Set in the fictional city of Lost Heaven based on the city of Chicago, with a real-world timeline and real-world ideals, the player takes control of Tommy Angelo, originally a taxi driver, in a thrilling story of life inside the Salieri crime family. With many ups and downs to be experienced, developer Hangar 13 have built this 2002 classic from the ground up, bringing a city from the 1930’s to life through enhancing everything from gameplay to visuals and audio, and I have to say, they have done an outstanding job.
In the opening sequence a camera pans through the city, showing off what Lost Heaven has to offer, including its people, infrastructure, cars and lifestyles and immediately it feels like a movie rather than a game. The game starts off with a scene of Tommy Angelo and a Detective Norman meeting at a café, where it soon becomes apparent that this game has the stories being narrated by Tommy himself, within this meeting. The narrative focuses on Tommy Angelo, how he was drawn to a life in the underworld and his working up the ranks of a family crime syndicate, in a world where prohibition is prevalent, and the Mafia are constantly stepping on each-others toes, competing for the top spot in the crime world.
The story is the life of this title. It ticks all the boxes, hits all the cliché nails right on the head, with love, loyalty and betrayal. It remains compelling throughout, managing to keep the player hooked at every turn and while each important character is introduced to the player quickly, their personality and character development is stretched out across the games entirety. The story manages to portray Tommy’s feelings to each section not only through dialogue, but often in emotion and the game has a brilliant way of keeping the characters stories vague enough to invite some curiosity, and counter it with strong personalities that show their true colours quite easily.
Gameplay is smooth, easy to navigate and understand, with a short mission tutorial that will introduce the player to the basic mechanics of the game. Missions are linear, but at the same time it manages to let the player have a choice in the way they play and each mission, aside from vehicular missions, can be completed in multiple ways which is often dependent on the difficulty chosen. The game has four difficulties to choose from; I played on the medium difficulty, which was fun and at times a challenge, but for the true Mafia experience the “Classic” difficulty setting is where the challenge is truly ramped up. The classic difficulty is taken back to the former glory of the original 2002 title, where health is quickly diminished, authorities are brutal in their definition of crime and missions must be approached with caution in order to survive. Two sections in which Mafia can at times fall a bit short, however, is in its AI, which is very noticeable when partaking in a stealth section and in vehicular sections. Walk-paths of an enemy can be observed and quickly learnt, making the stealth a bit of a breeze and more than a few times I noticed some enemy vehicles getting stuck behind street lamps or trams.
Gun mechanics only change depending on the difficulty chosen, which vary the amount of aim-assist, but for the most part firefights are played as a third-person cover shooter. Going in guns blazing will never get the player very far before falling in a piled heap and while the arsenal of weapons available is not enormous, given Mafia’s loyalty to the time period it is accurate. There is also hand-to-hand combat, with the option of using some melee weapons that can be acquired by picking them off the ground but the fighting mechanics are very straightforward, with the simple press of a button for an attack, the press of another for a dodge. Hand-to-hand gameplay was perhaps a bit overlooked, considering the high amount of times the player engages in this style of combat it always feels like every fight is no different to any previous one.
There were some extra vehicles added from the original title, including motorcycles, and vehicle missions are a plenty throughout with Tommy initially working as a “wheel-man”. This included a race, which, on the higher difficulties, can become quite the challenge. Unlike driving in other similar open-world titles, the cars feel heavy to drive and a corner cannot just be approached without stepping on the brake pedal, which is great and brings a bit more realism to the plate. Strangely, while driving mechanics make the player’s vehicle feel heavy, it somehow manages to do the opposite for the AI controlled vehicles; for example, when ramming up the backside of another vehicle they would often flail up in to the air as if in zero gravity and there was rarely a time that hitting another vehicle would ever give me any grief in the evasion of a pursuer or vice versa.
I clocked the completion at about eight and a half hours; and though I do wish it was longer and would not be surprised if it could be completed quicker, with the option of classic mode this time could be almost doubled. Once the game’s first mission has been completed, however, there is also a “Free Ride” mode the developers kindly added which is essentially a mode that allows the player to explore the city on their own accord, find collectibles, unlock secrets and test drive their vehicles. The player can easily get lost within the world of Mafia here, the city never stops looking good and it is just fun to have that freedom.
Visually, this is an absolutely stunning game and aside from the story is where this game truly shines. To think that this is an old game that has been re-worked is unimaginable. The shine of streetlights reflecting off a puddle on the roads surface, still easily noticeable when driving past at sixty miles per hour is something I did not get sick of seeing. Shadows being cast down off the various structures throughout the city, the rain pouring down and turning the city streets in to a slip-n-slide metropolis and watching the burning sun cast a deep orange ray of light toward the city when setting. There are picturesque moments like this throughout the entire game and they never get old and, set alongside very decent character models throughout gameplay, the game never stops feeling like a film. There were a few minor graphical bugs that I bumped into during my playthrough, like my vehicle deciding to float mid-air once parked, or an AI character morphing through a wall, but nothing ever happened that could be considered close to game-breaking, only ever putting a small dent in the immersion.
The original English language soundtrack and score were redone, with a completely new voice casting, including physical performances from the actors, with fantastic results from all the actors for their respective characters. The music that plays from the car radios as the player drives through downtown Lost Heaven is retrospective of the timeline, sometimes with real-world 1930’s themes and events being spoken about in between tracks. Gameplay sounds are crisp and there are subtle differences that can be over-looked, like the sound of footsteps from walking along the pavement compared to the sound of footsteps walking along a wooden floor. There are a lot of small details that help keep that immersion intact, like the clanging of a chain-link fence when being climbed over or the sound of rain beating down on to steel and no sounds ever seem out of place.
Obviously, I would not recommend playing this in front of the kids. With very violent, mature and graphic content this is one to be loaded up once the little ones have been put to bed. It is easily paused during gameplay and cutscenes, however, so if the kids are busy it can easily be played in another room but try not to get taken away from the immersion of it all.
Brando for One More Game
Hangar 13 and 2K Games kindly provided us with a review code for Mafia: Definitive Edition. It was played on an Xbox One X and is available to purchase now, also on PlayStation 4 and PC. Our thoughts on this title are ours and ours alone.