Mafia: Definitive Edition Review: A Remake That Barely Escapes Sleeping With the Fishes

Mafia: Definitive Edition is a remake of the 2002 release that was brought to the PlayStation 2, [...]

Mafia: Definitive Edition is a remake of the 2002 release that was brought to the PlayStation 2, original Xbox, and PC, and while it is able to give the original mechanics and storyline of the game a fresh coat of paint, which is often stunning to look at, the latest edition's reliance on the source material can be a hindrance to the experience. Mafia is being released as a budget title of sorts, being sold for less than your average game, but on its own merits as an open-world crime drama, it barely manages to tread water.

The creators behind Mafia: Definitive Edition noted that this remake of the original port is holding so closely to the parameters of its namesake that it has retained the linear path of the mission structure, practically making the game seem "open world" in name only. The gameplay itself will be familiar to fans that have found themselves put into the worlds of Grand Theft Auto, Sleeping Dogs, and L.A. Noire, but with each of these games, they have evolved with the passage of time, and even though Mafia gets some stunning graphics to keep up with the consoles, it's being released in the modern era and the gameplay could have definitely used a similar upgrade.

Mafia Definitive Edition Review
(Photo: 2K Games)

The gameplay itself can often be clunky and it is a scenario where more time should have been put into matching the level of graphics that have been modernized, as I would find myself frustrated by a number of the firefights that would take place. I often encountered bullets whizzing past their intended targets regardless of what the reticle was telling me throughout the game, and with some enemies acting as "bullet sponges," this can definitely be a problem when you have multiple enemies bearing down on you.

It's nearly impossible to talk about Mafia: Definitive Edition without diving into the story, since so much of your time will be spent in the shoes of the main protagonist of Tommy Angelo. Tommy is a simple cabbie who finds himself doing a "favor" for the mob and eventually being welcomed into the arms of his new "family" during the age of prohibition in the U.S. circa 1930. The missions themselves are born from the narrative, of course, taking Tommy on his path to becoming a full-blown mafioso and ascending the ladder, starting out with payment collections and eventually participating in gang wars. The story can surprise you from time to time and does give you an in-depth look into this era, but can often rely a bit too heavily on tropes that were established by its predecessors in films like The Godfather and Casino.

When it comes to the overall graphics, however, this is where the game truly shines. The facial models of characters and the city itself are such an upgrade from the original version of the game that it will have your head spinning. While some of the motion of characters can be a little jerky, you will notice insane levels of detail when it comes to different pieces of architecture in the city of Lost Heaven, as well as facial features of characters. There is a "Free Roam" mode that gives you the opportunity to simply hop in a car and drive throughout the city and the countryside, but it's a sandbox without much substance.

Perhaps the shining star of this installment is the vehicles, with the publishers recognizing this fact by incorporating a "Carcyclopedia" in the menu of the game itself. The shadows, lighting, and overall aesthetic of each vehicle are definitely what I took the most away from the game, with even the handling feeling right for these automobiles of their time. I found myself marveling at some of the scenes that were reflected on the top of my car as I was driving to my next mission.

Mafia: Definitive Edition is a fresh coat of paint on a bygone era, adding flashy graphics to gameplay mechanics that definitely could have used the same overhaul. While it's clear that the publishers of the game recognized the limitations of the remake by employing a reduced price overall, this is one case where I imagine a remake of the mechanics and story would have taken the game to new heights and made this a more fulfilling experience.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Mafia: Definitive Edition is available on September 25th for PlayStation 4, X-Box One, and PC. A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.