sense of heft about them, though the faster models pick up some serious speed while travelling along straights. I never felt like I lost proper control of any vehicle I drove, which made that infamous mission all the more tolerable.
A new guidance system has also been introduced, showing which turns to take when approaching corners in Lost Heaven’s many streets. It’s a compliment to the minimap, of course, which gives you a definitive line to follow when on a mission, though the guidance system allowed me to focus more on the sights and sounds of Lost Heaven as opposed to always darting back and forth to see which turn to take.
After spending some quality time with a variety of Lost Heaven’s automobiles, setting off on foot felt stiff and, at times, unresponsive. Combat suffers a similar fate, with general melee work lacking the oomph seen in previous Mafia entries. As well as this, shooting could also use a bit of a facelift. It felt (and sounded) a bit too arcade-like, which directly contrasted with the mood and tone the game tries to exude throughout.
I’m hopeful that these small qualms will be squashed come release, as the developers did note tweaks are still being made. I was happy to see 21:9 ultrawide support included as well, until I noticed the same blood splatter effect that only shows in 16:9 — which also affects Mafia 3 — happens here too. Bizarre.
Even so, Illusion Software’s classic holds a special place in my heart and my few hours with Mafia: Definitive Edition show signs of promise. Hangar 13 has some notable issues to address just a month out from launch, but I am optimistic about the game. I was invested in Tommy’s story from the get-go thanks to the gorgeous graphics and performances from the new cast, and loved my time driving around Lost Heaven – I just hope that some kinks can be ironed out and it can keep up the momentum throughout.
Mafia: Definitive Edition launches on September 24th for PS4, Xbox One and PC.