For someone who’s never experienced any of the Mafia games before, Mafia: Definitive Edition sounds like the perfect starting point. It’s the first game in the series even though its remake didn’t get released first in the new Mafia: Trilogy collection, and the fact that it’s a ground-up remake and not a remaster gives hope it’d smooth out some of the creakiness of an older game. After playing through a few chapters of Mafia: Definitive Edition, those assumptions are accurate – it feels like a brand new game with an engrossing setting for players to get invested in.
It’s impossible to highlight the shot-for-shot differences without having played the original, but rich dialogue and high-quality cutscenes are two of the features touted for the game that it most definitely has. Those alone make the game feel as new as any other modern game. There’s a certain cohesiveness between the dialogue and the way the characters move in cinematics that’s often lost in remakes and remasters. It does almost to build up the Lost Heaven 1930s setting as exploring the streets on foot or in a vehicle does for the player.
Exploring those streets is something you’ll be doing a lot of in Mafia: Definitive Edition. The main menu tells you as much before you even start the game since it has options for free rides through the city and an encyclopedia of cars you’ve collected, though neither option was available in our hands-on preview. Manual and automatic transmission settings, police responsiveness options, and a smoothness you’d typically only find in games centered around cars and driving themselves denotes an extra level of care offered to that core part of the game.
There were segments from the chapters where driving around takes much longer than it would in other games if you want to set your speed limiter on and abide by the laws for immersion, but it never feels like a chore. Two of the preview’s more dramatic moments involving races and car chases were some of the most memorable moments from the chapters played and showed both the complexity of the game’s driving systems and how they’re unified with other mechanics. I’d assume just drive around Lost Heaven and listen to the protagonist Tommy Angelo talk to his mafia buddies or the news on the radio until the dialogue plays out before embarking on the next mission.
Out of the cars and on the streets of Lost Heaven, player movement feels swift and responsive. Vaulting over objects and ducking behind cover rarely led to bumbling, accidental movements typically associated with those sorts of features, and with a map tracking your every movement, objective, and notable objects nearby, you don’t have to worry about getting lost in the city when you’re taking in your surroundings.
If there was even the slightest gripe to be had about Mafia: Definitive Edition, it’d relate to the game’s combat system. Mafia essentials like the Tommy Gun make you feel the part, but the weapons lack a certain oomph in shootouts to set them apart from others. Damage and rate of fire obviously change when you’re switching from a handgun to a shotgun to the Thompson, but enemies don’t respond too differently. A direct hit on an enemy often fails to stagger them at all which doesn’t do much to uphold the immersiveness intertwined into other parts of the game. Stealth takedowns also treat players to a brief animation where they leap into action behind an enemy to subdue them which feels jarring considering how smooth other cinematics are. Those combat moments aren’t bad by any means and certainly shouldn’t dissuade potential players, but they don’t mesh as well with the rest of the game as one would hope.
The setting of Mafia: Definitive Edition and the characters it houses are two of the game’s most attractive components, but it’s evident from the brief preview of a couple of chapters it’s got more going for it than just that. How much the game will deviate from the original remains to be seen, but the care invested into remaking the game is evident. Whether this is your first time playing a Mafia game or you just want to revisit the series in a new way, Mafia: Definitive Edition feels like it’ll satisfy both types of players.
Mafia: Definitive Edition is scheduled to release on September 25th. A preview code was provided for the PC by the publisher and was played with an Xbox One controller.
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