Back in 2002, gamers received a treat. That came in the form of Mafia; an open world gangster game that was developed in the Czech Republic, but was set in a fictional version of 1930s Chicago, Illinois. Very positive reviews, general critical acclaim and some more than solid sales numbers followed, leaving Mafia a well remembered game that is still brought up fondly to this day. Of course, it helped that this particular title released during a time when open world games were the biggest thing in the industry, thanks to Grand Theft Auto 3, its eventual sequels and the new IPs that did their best to borrow the series’ best parts.
For whatever reason, I never played the original Mafia. I rented a lot of games, but never that one. It was something I’ve also always attributed to the original Xbox, which I didn’t own until near the very end of that generation, even though it also came out on PlayStation 2. Of course, it was also developed for PC, but I’ve never had a powerful gaming PC and have always preferred consoles.
Over the years, I’ve heard so many good things and nostalgic comments about this game; so many that it made me wish I would’ve played it when it was new. Thus, I wished that a remaster or remake would be announced. After all, this has been the generation of both, as old games have become new again time and time again. Thankfully that did happen, and I’ve now been able to play through this impressive and memorable game, thanks to Hangar 13 and its Mafia: Definitive Edition.
This is the story of Tommy Angelo. A former immigrant, he’s toiled away as a cab driver for years without making much financial gain. Then, one innocent night, things change. It’s on that formerly quiet evening when two gangsters momentarily escape gunfire by jumping into Tommy’s cab and making him drive with a gun pointed at his head. They need a quick and safe getaway, because the car that’s chasing them has a great supply of bullets, all of which are aimed right at the cab. This kick-starts the game’s first of twenty story missions, and it’s not as easy as they usually are.
Although he’s paid handsomely for his assistance, Tommy doesn’t want to be a criminal, so he goes back to driving his taxi cab. However, when he’s targeted and needs help, it’s Don Salieri and his crew who rush to return the favour. Afterwards, our good looking every man of a protagonist is swooped into the fold, and becomes a valued and trusted member of the family.
In a nice twist, the game’s story and events play out as flashbacks, because the opening cutscene doesn’t involve any cab driving. After an opening credits sequence that has the camera acting like a bird, and sweeping through the city of Lost Heaven, we watch as a police detective walks into a diner and sits across from our main character. The two share a quick introduction, and then Tommy asks for protection for his family, before going back in time and explaining everything that led to ‘now.’ As such, almost the entire game is told through playable flashbacks, which begin in 1930 and end around 1938, which is when the meeting takes place.
The flashback missions are what you’d expect from this type of game: shootouts, racketeering, revenge hits and the like. You’ll be given missions at Don Salieri’s bar, and will then get a waypoint on your map. The weapons man may give you explosives or firepower, or perhaps even a bat. It depends on the type of mission. Furthermore, you’ll sometimes get to choose which car you’ll take, and during other times it’ll be chosen for you.
What you need to understand about Mafia: Definitive Edition, though, is that it’s not exactly a true open world game. We’ve gotten used to big open worlds with lots of side quests, collectibles and filler. This game doesn’t really have those things, and is a linear experience set in a beautiful and large open world. It’s honestly disappointing how the map is kind of ‘wasted’ because of this, but it provides a beautiful backdrop for a very good story and a very fun game.
You can drive around the city and explore, but there won’t be a lot for you to do in the main campaign. Cops will pull you over for speeding or hitting someone, or if someone calls in and says you’ve done one of those things. The same is true for stealing cars. However, the fine is just a show, because you don’t earn spendable money in this game. The cops can also be toggled so that they’ll ignore minor infractions, and this is done through the main menu. There’s actually an impressive amount of customization options at one’s disposal here.
It’s understandable that folks may be disappointed by the lack of side content here. That said, when a campaign’s story is as good as this one’s is, and its missions are as fun as they are here, it’s easier to overlook. The only potential downside is that the campaign, itself, can be completed over a weekend. As someone who likes to play a lot of games, this didn’t bother me a lot, but it may sway some from making the purchase.
The above is made easier by the inclusion of Mafia: Definitive Edition‘s free roam mode. However, it’s not the type of open world experience that serves much up for you. You’ll have to create most of your fun, and will find that this mode is best served as a way to find collectibles. Yes, there are collectibles despite how linear this game tends to be.
As you explore the beauty that is Lost Heaven, you’ll find multiple types of hidden items. Some are dirty magazines, while others are ‘Gangsters of America’ cigarette cards. Hell, there are also comic books to find. None of these make up the biggest or most time intensive of the bunch, though. No, that would be the fox statues, of which there are fifty.
Some of the aforementioned collectibles can be found during the campaign, but only a select amount are available in the story mode. Most only seem to spawn during free roam mode, making it important to play if you’re hoping to unlock all 1000 achievement points or earn the platinum trophy. This will take a good amount of time, though, because of the sheer amount of collectibles to be found in Mafia: Definitive Edition. It’s a shockingly large amount given how linear the main story is.
Outside of the collectibles, there isn’t a lot of replay value to be found here. That is, unless you’re somebody who likes to replay games with excellent campaigns. At least not in today’s sense, where everyone seems to feel that all games should have multiplayer and many different modes. I personally miss the days where a great campaign was the most important thing, and am perfectly fine with how this one is set-up. It’s my type of interactive experience, and something I’ve thoroughly enjoyed playing. If I find the time, I may play it again in the future, just because it’s so damned good. I don’t really care that it doesn’t have a lot of secondary content, which often ends up being filler, although I will admit that some would’ve been nice. I would’ve taken a side quest or two over lots of hidden objects.
It’s the story, the characters and the city that all really shine here, and the gameplay isn’t half bad either. In fact, it’s quite good. There’s lots of running, driving and shooting, and the latter is handled through cover-based means. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell where enemies are, though, despite the fact that they’re often shown on the mini-map. This particular, rather minor, issue stood out most during a shootout in a church.
The weapons are time specific, and there’s a good mix of them, from a revolver to a clip-loaded pistol, a shotgun, a bolt-action rifle and a tommy gun. You’ll also get to smash cars and punks’ faces in with a baseball bat or tire iron, engage in some regular fisticuffs, and throw some hearty Molotov cocktails. There’s no real shortage of weaponry to be found here.
When it comes to driving, you’ll need to temper your expectations a bit. Reason being is that, while Mafia: Definitive Edition does include the original’s polarizing racing mission, the vehicles you’ll be maneuvering through Lost Heaven aren’t modern day chassis. In fact, they’re almost a hundred years old, and they drive like it. The rubber wheels squeal and sometimes protest, and there’s a lot of weight behind their movements. It’s time specific and it’s appreciated, because it makes things feel more real. It’s also more than fine. The vehicles simply aren’t speed demons like modern day ones.
The cars themselves are downright gorgeous, too. Their metallic texture work and fine details are top notch, and it all looks beautiful in action. So, too, does the city itself and most of its character models, although even a couple of the main cast have faces that look a bit too rubbery. They all emote quite well, though, and feel like real people because they’re written so well. For the most part, there’s nothing to complain about with regards to the visuals, apart from this really odd ‘ghosting’ effect that leaves trails on certain objects. For instance, if Tommy moves up against a gate that won’t open, you may see some ghosting of his wardrobe. It’s really hard to describe, but it’s like specific lines of his clothing have gotten stuck in the gate.
From what I’ve heard, the aforementioned issue is exclusive to Xbox One. I can’t say that for sure, though.
Now, speaking of writing, it’s important to note that Mafia: Definitive Edition has been rewritten. As a result, there’s lots of new and expanded dialogue to hear, and longtime fans will appreciate how well written everything is. The characters feel lifelike, and have so much depth that they’re endearing despite being criminals. It helps that the actors who took up these beloved roles cared so much about their characters and put so much into the performances. Andrew Bongiorno is excellent as Tommy Angelo, and Glenn Taranto is a standout as Don Salieri. The rest of the main supporting cast have also done a wonderful job.
Unlike Mafia II: Definitive Edition, this Mafia: Definitive Edition package has been rebuilt and remade from the ground up as a proper remake. It shows, because this is easily one of the best looking games of this generation, and in general. It’s obvious that a lot of love, sweat and tears were put into remaking such a beloved game, and it’s appreciated. This was a great way for me to play its campaign for the first time, and I’m very glad that I was able to do so. I’m also very happy that this thing exists.
This review is based on the Xbox One X version of the game. We were provided with review code by 2K.
- A great campaign
- The story is excellent, and the performances are too
- A treat for the eyes and the ears
- Somewhat short
- There's not a lot to do outside of the main campaign missions
- The Xbox One version has an odd ghosting effect that occasionally appears