Mafia: Definitive Edition Review

Richard Walker

Sometimes, a problem can only be solved using the business end of a Tommy gun, especially in the murky world of organised crime. Only, when it comes to bringing 2002's Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven to a new audience, a Tommy gun alone wouldn't really get you very far. A complete remake might do the trick. Eighteen years is a very long time in video game years, after all, and a complete visual upgrade, with numerous mechanical enhancements, ensures that Mafia: Definitive Edition feels – for all intents and purposes – like a whole new game. For many, of course, it will be a whole new game.

Telling the tale of taxi driver Tommy Angelo – a man in the wrong place at the wrong time (or perhaps the right place at the right time) – Mafia spans several tumultuous years in the life of Tommy and the Salieri crime family, engaged in an escalating bitter feud with the rival Morello family. As with any crime saga, things go from good to bad, then from bad to worse, as Tommy finds himself deeply embroiled in the middle of a gang war. Starting out as Salieri's go-to wheelman, before he knows it Tommy's tasked with whacking Morello guys, engaging in sabotage, and carrying out a host of other criminal activities at the behest of the Don.


Fundamentally, Mafia: Definitive Edition preserves the spirit of the original game, its fictionalised version of 1930s Chicago an enormously detailed and evocative urban sprawl that feels palpably real and lived-in. While this is a pared-down open-world less akin to the likes of GTA V, Saints Row, Just Cause or whatever, with a surfeit of side-quests and peripheral content, it's nonetheless an authentic one, even if it essentially plays host to a resolutely linear, narrative-driven experience. That is unless you take into account the game's Free Drive mode, unlocked after you've completed the game's first mission, enabling you to explore the entire city and its suburban outskirts to your heart's content.

Mafia's mission chapters are nicely compartmentalised (you can even skip non-essential driving bits, if you like), making it the perfect open world to dip your toe into whenever you fancy, while the introduction of modernised mechanics and gameplay flourishes make for a vastly improved experience. Of course, that's to be expected from a ground-up remake, but developer Hangar 13's efforts extend into every corner of Mafia: Definitive Edition, whether it's the quality of the voice acting and performances (some may prefer Michael Sorvino's original rendition of Tommy Angelo, but I personally prefer Andrew Bongiorno's new take on the character), or the strength of the core gameplay itself.

Simply put, Mafia: DE feels like a completely fresh game, its robust vehicle handling making that wretched racing car mission a whole lot more palatable (it took me two attempts rather than 800), and the gunplay feels remarkably tight, boasting a solid cover system and reactive, (slightly) destructible environments. And while the script has been rewritten, roles have been recast, and the soundtrack has been re-orchestrated, the spirit of the original game remains intact – whether you played the game back in 2002 or are discovering it for the first time, Mafia: Definitive Edition proves an immensely inviting prospect.

Not least because it's a nice and compact narrative, clocking in at a wonderfully digestible 15-20 hours – it's rare, in this day and age, to have an open-world game like this that's not teeming with extraneous content and ten million different collectibles littering the map (although there is a generous selection of cigarette cards, pulp magazines, postcards, and stuffed foxes to keep an eye out for). And it's not like there's a shortage of additional content – Free Ride has plenty of secrets and challenges to tackle as a series of neat post-game activities, and you can drive around grabbing any collectible guff you may have missed, while a 'Classic' difficulty level presents a realistic, hardcore challenge for story mode.


Even if you've already experienced Mafia's narrative once before, it's certainly worth revisiting. But perhaps one of the greatest pleasures to be had lies in the simple act of navigating Lost Heaven's tangle of roads and alleyways, taking off the speed limiter and evading the cops, all while the radio broadcasts lilting 1930s songs and historical news beats that provide real-world context to the game's fictionalised backdrop, like the looming shadow of Hitler and World War II. Drive beyond the city limits and you'll discover a rural idyll seldom visited during the game's storyline – a place worth exploring within the Free Drive sandbox. There's more than adequate incentive to meander your way around the streets, taking in the sights and sounds.

Like a fine tailored suit and crisp fedora, Mafia: Definitive Edition has been made with due care and diligence. A loving redux of a crime classic, everything from the sweeping Godfather-inspired score to the brownstones, skyscrapers, neon signs, tram routes, and landmarks that define Lost Heaven has been lavished in authentic period detail. There are minor frustrations, like protracted loading times and woolly button inputs during stealth sections, that can cause a quiet execution to become a full blown fight – and subsequent mission failure – but these are blemishes in what is otherwise a masterful, streamlined remake.

Mafia: Definitive Edition

A more than welcome return for a seminal crime classic, Mafia: Definitive Edition has all of the attributes you could possibly want from a great remake – fresh visuals, overhauled gameplay, and a reverence for its source material.

Form widget
80%
Audio
90%

Channeling Nino Rota's iconic score from The Godfather, Vladimir Simunek's soaring re-recorded soundtrack still resonates, while the 30s tunes on the radio provide swingin' period sounds. Voice performances are also uniformly excellent, although some may prefer the original game's portrayals.

Visuals
80%

Save for the very occasional visual bug, Mafia: Definitive Edition is one of those proper, full-blooded remakes that looks like a completely new game. The city of Lost Heaven looks stunning, while character models and performances are up there with the best the genre has to offer.

Playability
80%

Overhauled controls and masses of improvements over the 2002 original literally make this version of Mafia the definitive edition. Combat and driving alike has been entirely revamped, ensuring the entire experience feels fantastic. As remakes go, Hangar 13 has gone to great lengths to freshen things up.

Delivery
80%

For an open-world epic, 15-20 hours may seem a bit on the slender side, but this is a case of quality over quantity. There's plenty of extra stuff on offer here, not least in the Free Ride mode, which lets you loose in Lost Heaven with bonus challenges and features to discover. Everything is impeccably well-presented, too.

Achievements
70%

Much of the list is devoted to simply completing the story, while the remainder demands unearthing every single collectible in the game. You'll also need to complete the story at the demanding 'Classic' difficulty, which won't come easy. There are some neat little vehicle-based tasks to tackle, too, making for a decent enough list.

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