Mafia Definitive Edition Is A Great Remake Of A Clunky Classic

Screenshot: 2k Games
Screenshot: 2k Games

The original Mafia, released all the way back in 2002, has become harder and harder to go back to over the years. It’s clunky, doesn’t look amazing, and suffers annoying quirks. Mafia Definitive Edition, a complete remake that just came out today, is a useful way to go back and experience what is still a good (if not fresh) story of crime, loyalty, trust, and respect.

In Mafia you take on the role of Tommy, a cabbie working in the big city known as Lost Heaven (stop laughing) who gets involved with the mafia and eventually rises up the ranks. All of this is told via flashbacks, with the main framing device being an older Tommy talking to a detective about his life and all the crimes he committed and witnessed. This new remake is faithful to the original story, at least in the first few hours I’ve played. The writing has been improved and the actors are great, but the overall plot and missions remain the same. This is great for me, as my crappy PC at the time made playing the original Mafia a chore. But for folks who played it multiple times, this remake might feel a bit too old and familiar.

Regardless of how familiar you are with the original game, this new take on Mafia is visually striking. Playing on PS4 Pro, I was impressed by just how much detail exists in the world. Buildings have tons of old signage, cars have shiny metal doors, streets are cracked and covered in dirt and faces are animated gorgeously. Considering developer Hangar 13 used the Mafia III engine for this remake, and that game could look really nice, I shouldn’t be that surprised by how good Definitive Edition looks. Yet it feels like Hangar 13 significantly improved the game’s lighting, which makes everything pop and look amazing.

Screenshot: 2k Games / Kotaku

Another positive of using the Mafia III engine is that both driving and running around the world feel less stiff than in the original game. Driving in particular feels heavy and fun. Whipping a big old taxi cab around a sharp corner is satisfying because it’s so easy to screw it up and go flying into a wall or nearby car. Running around and shooting in this new remake isn’t as fun, but it works fine. Mafia III wasn’t a remarkable third-person shooter and neither is this remake, but I was never frustrated by poor controls or sloppy action. Instead I just wish the combat had a bit more going on, especially melee combat, which is incredibly simple and not much fun.

If you do pick up this remake, I highly recommend messing around with the gameplay settings, which let you re-enable some classic quirks from the original game. For example, in the first Mafia game, police would pull you over for speeding or running a red light. Luckily, for those who don’t want to deal with that, the annoying cops default to off. You can also control how heavy cars feel, the way ammo is handled, and other parts of the gameplay to make this remake feel more like the original game, or more like a modern one.

Screenshot: 2k Games / Kotaku

Another thing to keep in mind about this remake is that Mafia was never a classic open world, and it ain’t anything like modern ones either. Today’s open-world games, like Mafia III or GTA V, feature tons of side missions, properties to buy, land to acquire, stats to upgrade, etc. The original Mafia (and Mafia II as well) didn’t have any of this stuff. Sure, you can freely drive around the world during some missions, but there’s nothing out there to do beyond finding some newly added collectibles. Some might argue that this is a waste of such a highly detailed and well-designed open-world map, but I’m happy to play a game that doesn’t take 50 hours to fully complete. You can probably knock out Mafia Definitive Edition in under 12 hours, maybe less if you’re a better driver than me.

Mafia Definitive Edition is a fantastic remake of an old and creaky game that barely deviates from the original’s story or gameplay, allowing old fans to re-experience a game they already love with amazing visuals and tighter combat. And for those who want to play the original Mafia game for the first time, this is now the best way to do so.

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