Debuting back in 2002, the original Mafia is now available for modern consoles as a remake so let's go back to the '30s and join the mob.
Back when Mafia II released, I had a great time playing through it and it remains one of my favourite story-driven games of all time. Shortly after finishing it, I picked up a copy of the original Mafia for PS2 and found it to be quite dated and difficult to play so I quickly shelved it. Thankfully, that very same game has been remade with modern visuals and updated gameplay and I'm happy to say that it's finally worth playing. You play as cab driver Tommy Angelo who, after a series of fateful events, joins the mob. The entire campaign is set within the fictional city of Lost Heaven, Illinois which was clearly inspired by Chicago and many of its residents even have thick Chicago accents. Considering the timeframe spans 1930 to 1938, you'll see many buildings and fashions from that era as well as listen to time-appropriate music which includes a lot of big band, swing, and some jazz. It's a truly immersive setting that captures an era brilliantly.
Mafia: Definitive Edition's chapter-based campaign should be very familiar to anyone who has played Mafia II as you basically travel from point A to point B then take part in some sort of mission. The travel itself is enjoyable as you'll be punished and chased if you break any laws and driving around in classic cars is pretty fun, too. The missions involve anything from rescuing your friends to escaping the police and setting up explosives to collecting payments. More often than not, simple operations will go sideways and you'll end up in some sort of epic gunfight or car chase which makes the campaign consistently exciting and it ties in perfectly with the story, too. It's the sort of variety that series fans expect and the steady pace of it all ensures that it never gets tiresome.
On a presentational level, Mafia: Definitive Edition looks great, especially when you see characters' faces up close. The cityscapes are gorgeous as well and I sometimes found it difficult to concentrate while driving as I loved simply taking in the scenery. Meanwhile, the audio is well done with solid voice acting, satisfying effects, and a soundtrack full of licensed music from the '30s. With that being said, there are some issues such as when characters sound like they're speaking into a tin can which usually happens during gameplay. Also, 2 characters supposedly grew up in Italy together yet one sounds like a fresh immigrant while the other comes off as if he's a Bears season ticket holder. Anyway, there are some graphical issues as well such as character models occasionally going through solid walls and melee finishing moves that look underwhelming and repeat way too often. Other than these minor issues, it looks and sounds great.
The main aspect that I love about the Mafia games is their stories and unfortunately, I still think that Mafia II has the best narrative in the franchise so far. Don't get me wrong; the story here is very well told and gripping. However, there are moments when it felt disconnected. For example, the Don is supposed to be some sort of upstanding guy that differentiates himself from his rival and insists that getting angry leads to dumb decisions yet he gets angry and makes some dumb decisions of his own. I'm not sure if this is intentional but whether it is or not, it makes it difficult to relate to the characters. I particularly didn't like Paulie and Sam who act as Tommy's peers because their bad side gets hinted at way too early and they have flat and occasionally annoying personalities. Meanwhile, Tommy is a blank slate without much history but he's too much of one which made me not sympathize with him much either.
Finally, as with all Mafia games; Mafia: Definitive Edition features some enjoyable collectibles that are scattered around Lost Heaven. Specifically, there are cigarette cards with gangsters of the United States on them, Pulp Magazines, and issues of Gangsters Monthly to collect. On top of this, you can also snag Mystery Foxes which are weird-looking statues as well as amass an impressive car collection after driving different kinds of vehicles. All of this definitely adds a lot of replay value for completionists who love exploring.
Mafia: Definitive Edition is a must-play for any fan of the franchise. Although it doesn't quite have the narrative cohesion of Mafia II, it still offers a memorable and gripping story that's set in a gorgeous virtual adaptation of 1930s America.
- + Fantastic story-based campaign that's steadily-paced and full of variety
- + Great new graphics and audio
- + Fun collectibles to discover
- - Characters are generally unlikable and Tommy is too much of a blank slate
- - Some visual and audio issues
- - Writing can be incongruous at times