Mafia: Definitive Edition is the latest game from Hangar 13, the studio known for developing the modern Mafia series starting with the well regarded Mafia 3. Mafia: Definitive Edition was Hangar 13’s chance to redevelop their engine for the next generation by using the same story, map, and setting to create the old classic into a fun modern game. Now, you may have heard about Mafia 2 and Mafia 3 Definitive Editions which had upscaled textures and complete DLC experiences, but this is nothing like that. Mafia: Definitive Edition is a complete top-to-bottom remake. I cannot speak on how the game feels compared to the original; in 2002 I was mostly playing Sly Cooper and Dark Cloud instead of playing these types of games since I was 9 years old. At 27 though, I had a fantastic time with this version.
The Mafia series has taken a look at different mafia groups throughout the 20th century, and Mafia kicked it all off in the 1930s prohibition era. You play as Tommy Angelo, a former taxi driver who gets roped into helping out the Salieri crime family of Lost Heaven (The in-game name for Chicago). As you play the game, you slowly rise through the ranks of the crime family going from the role of Driver to Dom Salieri’s go-to man. The whole story is very gripping as you play many different kinds of missions completing tasks for the Dom including taking out political opponents who are trying to stop organized crime, and even sabotaging your rival mafia’s car for a big race (more on this one later). It is a very down-to-earth story about one man who tripped, then jumped, headfirst into the Mafia life for the better and worse. Honestly, one of my few complaint about the story is how odd the ending is as it takes a left turn that you wouldn’t expect.
You see, the game is told throughout 20 chapters of varying length, with you going from one to the other. There is no driving to a specific point. Right when you wrap up one mission, you roll right into the next with an occasional intermission where Tommy is talking to a special agent whose role finally makes sense as you approach the ending of this 10ish hour long game. My other complaint is how fast time passes. Several missions involve Tommy building a relationship with Sarah Marino, the daughter of Dom Salieri’s bartender. After you see them slowly begin their relationship, several missions later you see them living together and married with a hint about how Tommy’s involvement with the Mafia is affecting them both. Finally, you see them together at Tommy’s daughter’s wedding many years later during the ending sequence. It would’ve been nice to see the addition of more cutscenes between missions to go over the family dynamic as it changes with Tommy’s growth within the Salieri organization.
Now, there are two major parts to the missions that normally play out during each of the 20 chapter; driving and shooting. The driving is… fine. It’s very wonky but makes sense when you remember that the cars you’re driving are from the 1930s, the early days of the automobile industry. The cars do have stats though, from control, acceleration, top speed, etc. but you don’t find out those stats unless you check them out in your garage. Additionally, your cars have actual gas. But you won’t encounter any issues with running out of gas during a normal mission. I realized that gas played a part in the driving mechanics when I was playing around in the Free Roam mode. There is also one part of the game that is notorious for how rough the driving gets. In chapter 5, you drive in an old racing event and the car that you drive may have one of the worst handling in the game for how fast it goes. Additionally, the other drivers are mean and won’t stop going after you. Taking corners too quickly or too sharp and spinning out may mean you need to restart the whole race. The race takes about 6 minutes to complete and you have to get first to progress. One of the driving mechanics, ramming, helps out immensely here. If you ram at the right time while going around a corner, you will get a small boost in the direction you are pointing the stick. This can easily help get you out of a bind if you think you’re about to spin out or if you think you won’t make a turn. Trust me when I say, you need to use this wisely because even if it is helpful, spamming the ram button will quickly make you spin out and lose the race. Finally, the game also has a setting where the cops will chase you down if you drive over the speed limit, run a red light, hit a couple vehicles, etc. There are limiters built into every car that automatically change to match the speed limit of the road you are driving on. You can toggle these on and off as you see fit which also helps to make those tight turns, or to really turn on the gas when you need to get away from your enemies or cops.
As for shooting, the game is basically a cover shooter that acts almost like a shooting gallery. The guns you use are OK, but they are not steady, and the reticles are not that reliable. There were numerous times where I thought I got a headshot, but it whiffed. My aim isn’t great, but there were many times where clear shots missed because of how big the reticles are. As for the AI, they love to poke their head out and shoot at where they think you are until their ammo runs out. Then they go back into cover sometimes to reload. But in many of the settings you fight enemies, they will slowly move from cover to cover to get closer to you until they can unload their clips into you. But they’re also quick and easy to pick off. A headshot is a kill no matter who you shoot. There is a small variety of guns you can use as well. From the revolver, to a shotgun, hunting rifle, and even the tommy gun. You can have a light weapon (pistol or sawed-off shotgun) and a heavy weapon (tommy gun, shotgun, hunting rifle) with you. Enemies will also be carrying one of these weapons around with them as well so you can quickly fill up ammo if you run out. The only way I can summarize the shooting is, It’s fine. Nothing to write home about. In the accessibility settings, there is a snapping feature for when you aim but I found that to be more of a headache than helpful. You can pre-aim your screen to try to get a quick headshot, but the snapping may move your camera enough to make you miss.
I mentioned before that this game is a complete remake of Mafia and is used as the test of Hangar 13’s new engine. Boy, did they succeed. This game is beautiful. The lighting is perfect wherever you are. The roads look wet when there is a torrential downpour. When it’s sunny, you get some glare when fighting people and facing the direction of the sun. There is one chapter in particular where you are fighting through a farmland and barns during a rainy night that is the best example of how pretty this game is. As you investigate a truck, you get ambushed by enemies. The lighting from the truck’s headlights set a perfect setting for causing confusion as you can’t exactly see where every one of your enemies are. The character models in cutscenes look amazing. They aren’t photorealistic but they just look outstanding with very good lip sync. I honestly can’t wait to see what this or the next Mafia game look like with ray tracing implemented. The models don’t look as good when you’re casually talking to people while walking around but it isn’t too distracting. Plus, the music and sound design in Mafia: Definitive Edition is incredible. The guns sound amazing, the vehicles sound realistic, and all the ambient noises really set the tone for a well made 1930s faux Chicago. It also helps that the radio plays music that sounds like it was pulled right from the 1930s with different radio stations playing different kinds of genres. Having the radio on while driving around free roam really helped pass the time when finding pesky collectibles.
I also want to touch on the Classic mode. Classic mode was made to mimic the difficulty of the original 2002 game. Enemies will kill you in seconds if you’re exposed for too long, health regenerates very slowly, cops will be much more alert forcing you to be a law abiding citizen when you’re not being chased, and you lose all the ammo in your clips if you reload a gun before they run out. You have to beat the game on classic mode if you want to get that 100% achievement completion. You don’t get anything special for beating the game on classic mode except the specific achievement. It was fun for the most part but there were some chapters of the game that felt almost impossible with how many enemies there were. Also, that race segment I talked about earlier? You need to be almost a perfect driver to beat it; I didn’t beat the race until my 20th attempt. Enemies enjoy throwing molotovs and grenades and one hit from either could an instant death. Thankfully if you want to punish yourself with this mode, the checkpoints can be forgiving for the most part, but some chapters have them scarcely set up. One chapter you can die and pick up seconds from where you were, others can lead to you going back minutes and 3-4 shootouts from where you were.
Mafia: Definitive Edition was a very fun 10-hour experience. It was a nice change of pace playing a down to earth game where realism played to the game’s strong suite. There were of course some rough parts, but they didn’t really feel that obvious until Classic mode. The collectibles are also a fun nod and add to the world building; from cigarette cards themed for major mafia people at that time, comics, and magazines all looking like they were ripped right out of the 1930s. The story is a great deep dive into the life of a person who joined the Mafia and it’s effects on that person’s mentality as they have to decide what is best for their mafia family or for them. I highly recommend it to anyone looking to pick up a short-ish game that doesn’t have over-the-top dramatics, only a real down to earth story about one man trying to find his place in the prohibition era world.