Mafia: Definitive Edition Review

2020 has been something of a celebration of the Mafia series. Back in May the Mafia Trilogy was announced containing spiffed up definitive editions of the three Mafia games. Mafia II and Mafia III were released on the same day and contained their respective main games and all their accompanying DLC. Mafia: Definitive Edition is something different however, a remake of the 2002 gangster shooter that not only brings Mafia back to its roots, but superbly manages to make an offer you cannot refuse and will make you love gangster videogames all over again.

The story follows Tommy Angelo retelling the story of his dealings with the Salieri crime family to a private detective who wants to bring the mob’s leader Don Salieri to justice. This trip down memory lane starts with Tommy working as a lowly taxi driver trying to make ends meet picking up drunk drivers and roving them back to their abodes in an unexciting and slumbering manner, venturing from job to job with indifference and nonchalance – Tommy’s life was banal and repetitive. One day Tommy finds himself rubbing elbows with a few gangsters he was picking up on a run of a mill fare, and before you know it Tommy is pulled deep into the gangster lifestyle and gains membership to the Salieri crime family.

Mafia does a wonderful job of meticulously building the narrative thanks to its undying loyalty to its story, grounding its world in a chapter-based structure that’s hugely refreshing from the muck and mire of overblown open worlds that offer freedom at the expense of focus. Sure the characters maybe a tad flat, often looking and acting the same without explosive personalities, but all you need to know here is that if you are looking for a compelling yarn Mafia: Definitive Edition has you covered.

Mafia is a linear story-driven experience where you start as a lowly taxi driver trying to make ends meet by ferrying passengers around New York, but quickly you run into trouble with ruffians, gain the approval of Don Salieri to join his mob, and from there you start to perform increasingly difficult tasks to prove yourself worthy of being a gangster. Such activities include replacing a racing driver to participate in a race, stealthily infiltrating areas, roughing up ruffians, engaging in a spot of noir investigating, and of course tenderising debonair enemy hoodlums and insurgent police units with an arsenal of deadly weaponry from magnums and rifles to Tommy Guns and shotguns. Every chapter feels unique and different from the last – which is a much-needed breath of fresh air from ever-growing list of open-world games where freedom is often valued over focus and variety.

When it comes to the shooting mechanics Mafia: Definitive Edition does a pleasant job of making shots feel impactful and devastating no matter what weapon you use. You may find that a straightforward handgun does the trick of dispensing foes adequately more often than not, but when you find rifles and Tommy Guns lying around you will certainly want to snatch them because they feel very capable of causing an onslaught of mayhem and you have a bit more agency to throw caution to the wind if you maintain a cerebral mindset. Blind-firing is an option if you want to keep your cover and make sure enemies are kept at bay, which will come in handy later on in the game as getting surrounded becomes a more frequent occurrence. On the downside the aiming reticule can prove to be too erratic and enemies can have a tendency to be bullet sponges, but getting into a gunfight is always rewarding and will remain satisfying despite these blemishes.

A significant reason why shootouts are so memorable in Mafia are due to the settings to which you offload your clips. Closed-in bar areas, rooftops, a bank, a prison, and around a restaurant are just some of the locations you will duke it out in. When you’re squaring off in a smoky lounge and are hunched behind a pool table you know that some serious thought has gone into the vibes of the era.

The difficulty in Mafia is tough but fair. You will want to stay in cover continuously and pop out for a shot when the best opportunities present themselves. If you stay out in the open for too long you will be hosed down with gunfire quickly within two or three shots and forced to restart at conveniently placed checkpoints. Sometimes the challenge can feel overwhelming as police and gangsters can swarm you with little room to breathe at times – and a certain on-rails turret section may make you want to pull your hair out in frustration due to its unfairness – but diligence is the key to progress and you will have a grasp of knowing where you went wrong during shootouts in most instances.

At times Angelo will be forced to rough up his foes with fists and baseball bats too, bringing the action face-to-face as you wallop seventy shades of shiz out of troublemakers and countering where necessary to avoid being on the wrong end of knuckle sandwiches. There’s no real finesse to fisticuffs as you’re constantly jabbing face buttons to attack and evade, but the blows feel bludgeoning enough that you’ll wonder why these encounters aren’t more common throughout the game’s story. 

Mafia isn’t short of car chases either as you’ll find yourself trying to lose the cops time and again, especially if you opt to disobey the strict speed limits imposed within the city. Driving feels smooth and responsive and you will be pleased with the bevvy of classic motors you’ll get to drive, although you’ll be too busy keeping your eyes on the road and the vehicles are secondary to the intense chases you will be forced to come up against. There are icons on the map during pursuits that will help you lose the cops and gang cars such as ramps and roadworks, which can really help you out if you’re struggling to lose them – though be warned that there is a wanted level system similar to a GTA game, so if you find yourself with a 5 star wanted rating, you will constantly be pestered by the police until you outrun them.

Mafia revels in the sights and sounds of the 1930’s, from radio chatter speaking of prohibition happenings and political goings on to the old-timey billboards you will see dotted around the city that further emphasize Mafia’s swanky and classic feel. The verdant blue skies rolling with fluffy clouds and the gentle pitter patter of rain really informs you of how articulate the visual presentation is and it’s about as good as you can expect from a remake. Coupled with the pleasing voicework, script and music there’s an undeniable sense of place that makes Mafia truly outstanding – this in spite of a few technical dingers like an enemy A.I bug that stretches the character model and other weirdness. But these issues don’t detract from the majesty and classiness of Mafia’s authentic 1930’s presentation.

After experiencing Mafia’s story you can jump into the game’s Free Ride mode where you can rove about collecting posters, magazine covers and add to your collection of vehicles and engage in a few side quests. Sadly, this mode fails to capitalise on its potential thanks to the lack of voicework during side activities and there generally isn’t much to do anyway, but thankfully the story’s richness is preserved and is what truly matters.

Conclusion

Mafia: Definitive Edition is how a remake should be done. By taking and meticulously remoulding the original game, Mafia: Definitive Edition sings with a deliciously authentic 1930’s gangster shooter experience that’s enriched to no end by a chapter-based story that keeps the focus on the story and its characters. The aiming and target reticule aren’t ideal, and the Free Ride mode is a missed opportunity, but when the smoke clears and all you want is a classy hard-boiled gangster shooter there are few better options available.

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This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.
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Good
  • Focused structure puts story and characters first
  • Amazingly detailed and authentic 1930's presentation
  • Combat is lethally satisfying
Bad
  • Aiming can be rather irksome
  • Bullet sponge enemies can annoy
  • Free Ride mode is a missed opportunity
8.1
Great
Gameplay - 8.5
Graphics - 8.5
Audio - 8
Longevity - 7.5
Written by
Although the genesis of my videogame addiction began with a PS1 and an N64 in the mid-late 90s as a widdle boy, Xbox has managed to hook me in and consume most of my videogame time thanks to its hardcore multiplayer fanaticism and consistency. I tend to play anything from shooters and action adventures to genres I'm not so good at like sports, RTS and puzzle games.

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