Mafia trilogy definitive edition review Jazz music playing on the radio. On the road, luxurious, gleaming automobiles. In Tommy Angelo’s eyes, opportunity. In Mafia: Definitive Edition, there are moments when you could doubt the severity of the Great Depression. Such is the richness and unbalance of Hangar 13’s recreation, a top-to-bottom endeavor that is occasionally gorgeous—to look at, listen to, be in, and occasionally—but more frequently muddy—never quite knowing what it is, or fully getting the more outmoded concepts from Mafia 2002 out of its own way. A compellingly awkward, sort of doubly-effective flashback to a previous era is the end result.
The original Mafia has evolved significantly. The setting for Mafia, Lost Haven, Illinois, has undergone a significant makeover and is unmistakably not Chicago. Headline changes include larger skyscrapers to be more historically accurate, rerouted highways to mix up your travels, redesigned neigh bourhoods like Chinatown, and a completely new, rural area to the north of the city.
And when it wants to, it’s a devilishly beautiful thing, with neon signs reflecting over its storm-washed streets at night and sunlight reflecting off the shiny chrome of those good ol’ vintage cars, which are like living, breathing things with phallic motors, screeching tires, and sensual curves.
Mafia trilogy definitive edition review
I could go on and on about that radio. A marvellous tool, bearing the weight of the game’s fictional world on its back and striking at the inconsistencies at the core of the 1930s’ culture war between carnalism and puritanism. Swing and dancing jazz, which blare between arrogant political decrees and sermon reports from police chiefs, governors, and presidents lecturing on citizens’ personal responsibility for rising crime, helped create the world of the Mafia, which is a world founded on hypocrisy. We discuss worldbuilding frequently, but it’s rarely done in this manner.
It’s quite rare to enter a world completely through its actual ambient sounds, and even more so that you do so while listening to crooners through your car’s speakers and honking horns. Even then, due to games like Fallout, Bioshock, and others, you hear swing and jazz in a video game and immediately think “apocalypse,” dead worlds, and decaying cultures. Mafia music breathes life.
Mafia: Definitive Edition, though, can also fall flat, with technological issues and ageing tendencies pulling you out of the universe, just as it can sing at the appropriate time. The game’s more “varied geography,” as described by publisher 2K, has drawn attention to the fresh views you may take in, but from a distance, detail can be weak and skylines washed off. This goes beyond the setting; faces in Mafia’s numerous cutscenes are beautifully illustrated and animated, but when you’re just walking around town, they’re sometimes plasticky-smooth and old.
Performance is also a little shaky, to put on my amateur Digital Foundry hat (they’ll be along with a much more in-depth analysis than mine soon, fear not), with the problem not being the frame rate but rather some other kind of relentless stutter, as though the world itself is having trouble loading in as you pass through it at any kind of speed.
Driving, when you’re not sitting, listening, or taking it all in, can be a nightmare because of frequent, fraction-of-a-second freezes and hiccups that make it difficult to really nail a turn (on a PC slightly below those specs, the game crashed twice upon opening; on a slightly more powerful one, the issues decreased to bearable, if you don’t mind a constant headache).
That might also be due to poor driving mechanics, which might have used more improvement. Like the original Mafia, driving is totally essential to Mafia: Definitive Edition. In spite of the shooting and wisecracking of mob life, you play as Tommy Angelo, cabby-turned-mobster-wheelman, caught up in all the appeal of depression-era crime. If driving is a dirge, then most of Mafia is as well, thus that’s why you may switch on the option to skip the unneeded journeys.
The Definitive Edition has the ear modifications, a component of the original Mafia’s quest for authenticity, set to automatic by default, and I dared not attempt them manually. Even though the 1930s vehicles are stunning, they handle like blimps, wafting and drifting around the right-angle turns in Lost Heaven, or more frequently, not at all. Although the largely scripted-feeling chase sequences of Mafia’s missions, where your motorcycle – a new addition for the remake, which I recommend using wherever possible – can’t gain any ground on a much slower enemy you’re asked to chase, aren’t realistic, those who don’t care about the concept of fun will point out that fine-handling Chrysler Phaetons wouldn’t.
Nor are the occasional, murderously rough edges that jut subtly from the environment (a 2000s throwback I haven’t missed) or the lack of a handbrake for speeding around corners. Not to mention the “ram” button, which provides a brief burst of acceleration and an odd, imperceptibly over-responsive moment of handling. Although it is usually ineffective, I frequently found myself pressing the ram button as I turned, adjusting the car into a nearly perpendicular position for half of the turn, and bouncing off the walls for the remaining portion. Not good.
The other half of Mafia that isn’t a cutscene, shooting, is annoyingly similar in its clumsy handling, the reticule’s unpleasant stickiness, and the general ambiguity of most guns, which led me to frequently choose the simple revolver. This is especially unfortunate because other aspects of the combat can be excellent. For example, the enemy AI is actually quite good, frequently flanking or closing the gap with shotguns. This, combined with the environments’ ability to be destroyed, prevents you from falling into the usual cover shooter mentality of “whack-a-mole” and forces you to move and improvise in a way that is similar to the dynamism of Gears of War. It’s also pleasantly subtle, abstaining from bullet sponges or overly elaborate set pieces that would feel dated and keeping the enemy count to (mostly) believable levels.
The other side of this is that missions sometimes seem a little lacklustre. They are linear and closed-ended, mimicking the main game in part, which explains why. Both the original and the Definitive Edition of Mafia are essentially third-person shooters with a narrative storyline and optional driving as well as a distinct, mission-free Free Ride mode. It’s a legacy of the game’s age, and you probably can’t reasonably expect Hangar 13 to have changed it within the scope of the remake. Each mission of the story flows immediately from one to the next, a closed loop inside an open world, so to explore the temptation of the city at large you need to quit back out to the menu. Still, it’s unfortunate.
Additionally, since then, better games have appeared that do it in a different way. For example, in one operation, you’ll need to put on a disguise—a dashing sailor’s garb, no less—and execute an assassination aboard a vintage steam-powered paddleboat. It’s a gorgeous, historically accurate setting with pyrotechnics, tension, and some lovely city views. However, it quickly brings to mind titles like Hitman or even GTA 5, which Mafia struggles to compete with because to its lack of pageantry and more conventionally linear, strict task design.
The narrative also struggles to get underway. It’s yet another instance of a video game telling a story backwards, starting with the genre and working forward to a plot. This is again primarily a reflection of the era in which the original Mafia was written, but enough has been changed in the Definitive Edition for it to have actually improved. Mafia: Definitive Edition, on the other hand, begins with the conventions of other mob stories, observing everything you’d anticipate in a classic gangster movie: opportunity, greed, betrayal, someone saying, “We’re going to the mattresses,” someone objecting to dealing drugs, the skinny numbers guy, a devoted wife, and a nice Italian restaurant getting shot up.
This is done to give the impression that the story is a gangster movie so that you will play it and think, “Wow, just like the movies”; but, it also acts as a kind of admission that it will never be one and will never be one that other stories will want to imitate.
Beautifully rendered cutscenes, enjoyable beats, and some generally like able characters are the result (with the exception of Angelo, whose personality has been reduced to that of the stereotypical male video game protagonist, who is quiet, alpha, emotionally repressed, and stern). However, maybe this is just a sign of how well male protagonists tend to line up with the ideal men of the ’30s. However, everything was set up in a way that was very familiar, with the game turning into a sort of theme restaurant and the hair and makeup flashback episode of a serial TV show.
The best part of the original story, its conclusion, has also been changed. In general, Mafia’s climax has changed from a Scorsese-esque parable – another copied beat, but at least a superb one – to something I read as unclear and uncomfortably smug. I won’t give anything away, but in general.