Years ago, I’d have never believed the original Mafia would make its way back to modern consoles and PC via a ground-up remake, yet here we are. Hangar 13 and 2K have done a stellar job in bringing one of my favourite games of all time to modern systems. And while Mafia Definitive Edition has its issues and struggles to fully capture the potential of Illusion Softworks’ 2002 masterpiece, it’s still a thrilling adventure through Lost Heaven and its crime-fuelled streets.
Focusing on taxi driver-come-mobster Tommy Angelo, Mafia Definitive Edition takes you through a linear, narrative-focused tale of organised crime during the early to mid-1900s. Though the journey may be shorter than your average AAA game of late — capping in at around eight hours — this is by far the strongest story in the Mafia trilogy. Packed with likeable characters and engaging scenarios, the narrative flows well and never really gets bogged down. As well as this, Hangar 13 has done a good job in making missions feel fresh yet familiar, expanding on Illusion Softworks’ original scope and vision.
Fans of the original will likely find Definitive Edition portrays Mafia’s story in a much darker tone, and that’s to the game’s benefit. Missions like Omerta and A Night in the Country feel ominous and foreboding, and it’s to Hangar 13’s credit that they’ve been able to enhance moments that fell a bit flat in the original. Characters and their motivations have been expanded on as well, with extra slices of character development delivered through small conversations during the story. It’s the little additions like these that really shine and make the narrative a captivating one.
It’s a shame the game’s presentation isn’t always up to scratch, though. Character models look great for the most part, yet there are times where emotional moments don’t land due to the facial animation in particular. Characters often look stiff and that takes away from the immersion, especially during pivotal plot points. As well as this, some songs from the game’s score repeat far too many times. I would have appreciated some time in missions where there was very little music, yet Hangar 13 went in the completely opposite direction. Because of this, it didn’t take long for particular grooves to find their way into a multitude of different tonal moments which took away from my overall enjoyment.
General mission structure isn’t as captivating as I’d hoped, either. The actual moment-to-moment gameplay is great, but having to drive to and from mission locations can often feel cumbersome and take away from the narrative’s flow. It’s something that happens in most open-world games, though it felt especially noticeable here. I was hoping a lot of this would be removed in the remake, yet it still remains — and it’s in these sequences where the game tends to drag. Hangar 13 used a lot of these moments to further develop characters and their motivations, yet I found myself bored after having to go cross-city travelling almost every time I jumped into a mission.
It’s lucky the gameplay is bloody good. Like Mafia 3, Mafia Definitive Edition revolves around cover-based shooting and this works extremely well for many of the gunfights you find yourself embroiled in. The melee combat is a bit janky at the best of times but feels responsive enough to get out of a scrap or two, as well.
General level detail is fantastic, whether you’re making your way through one of Lost Heaven’s big churches, a multi-level parking garage or the outer suburbs of the city itself. Hangar 13’s done an exceptional job of bringing small details to life and making Lost Heaven feel lived in. Brightness issues from the preview build I played last month are still apparent, however, and I found myself having to finetune the setting depending on whether I was playing during the day or night. It’s a bit finicky, for sure, but nothing too distracting.
Getting around Lost Heaven is a breeze thanks to the solid driving controls and on-screen direction system, too. Vehicles control well and the game’s Free Ride mode — which takes you away from the linear story and allows you to take on little challenges while exploring the game’s world at your own pace — is a great way of taking in everything Lost Heaven has to offer. For those that want a detailed look at the vehicles of the era, the Carcyclopedia is also worth checking out.
So how’s it all stack up? Pretty bloody well, really. While I think there could have been more done with the remake, like better animation, gunplay feeling a bit punchier and the score being better utilised, there’s a lot to love here for players who have ventured through the streets of Lost Heaven before. Better yet, for newcomers this is the perfect entry point in the franchise — it’s by far the best in the trilogy, and remains a great story filled with twists and turns.
THE PC VERSION OF THIS GAME WAS PLAYED FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS REVIEW. A DIGITAL REVIEW CODE WAS PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER.
Hangar 13’s remake of Mafia is great. The story is as interesting as ever, and only minor technical issues take away from what is otherwise a welcome reintroduction to Tommy Angelo and the Salieri crew.