I first came across the Mafia series when I acquired the third game for free with Playstation Plus. I played it for a bit and put it down. Not because I disliked it, but just because of a huge backlog. I forgot about the game but then noticed the Mafia Trilogy up for Pre-Order on the Playstation Store and I got obsessed with wanting to play them. I don’t know why, there was literally no reason for this but after watching the trailers for each game, I desperately wanted to give them a shot. I even wanted to give Mafia III another shot but refused to before playing the first two games in the series. I have this weird thing about playing games in order, and looking back that might be why I never completed the third game. Now, however, I’ve had a chance to spend some time in Mafia: Definitive Edition and it was basically everything I wanted.
Cab Driver Breaks Bad
I knew very little about Mafia: Definitive edition going into this game. I’ll be completely honest and admit I expected something akin to the Grand Theft Auto series. What I got was something completely different. GTA is a completely open-world game, and though those games give us some pretty amazing stories the pacing can sometimes be a little out of balance depending on how much you want to explore. Mafia on the other hand, though it boasts a very pretty world, is heavily focused on delivering a well-told story. I enjoy open-world games, don’t get me wrong. but story is always what keeps me playing a game. Luckily for me, the story behind Mafia: Defintive Edition kept me hooked from beginning to end.
The game starts in the year 1930 with our protagonist, Tommy Angelo, having a smoke. Then things take a turn for the worse. A couple of guys are running from rivals and they hold Tommy at gunpoint and force him to drive them. Thanks to Tommy’s slick driving they escape their assailants and are brought to Little Italy, where Tommy is paid for his help and asked to keep everything quiet. His life could have gone on from there if not for the fact that the people chasing the mob guys do not appreciate what happened. They find Tommy, try to beat him up and smash up his cab. Tommy runs for help to where he’d dropped off the two men from the previous night and they assist him and that’s where the game really begins.
I can’t say too much more than that because I don’t want to give the rest of the story away, but from then on you join the Mafia. The story takes place over several years and sees Tommy rise in the ranks of the Mafia. Not only is the story excellently told but all the characters are well-realized with their own ambitions and goals. Tommy bonds with these guys. Don Salieri is the leader of this particular branch of the Mafia, and their rivals are run by Don Morello. There’s a huge cast of supporting characters but the most important is Sam and Paulie. Those are the main two people Tommy bonds with, and there are some genuinely funny moments with all three of them.
This story has absolutely everything you would expect from a story set during the prohibition. Watching Tommy grow addicted to his new life, find love, and even race will keep you invested in the campaign which lasts about ten or so hours. There’s action, love, drama, betrayal and the ending is something I never expected. Just when you think it’s over, and it’s put you through the wringer the game has one final blow to deliver. The best part about it all, though, is that it makes sense. It works. This is the kind of ending that could have upset everyone, but you can’t help but feel like things are unfolding as they should. In a way, Tommy brought this on himself. He had several opportunities to leave the Mafia, but he stayed. Tommy’s also why you’re going to stay with this game.
Looks Great, Plays Pretty Great
Before we go on please remember this is my first experience with this game, so I can’t speak for what it felt like to play it ten years ago. Mafia: Definitive Edition was given the full remake treatment, as opposed to a remaster. There are points during the game where I forgot it was meant to be a Remake. For all intents and purposes, this game easily passes for a current-gen game. It doesn’t quite reach the graphical highs of something like Final Fantasy VII: Remake or Spider-Man but the character models look great… Mostly. The biggest problem with the graphics is they can end up being uneven. When you’re driving through the city, it’s hard to tell that this is an older game. When it comes to the models on some of the less important characters, it’s clear they weren’t given as much attention as Tommy. This is okay, though! It never detracts from the overall fun of the game, which is the most important thing. I think the lightning also deserves a special shout-out because it looks incredible at points.
When it comes to the gameplay, it gets a little more complicated though. I mentioned this earlier but the game places a far bigger emphasis on story than something like GTA. Personally, I prefer this but those expecting an open-world might be somewhat disappointing. You have the ability to explore the world at your leisure, mostly, but there isn’t much to see. The game sends you from objective to objective in order to progress the story. Driving to destinations can get monotonous but you can actually turn off optional driving sequences in the settings. So what are you doing on these missions?
Well, mostly you shoot guys and drive. One mission has you do a race, which I guess still falls under driving but I wouldn’t recommend playing this on the hardest difficulty. I’ll get to that in a little bit, though. Mafia: Definitive Edition gives you several toys to play with, pistols, tommy guns, shotguns, molotov cocktails all the things you’d expect. There’s a melee mechanic as well, but it’s pretty barebones. It basically boils down to hit triangle and spam circle (adjust buttons according to console!). The game occasionally won’t even let you throw the first punch, not until you’ve dodged one of their attacks. The shooting feels fine, but the cover mechanic can be kind of finicky. Sometimes you’ll try to hit cover but… nothing will happen. It’s during these sections that the game shows its age; when the polished visuals don’t match up with the gameplay.
I don’t think it’s that huge of a deal. The game is by no means unplayable, far from it. It’s actually really fun. Yeah, I wish the shooting was a little more polished but I never had a real issue with it. I think that the reticle for the guns being just a little bit smaller would have made a world of difference. With all that being said though, I strongly doubt it’ll detract from the game for you, at all.
The game also offers several difficulty settings, with one particularly interesting one. Classic Mode is exactly what it sounds like, it makes the gameplay exactly as the original did. What this means is that police will go after you for minor infractions, like speeding. It makes the game more difficult overall, but it also makes one race nearly unbeatable. I, personally, was not able to complete it while reviewing this game but I know many other people weren’t able to either. To those few who have beaten it: Good job! Seriously, I could not do it. It felt incredibly frustrating, but I can’t dock the game for including something like this. It’s a neat feature that veteran fans are sure to live and it takes nothing away from those looking to enjoy an easier game.
Mafia: Definitive Edition was an absolute delight to play from beginning to end. The remake aspects of the game are absolutely incredible, the story kept me playing for hours at a time and the graphics make this ten-year-old game shine like a current-gen game. The gameplay can be a little finicky, but it’s not something you can’t get passed. Honestly, if you’re a fan of Mafia movies or historic set-pieces, specifically those set during prohibition, you’d be doing yourself a disservice not giving this game a chance. Playing this game made me wish I had played the original, and more than even I’m excited to jump into Mafia II and Mafia III.
Trust me, give it a chance. Being a gangster ended up being a ton of fun.