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Mafia: Definitive Edition is a remake of the original Mafia that released in 2002 by Illusion Softworks. Unfortunately, the game got overshadowed by the hugely successful Grand Theft Auto: Vice City at the time, but thanks to the interesting story and innovations that it brought to the table, Mafia garnered cult status in the following years.

Every little mobster goes to bed dreaming about that last big score.

The remake recreates the city of Lost Heaven from the ground up and makes fundamental changes to the gameplay to help players experience the tumultuous life of protagonist Tommy Angelo in 1930’s Prohibition Era America. Has Hangar 13 finally cracked the formula of success, and avoided making this a similar disaster to Mafia III (2016)? Will they be able to rejuvenate the franchise or end up disappointing the hardcore fans? Let’s find out!


Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in

We look back at life with rose-tinted glasses. Everything that we loved was pure and perfect. But time – well, that bastard ruins everything. When I now see footage of the 2002 Mafia game that I had fallen hook, line, and sinker for, I can’t believe my eyes. It doesn’t match with the memory I have in my head – it has aged pretty badly. The graphics look ugly, the dialogues sound stunted, the controls feel clunky, and everything has this weird jank to it. Mafia: Definitive Edition is the salve for that wound of time.

The story of the cab-driver turned mobster Tommy Angelo is retold to a newer audience with the love and care it needs and vows to bring back the returning gamers by making them happy in the way the original game once did. It is the 30’s and America is going through a tough time – it has faced an economic depression, and the government has unwittingly led to the rise of organized crime syndicates by banning the sale and consumption of alcohol. In this backdrop, the protagonist meets his future compadres – Paulie and Sam. He helps them, and gets sworn into the Salieri mob family, and his life changes immeasurably. He rises through the ranks due to his wit and mettle, but the consequences of a life of crime finally catch up with him. It’s a classic gangster story, influenced by Hollywood blockbusters like Goodfellas and The Godfather.

The thing is, you don’t see it when you’re out on the street scrapping, fighting for your life. Then, the guy next to you isn’t just your partner, he’s your brother. You’d stick a knife in someone for your brother.

So what sets it apart from the original and is there anything compelling in there that warrants a return to this world? Well, in bucketloads. The story beats through the twenty chapters and the 9-10 hour gameplay time remains almost the same, but the dialogues have been revamped and the events tweaked to make the game feel more realistic. The characters are voice-acted by new actors, who also bring along their emotional range that is captured effectively, thanks to today’s mocap technology. Their facial expressions lend the much-needed weight in dramatic scenes that in the previous game had felt flat and wooden. Long car trips are now not spent in silence – we hear the banter of the characters and understand their lives better.

Every character gets their moment to shine – moving away from some of their one-dimensional characteristics in the original story. These characters showcase a gamut of emotions through the run of the story, and at times help us understand the motivations behind their choices, and even empathize with them. A pinstripe suit and a fedora hat might dress a mobster, but it is their emotions that make them human.

For example, instead of the game starting off with Tommy going into a cafe to meet Detective Norman, it is the other way round. The detective comes to meet an anxious and jittery Tom. He is nervous, and his stern voice betrays the desperation that he is in to save his family. The way that he negotiates with his ambiguous moral stance during the length of his confession is a thing to behold.

When car mechanic Ralph who suffers from a speech impediment, jokes to a limping Paulie that now there are two cripples in the family after his accident, Paulie characteristically gets scary-angry, pulls rank, and rebukes him by saying that they are nothing alike. These interactions make us understand the hierarchy in the organization better, whereas in the original the conversation ended with an emotionless “That’s right but we ain’t a fool”.

A conversation with Luigi, Sarah’s father and the bartender at Salieri’s now happens behind Sarah’s back. Luigi expresses to Tommy that he is scared that her daughter might react to the eve-teasers that accost her occasionally, and asks Tommy to accompany her. He even asks Tommy to not mention that it was his idea since Sarah’s independent streak might make her reject that proposition. We see the kinder side of Sarah when she donates leftover food to the needy, and her fiercer one, when she lands the last punch on her assaulters. I am extremely happy that the remake did away with the cringey and awkward sex scene between Tommy and Sarah, and instead just hints at them spending the night together.


Never rat on your friends, and always keep your mouth shut

Mafia: Definitive Edition is unmistakeably closer to Mafia III in terms of gameplay than the original. There is a cover system now, and a pretty barebones melee, dodge, and finishers. Combat, for the most part, feels tight, and it keeps you on your toes at higher difficulties. Shotguns are dangerously inaccurate at medium range, while the spread of a Tommy gun will have you paint the walls. Thankfully, a well-placed headshot with any gun will down an enemy right away. Driving cars feels satisfying instead of cumbersome. Chase sequences are exciting and do not feel sluggish like the original anymore. And for the first time in any Mafia game, we have motorcycles. Even the reviled racing mission, is now another exciting mission for you to flex your driving skills in, rather than the unwinnable monster that it once was (unless you are playing on Classic difficulty). Even though this game has quite a few incredible set-pieces, it would take more than that to take on the likes of juggernauts like GTA.

Don’t lay hands on anyone unless there is no other choice. Our clients need to understand that we provide a valuable service. They need to look at you and see Saint Michael. They need to believe you’ll protect them.

If you are looking for a linear third-person shooter with a good but short campaign, this game ticks all the boxes. The open-world is where the game starts to stumble. The gorgeous city of Lost Heaven, though intricately designed in the Art Deco style, starts feeling like a set of a movie once you start poking at the seams. It is devoid of any meaningful side quests, and some parts of the city feel woefully under-represented. The developers missed the opportunity to give the players a fun post-campaign open-world experience through the Free Ride mode and sticks to the original’s philosophy of ‘make your own fun’. Apart from some collectibles, and a few car-boosting missions, the free-roam mode of the game does not provide any incentive for you to spend time in it.

A smile will get you far, but a smile and a gun will get you farther

Are you one of those people who like to modify the gameplay elements to suit your mood and playstyle? Mafia: Definitive Edition provides you that freedom in spades. You can choose from four difficulty options, with the last one “Classic” being the most brutal – you lose health faster, and you heal less when you use the first-aid kits. You can tweak the Police AI’s response to “Simulation” if you wish to be penalized for traffic infractions. You can tamper with automatic and manual transmission, and also change how the vehicle handles. There are a whole host of graphics options that you can alter like motion blur (which I disabled since it makes me dizzy while playing games), depth of field, etc.

The game is beautiful, to say the least. On a sunny day, the light filters through windows and cracks lending a soft glow to the scene. On a rainy night, the lightning scorches through the dark sky, briefly illuminating everything around you. The game makes you stop dead in your tracks oh-so-often – from basking in the setting sun aboard a leisurely yacht, to catching a quick breath behind the pews of a magnificent church amidst a frantic shootout. Neon lights reflect off the puddles on the road, and the sunlight bounces off the chrome polish of fancy cars – the lighting in this game is heavenly despite some of the daytime lighting feeling a bit washed out.

We did face a bit of fps stuttering while driving around and there were few hiccups here and there on one of our review machines equipped with an i5 7500 and GTX 1070. Other than that, the game ran at 50-60 fps locked at 1080p with all settings maxed out.

You can’t feel sorry for these animals. A guy like this, would plug you if you give him the chance. You gotta pull the trigger without thinkin’.

The audio design is on a different level altogether. Car tires screech during road turns, police sirens echo in the distance and the ratatat of the iconic Tommy submachine gun are a few examples of where it shines. In melee combat, the baseball bat lands with a satisfying thwack, and in armed chaotic skirmishes bullets whizz by leaving shattered glass and broken debris. But the biggest takeaway is the radio. The sweeping background score recreated by the BRNO Philharmonic Orchestra is chillingly epic. From the newly licensed jazz tracks from greats like Louis Armstrong, and rousing presidential speeches by Roosevelt, the game recreates the soundscape of that era with outstanding finesse. One of the highlights for me was the riveting commentary of a baseball match between the Lost Heaven Lancers and the Empire Bay Cannons – it is in no way connected to the story, and easily missable and skippable, but the time and effort that the developers must have spent behind it to make it sound authentic is mindboggling!

Real Talk

Mafia: Definitive Edition is a fascinating remake of an old classic. It moulds significant elements of the original in its new bold vision, and provides a strong retelling of Tommy’s story. The facial animations and graphics are top-notch, the attention to detail to the authentic period setting is insane, and the revamped dialogues and subtle rewrites to character motivations provide a more realistic and grounded look into the world of the Mafia families. If there is but any small complaint, it might stem from the fact that Hangar 13 seems to have reined in some of their ambition while making this game. This could have been a denser and living open world, chock-full of secrets, and meaningful side missions. The beautiful world that they have created, deserved it. In spite of creating a strong new framework suited to its own machinations, Mafia: Definitive Edition falters by being slavishly faithful to the 2002 original in certain regards.

I guess I just wanted out, one way or the other. I’m tired, Tommy. Tired of lying to my wife. Tired of checking under my car every time I take a Sunday drive. And tired of waiting for the Don to put two in my temple.

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