by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
In cinema, remakes are often considered to be poorer quality than the originals. Of course, there are exceptions, but the likes of Total Recall, The Mummy and even Ghostbusters couldn’t compete with the nostalgia of the originals despite their improved special effects and CGI capabilities. With the gaming industry becoming more mature, we will no doubt begin seeing more games that are remade or remastered in a similar way to the big screen. But will the remakes be a letdown like those cinematic classics?
I am glad to say that Mafia: Definitive Edition is not the case
For those who didn’t get the chance to play the original release, Mafia has players take the role of Tommy Angelo, a cabbie who reluctantly becomes intertwined into the Mafia world. After chauffeuring a couple of mafia boss Don Salieri’s mobsters in his taxi, he runs afoul of the rival mafia run by Morello. His taxi – his livelihood during the depression – is damaged by a couple of Morello’s hoods and after escaping from them, vows revenge. And it is from here his mob life begins.
The action in Mafia takes the form of three disciplines: driving, fist fighting, and gunplay. As a former cabbie, Tommy is often used as the wheelman for adventures he takes with Sam and Paulie, two of Salieri’s main confidants. And there is a heap of driving, with Tommy and his cohorts often seemingly going from one side of Lost Heaven to the other to take out a target or collect some protection money or prohibited alcohol.
But when they Tommy – either by himself or with his comrades – reach their destination, there will invariably be a confrontation of some kind, whether they are expecting one or not. And for that, Tommy normally has his handgun and will often be able to pick up a Tommy Gun, a rifle or a couple variations of a shotgun. I often found that the handgun was often the better option when taking out enemies. The inaccuracy of the Tommy Gun, especially at a distance often makes for a poor choice of weapon compared to the accurate hand piece.
Gunfights are done reasonably well in Mafia, with the ability to hide behind walls and other objects as cover. But the AI does this too, providing for a decent challenge. Certain environments can be shot at though, leaving the enemy gunman exposed. Also, when there are groups of foes, they will even attempt flanking moves, or have someone with a shotgun come directly at you hoping that the firepower will take Tommy down. Invariably, a good headshot will put an end to that though.
There are times when Tommy doesn’t have a weapon (or ammunition) handy. It is at these points that he can let his fists do the damage. Indeed, some missions call for stealthy approaches, as gunfire will alert the authorities. The pugilistic sequences are simply a matter of dodging an attack, pummelling your opponent and the ending him with a finishing move. The controls are quite as refined as those in the sequels but do a decent job.
One thing that players of the original will clearly notice are the enhanced visuals. The team at Hangar 13 have re-created the city of Lost Heaven and nearly everything within it. The sun glistens off the shiny new cars and at night, the moon shimmers, and lights glow. And puddles of water left over from the day’s showers reflect the sky above. On more than one occasion, when driving across a bridge, I was looking at the city skyline as dawn set in. The characters too, have each been given a facelift. They now look comparable to those of the sequels. I did however encounter a few graphical glitches with some of the character’s clothing during cut-scenes which reduced the immersion somewhat, but thankfully none of the glitches affected the gameplay.
In between all the missions, Tommy relates his story to Detective Norman. It is wonderfully told, and breaks up the action, giving a reason to why Tommy did all the things he did (and often regretted). It is these interactions that give Mafia an interactive motion picture aesthetic and allow the gamer to become further entrenched into Tommy’s predicament. The voice acting throughout is wonderful, with each character expressing their predicament through their tone as well as their dialogue. The dialogue itself has had an upgrade too, permitting the story to flow better and give an emphasis to the character’s situation.
As mentioned, driving is a major aspect in Mafia – and it is probably handy that Tommy was a cabbie in his pre-Mafia days. I would admit that I felt there are probably one or two too many driving sequences. These can be skipped, but it can take away from the flow of the story. But the driving missions are made more bearable by the use of some wonderful era-appropriate Jazz music, and the authentic sounding news reports that are played on the radio. Reports about the local sports teams, the imminent war in Europe and of course, the problems with organised crime in the city of Lost Heaven. Combined with the rev of your engine, the squeal of your wheels and the tooting of car horns as you turn a corner, Mafia gets gamers totally immersed in 1930’s America.
The story gives players a good fifteen to twenty hours of gameplay. But for added replayability, players can always jump back in to complete their collection of Pulp magazines, Cigarette Cards, Gangster Comics and Mystery Foxes. These are scattered across the city, mostly within locations that the missions have taken place. But if you don’t pick them up during the story missions, the Free Ride mode lets you visit the locations again as well as explore other parts of the city that you only really drive through during the story.
There are recent games that have better mechanics, visuals, and audio than Mafia: Definitive Edition. But the team at Hanger 13 have done an amazing job in bringing Mafia up to today’s standard. The dialogue and telling of the story are much improved from the original, and although I encountered the graphical glitches, the visuals feel as though they fit in the contemporary. Mafia II is still my favourite of the trilogy, but Mafia: Definitive Edition has been a fun ride with Tommy Angelo in his shiny new vehicle. If you didn't get the chance with the original, or want to relive Tommy's tale, you should hop in too.
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Wonderfully told story, great periodic specific audio
Some graphical glitches, lots of driving