Mafia, a classic game franchise, has a whole trilogy dedicated to its world and characters. However, while the second and third games in the franchise play and look fairly well for their age, it’s the first game which has been in dire need of a fresh coat of paint. Mafia: Definitive Edition certainly delivers that, by remaking an open-world period classic with top-notch visuals. However, its gameplay and performance don’t quite match the ambitions that Hangar 13 has for its story and characters.
While the Mafia is almost 2 decades old (time flies doesn’t it?), I feel like this remake is more so aimed at people who have never played the original. As such, I’ll refrain from talking about spoilers in this review.
Story – Classy as a Crime Family
Mafia’s story and characters are something that has been praised a lot over the years, and in Mafia Definitive Edition, developer Hangar 13 has decided to expand on it. The game begins with Tommy Angelo, a member of the Salieri crime family, recounting his days of service to Detective Norman. Starting as a plain old Taxi driver, Tommy is inducted into Don Salieri’s crime family after helping out Paulie and Sam, 2 long-time members of the same gang. What follows is an 8 year-long journey of crime and deceit.
While the remake does follow the same story as the original, multiple points and storyline have been expanded upon. This makes the entire plot feel more natural, although there are some instances where it may feel forcibly pushing forward despite some inaccuracies.
Mafia’s story is almost akin to that of a well-written drama. Its characters have depth and personality, and were the primary reason why I wanted to keep playing. Seeing the relationship between Tom and Paulie build was nice, as well as his increasing allegiance to Don Salieri. Salieri himself is an interesting character, similar to the Godfather from, well, The Godfather. Each character has their own backstory that comes to light naturally through the course of the story, which is one of the chief reasons to keep playing.
Visuals and Sound – Lost Heaven Brought to Life
Mafia Definitive Edition looks great. It’s clear that this game is pushing the current-gen consoles to their limits. If you’re playing this on a launch PS4, you shouldn’t be surprised to hear your fans over the game’s dialogue and the music itself. With gorgeous visuals, the city of Lost Haven has never looked so good. The world itself is quite lively, bustling with accurate sounds from the 1930s. Characters themselves look quite real when the lighting is right, and the city streets look nice while it’s raining.
Combat and Traversal
The combat in the original Mafia game is quite dated by today’s standards, so of course, that was also in need of a total revamp for a remake. Mafia Definitive Edition uses a cover-based combat system, which does feel a little average at a lot of times. Playing on medium difficulty, enemies offer a decent level of challenge. But the bigger challenge is ammo management, as in longer shootouts you may find yourself empty-handed halfway through.
After one point I just had to enable aim-assist because in one mission the number of enemies just keep increasing nonsensically. The game also has a melee combat system which isn’t deep in any sense of the word, but just flashy enough to get the job done.
Driving around isn’t really great either, as the card handling often felt too heavy to me, reminding me of the original Watch Dogs. Taking sharp turns can be a nightmare sometimes, with your car getting into the sidewalk being an absolute certainty. This made the infamous race track mission quite difficult, and I had to change a few settings to dial it just right. It’s these little things that make the core gameplay loop a little tiresome really quickly.
Performance – As Expected, But What’s With the VSync Screen Tearing?
I played the game on a PS4 slim, where the resolution was locked at full HD (1920 x 1080) running at 30 FPS. No, targeting 30 FPS. Yeah, framerate can tank into the low 20s during intense combat scenarios, but that’s not my biggest issue with the game. Not even close.
The biggest issue I had that was visually tear-jerking was, well, screen tearing itself. I’ve seen something quite like this. The game targets 30 FPS with Vsync on base PS4 hardware, but since performance isn’t always rock-steady, you’ll be seeing constant screen-tearing every few seconds of the game. This is a unique issue that isn’t found anywhere on the other consoles or PC, as you can see from Digital Foundry’s analysis.
Mafia Definitive Edition puts a nice graphical coat of paint on a dated, yet much-loved classic. However, while the story and characters are just as good if not better than the original, its gameplay mechanics and especially performance fall short of Hangar 13’s technical ambitions.