Mafia Definitive Edition Review: A Nostalgic Love Letter To Cinematic Crime

The first Mafia game was one of the first to present us with cinematic, open-world action. A terrific homage to Prohibition-era American crime fiction, hailing comparisons to The Godfather.

Mafia: Definitive Edition is a visually stunning re-imagining of the 2002 classic, which in honesty hasn’t aged all that well.

The fairly fast pace had it over for me too soon. I found it a very pleasurable way to enjoy one of the cornerstones of my childhood as a gamer.

Taking place in the 30s, Mafia’s story finds itself in the setting of Lost Heaven. A beautiful take on Chicago, a pillar for organized crime during their reign in the gangster era. We find ourselves taken into an intro that doubles down, both mimicking the original and showcasing the new as we find ourselves in a tour of Lost Heaven. From there, strap your seat belts in for the 20 mission ride has started.

Although the game presents itself as an open-world game not too dissimilar to Grand Theft Auto or The Godfather. You will have to bear in mind the game is a very story driven and therefore linear action game – the Definitive Edition makes no changes to this.

Riding Solo

The game is solely single player and will jettison you from mission to mission. Not too much of a complaint, but the game could do with an injection of some new missions to give love to the unused corners of the map. Given the game’s emphasis on cinematic approach, why not give us the director’s cut treatment and spoil us some more?

It does however bode well that the story is as good as it has ever been and well worth the revisit. A tale of families at war and bloody betrayal easily makes it as one of  the best storylines in video games to date.

Missions take place in flashbacks where Tommy tells the story of his ascent and descent with the renowned and respected Salieri family.

Missions themselves play out in the same order as the original but the dialogue finds itself in a state of complete overhaul. With new and most definitely improved vocal performances with an enhanced script and an increased organic feel. The authenticity is there to feel with iconic phrases and one liners that the original failed to deliver.

Andrew Bongiorno’s performance as Tommy is strong and subtle. Not to say you feel sympathetic to the protagonist, but you can’t argue against the believability of the performance.

Face Lift

The Definitive Edition can look in the mirror and find a gorgeous and modern yet still classic makeover, with a devil in the detail. From the texture of an iconic fedora to the glistening metalwork of eye-catching automobiles. Night-time lighting is impressive and the mist effect on the lighting of brakes and neon signs as they struggle to be break through provides a realistic and grounded aesthetic to the city.

That being said, gutting enough is the disappointingly weak fire effects, ironic considering everybody and their mothers seem keen to launch a Molotov at you.

Sounds Good to Me

I must say that the audio is upper echelon. The soundtrack is *chef’s kiss*, both inspired by the original and graced by the addition of soul from Louis Armstrong emanating from the radio.

Sticks To Its Roots

Mafia: Definitive Edition has managed to retain most of the charm from the original. Including my personal favourite: Classic Mode. This mode presents a challenge with enhanced AI and ineffective health packs. And if you prematurely reload your gun, which I tend to do, then you sacrifice any remaining rounds.

Standard difficulty is a little less challenging and presents the best opportunity to immerse in the game and beauty unchallenged. If you want to up the ante based on your preference then opt in to some simulation modifiers.

Where’d You Learn How to Drive?

The handling of your vehicle can also toggle between standard and simulation. Although the learning curve isn’t as steep as that of Mafia III. Standard is a bit more lighter and responsive and less punishing when you’re a bit too heavy with the brakes. An ABS effect allows you to still steer when you’re applying full brakes. Simulation on the other hand is far less forgiving. If you want to heavy brake, just know you will lock your wheels up and keep driving forward.

Motorcycles are one of my favourite additions for the game. They handle so well and provide you the perfect speedy getaway. Driving without a doubt is the best it has been in the series. I was excited to see how they had integrated GPS into the game. It’s seamlessly inserted into the City as road signs. This allows me to take my focus away from the monotony of navigation and channel my inner Valentino Rossi on the roads of Lost Heaven.  

Compared to driving however, footwork is boring. Tommy has good presence and weight to him as you transition from casually strolling into a desperate sprint since you’ve inevitably landed yourself in hot water again. But once you find yourself cover shooting you will realise how unremarkable this aspect of the game is. Melee combat feels too simple and sometimes falls prey to poor camera angles.

The Good, the Bad and the Buggy

I did find a few stalling bugs which meant I had to restart, again and again. This glitch saw my enemy I was chasing disappear through the map. It’s not exactly something I will lose sleep over but having to restart my game through these glitches and waste time is irritating.

There is also a very consistent visual glitch where the glint from an enemy’s sniper scope remains even after death. Which is particularly distracting and takes away from the immersion. Additionally I keep having slight ghosting on certain surfaces. The most irritating bug found me frozen out of my car at the beginning of the game, unable to move. Upon restarting the checkpoint I found myself in the same position. Eventually I fixed the issue with the old “turning it off and on again solution”. But that bug in particular had me unamused.

Action is taken to some scenic destinations, such as my favourite, an abandoned farm during a heavy storm. It does feel all the same and not very different to any other games in the franchise. I would say the scenes are beautiful but not unique, a bit disappointing but I can’t complain too much.

Final Thoughts

Knocked down and built up from the ground, Mafia: Definitive Edition is a visually breath taking love letter to the genre. Boasting stellar performances from a well-picked new cast and a rich storyline for you tuck into. It finds itself suffering asphyxiation by bland third-person combat and lack of a true open world and side missions. Despite its hitches it is without a doubt in my opinion the best game of the trilogy. Now for the first time ever stand next to its sequels as an equal rather than a crusty ancestor devoid of the charm it once had. A prime example of a remake done right, I thoroughly enjoyed being back in the middle of my childhood as Tommy Angelo.  

Buy Mafia: Definitive Edition on Xbox One here.

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