Mafia is a beautiful remaster of a game whose age you still do not quite manage to make up over.
It’s starting so well. Mafia: Definitive Edition opens with a dazzlingly beautiful intro, a cinematic ride through the Chicago-inspired place Lost Haven, worthy of any era film signed by Martin Scorsese. With a silky smooth image update on Xbox One X, nice light effects and convincing illusions of metal scaffolding and neon lights as well as perfectly OK face models, expectations are really raised on Hangar 13’s remaster of the 2K classic Mafia from 2002. But again, they do not take full advantage of the opportunity to improve what was lacking 18 years ago, other than at the right superficial level.
The story takes on the role of Tommy Angelo, a taxi driver who is accidentally dragged into the local gangster war. The game opens with you fleeing the mafia and negotiating with a police officer for protection in exchange for information. Then you control sequences in the form of flashbacks, from the beginning of the story and towards the inevitable end.
Mafia came in an era where Rockstars Grand Theft Auto dominated everything. This can almost be described as a slightly simpler, more linear and cut GTA clone, with a more serious history and focus on the look and spirit of the 30s. You drive a lot of cars (taxis), you run errands, you shoot at opponents and you follow Tommy’s story, which still has a clear framework in the seemingly open world.
Presentation is Mafia: Definitive Edition a big lift. Unlike Mafia 2: Definitive Edition, which arrived a few weeks ago (Mafia 3 is still relatively new, was released to this generation’s consoles) and suffered from rather deplorable image update and very small changes, so this is the first Mafia-play a true remaster (though not a regular remake, which was rebuilt from the ground up). The graphics are updated – although it does not fool anyone that this is a 2020 game, with its somewhat simplified face models – the resolution, image update and several of the details are polished and not least the light effects are very nicely reproduced. The sound is also very good, with convincing acting efforts overall and a really fun and captivating radio, which can be one of the best implementations of a car radio in games we have heard (yes, even better GTA V and Forcegames).
On the other hand, as I said, this is not a remake, but a remaster often mostly means new make-up on a rapidly aging face. Graphic small flaws remain, as the slightly blurred horizon and above all so suffered original Mafia of rather obsessive controls; something that unfortunately lives on in this remaster. Driving a car in a pressured position – but above all running away from antagonists – feels unnecessarily difficult, stiff and awkward and often means that you get stuck on seemingly banal things, such as missing a staircase or taking a wrong turn and thus going crazy. It’s frustrating and detracts from the empathy and joy of the game a lot, unfortunately.
The same goes for weapon handling – it is very varied. Small arms work fine, while the larger caliber of the buffers results in a rather spooky experience, which is a shame for an otherwise rather tight designed shooting with enemy AI that is not entirely uneven.
Mafia: Definitive Edition is a little difficult to really rate. On the one hand, it has control problems and game-mechanical defects that have been around for almost 20 years; there are several games in the same genre that make things better (not least GTA V). On the other hand, it is a nice update of a game classic that many people have fond memories of and SEK 400 is not a completely unreasonable price tag to get to (again) experience the game in the best version it has ever been in (with a couple of small, new elements, which we let you discover as surprises). Thus, we end up between good and recommendation and this time let the grade tip over to the latter.
If you have realistic expectations and love the genre and time series then so be it Mafia: Definitive Edition still a trip worth embarking on.