Family Is Forever

HIGH The quiet scenes when Tommy talks to Sarah.

LOW Noticeable glitches. Also, I suck at driving.

WTF This game had me craving whiskey.

Mafia: Definitive Edition opens differently than most action-adventure games. This remake of the original from 2002 isn’t trying to impress with flashy action sequences or copious amounts of exposition, nor are players walking through a tutorial that explains its third-person shooting mechanics. Instead, it opens with a nervous wreck of a man pleading for his life.

Cabbie-turned-mobster Tomas Angelo sits in a diner waiting for Detective Norman to arrive. Tired of constantly looking over his shoulder, he wants to broker a protection deal and tells his rags-to-riches story, detailing the events of 1930-1938.

Taking place in the fictional city of Lost Heaven (modeled after prohibition-era Chicago) players control Angelo through 20 chapters. Mission structure is fairly basic but enjoyable, as they’ll generally shoot their way through corridors or occasionally act as a getaway driver after large-scale heists. Developer Hangar 13 used Mafia III’s engine and structure here, meaning that the shooting feels updated and significantly better than the recent Mafia II: DE.

Yes, this is standard stuff that’s been done countless times in other games, but it still works pretty well and firefights are satisfying — I loved firing my one-handed shotgun from the hip or throwing molotov cocktails onto unsuspecting enemies.

While the basics are basic, Mafia‘s variety comes from the missions themselves. One of my favorite moments takes place on a farm where a whiskey sale is about to go down, but all hell breaks loose instead. It’s a perfectly-paced, phenomenal sequence of events with a linear structure keeping the action tight. Other great moments include trying to get businesses to pay their protection money, fighting a group of gang members messing with Tommy’s girlfriend, and even rigging a car to explode — these are typical mob movie beats, but they were immersive.

On the other hand, Mafia‘s driving missions aren’t nearly as good as the rest — in fact, they became the bane of my existence.

One such was where Angelo had to compete in a race, and I had to replay the mission a few times because the driving felt way too loose — perhaps it was due to using a period-accurate car? In any event, the race was annoying and I had to change the difficulty to Easy to remedy the problem.

While on the subject of difficulty, it should be noted that Hangar 13 has added several options that make Mafia more accessible besides general difficulty, including letting players skip any unnecessary driving between missions and offering a choice between an automatic or manual driving style.

The saga of the Salieri crime family (as told by Angelo) is paved in bloodshed and betrayal. The writing is strong, but the performances are even stronger. Lines are delivered authentically, with both voice performances and facial capture feeling believable. Seeing Tommy hesitate to answer his wife, Sarah, when she presses him about work-related issues is unlike anything I’ve seen in a game of this type, and it’s little things like this that elevate Mafia from a simple crime story to being a truly cinematic experience — a simple scene where two people sit on a couch in silence is one of the greatest moments in a game this year.

While the foot missions are great and the driving can be mitigated, the real star of Mafia is the story. If the exuberance and hedonism of Mafia II can be compared with Martin Scorse’s Goodfellas, Mafia’s somber tale of family is closer to Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather.

With such high quality on display, each cutscene felt like the next installment of a serialized crime show, and it kept me hooked. Special props go to voice actor Glenn Taranto for his work as crime boss Don Salieri. He’s cold and calculating, but also inviting in a strange way. His performance is among the greatest I’ve seen in any game, and Angelo’s voice actor and facial capture model Andrew Bongiorno echoes a young Robert De Niro.

Now, at this point I need to temper my praise with a few caveats.

For one, Mafia has quite a few technical issues that could break the experience for others, although it didn’t dampen my own personal enjoyment — things like crashes, a strange audio bug that amplified voices of the characters but muted all other sound effects, or finding my car floating in mid-air, among others.

Also, like I mentioned before, the gameplay is fairly generic and I would imagine that players tired of linear third-person action games will try it and groan, but to them I say that Mafia is truly about the story. This is a linear shooter through and through, but it gets the job done where it matters most.

Mafia: Definitive Edition takes an old title and adds polish in the places where it counts most — story and character — while delivering a solid experience in most other aspects. The driving isn’t great and there are a few bugs that need to be squashed, but diving into this wonderfully tragic tale is an offer that no one should refuse.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is published by 2K Games and developed by Hangar 13.  It is available on PS4, PC and XBO. This copy was obtained via publisher and was reviewed on PS4. Approximately 12 hours were spent in single-player and the game was completed. There is no multiplayer.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated M for Blood, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes, and Strong Language. The official ESRB description reads as follows: This is an action-adventure game in which players assume the role of a Prohibition-era gangster (Tommy Angelo) rising through the ranks of a crime family. From a third-person perspective, players engage in a variety of crime-related missions: hits/assassinations, shootouts, racketeering, robberies. Players can engage in melee combat using their fists as well as weapons (e.g., bats, pipes, knives) to kill enemies; several missions involve gun battles with realistic firearms (e.g., pistols, rifles, machine guns). Melee attacks and gun fighting result in large splatters of blood, with corpses seen in pools of blood. Finishing moves during melee fights can depict characters smashing enemies’ faces, or stabbing enemies in the chest repeatedly. Cutscenes also depict intense acts of violence: a man shot in the head at close range; wounded/restrained men shot to death. During the course of the game, players can engage in a mission set in a brothel; prostitutes are depicted wearing lingerie as they speak suggestively to players (e.g., “…[W]e can do whatever you want.”). Sexual moaning sounds can be heard during one cutscene. The game contains brief references to drugs in the dialogue, and one mission depicts a crate full of drug packages. The words “f**k,” “sh*t,” and “a*shole” appear in dialogue.

Colorblind Modes: Colorblind modes are not present in the options menu.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing Gamers: All dialogue is subtitled and there are no audio cues required to enjoy the game. subs resizable/changeable?

Remappable Controls: No, the controls are not remappable, but there is a control diagram.The y-axis can be changed.

Cj Salcedo
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AJ Small
AJ Small
2 years ago

Ah yes, the infamous race sequence- if you can believe it, it sounds like they have vastly improved it from the original game

Jarrod Johnston
Jarrod Johnston
2 years ago
Reply to  AJ Small

I always liked the racing level! I thought it was a fun interlude and liked how hard it was driving a 1930’s racecar, which were in fact poorly handling deathtraps, so at least it was accurate.

AJ Small
AJ Small
2 years ago

Yeah, I should probably replace ‘improved’ with ‘made easier’