Mafia: Definitive Edition Review

October 2, 2020
Also on: PS4, Xbox One
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There aren’t many words in gaming that have such a breadth of definitions as “definitive edition”. Originally, if that phrase was added to the end of a game’s title, it meant that it was the version that included all of the DLC. However, it’s also been used by some developers as a way to denote that there are a few extra art assets thrown into their game, that the game has some minor graphical improvements over the original, or even that the game has been entirely remade from the ground up. Either way, it’s a term that’s become almost entirely useless when used to describe what exactly is included in a game, and one that will continue to be confusing after the release of Mafia: Definitive Edition. 

Mafia: Definitive Edition, then, falls under the “complete remaster” subheader of the ever confusing subtitle of “definitive editions”. Like in the original Mafia game, you take control of Tommy Angelo in the appropriately named city of Lost Heaven. After inadvertently getting caught in the middle of a gang war in the 1930s, you find yourself looking for revenge on the mobsters that destroyed your livelihood. One thing leads to another, and you end up working for the lesser of the two evil crime families in the city in order to get that revenge, but also escape your boring life as a cab driver.

Over the next twenty linear missions, then, you follow Tommy as he transitions from being a lowly driver into a feared mob enforcer in a journey that’s just as captivating as it was fifteen years ago. Between the dark overall narrative that perfectly references classic American crime cinema, the enthralling relationships that you form with your fellow mobsters and the well-written lines that the people involved in those relationships say, the game is just as engaging as the very best mob movies. Although some minor things have changed for the remake, it’s still amazing the writing holds up even when compared to its modern contemporaries and sequels

The few extra scenes involving Tommy’s wife are highlights of an already great story

The story of the game is only really possible to enjoy, however, thanks to the completely rebuilt visuals and audio. This time around, Mafia: Definitive Edition is running on the same engine that powered Mafia 3, which means that the game is technically fantastic. With some serious amazing voice acting, great lighting, a fantastic soundtrack and solid texture work, there’s nothing in the game technically that detracts from the story like it did in 2002. It also runs remarkably well on the platforms Jump Dash Roll tested it on, and it’s almost bug free too. Compared to how especially dated the original game looks, it’s refreshing to say the least how sound the game is in terms of its engine. 

This sentiment generally applies to the gameplay, too. With the game running on the same engine as Mafia 3, it means that the gameplay in Mafia: Definitive Edition is eerily similar to its 2016 brother, for both good and bad. Nothing from a gameplay perspective is particularly bad in the game, but it also couldn’t be more unremarkable if it was a 21-year-old B average university student who’s majoring in journalism. It’s a linear cover shooter with no regenerating health, occasional stealth missions and exactly one set piece per mission. It’s satisfying enough to shoot bad guys, the driving feels okay and the set pieces are generally fun, but that’s really all there is to it. Although it’s never a slog to complete missions, it’s somewhat disappointing that more work wasn’t put into this part of the game to help it ascend past painful mediocrity. 

Mob war may be hell, but it certainly does look good

Fortunately, however, you don’t have to actually play very much of the game if you don’t want to. Included in this definitive edition of the game is the ability to use heavy aim assist and to skip all optional driving, which means that especially compared to the notoriously difficult original game, there’s not much downtime that you’re forced to sit through. The game also shortened the infamous driving mission from its forebearer and made a few missions noticeably easier, which goes a long way in making this remake the version of the game that’s worth playing if you’re looking for a slightly less demanding experience.

Hardcore fans of the game can still enjoy some of the original’s difficulty, though. Through an optional setting in the difficulty menu, you can make all of the cars drive with a manual transmission, have police pull you over if you speed in between objective points and force yourself to have a tiny pool of health. Although not everyone will take advantage of these additional features, they’re definitely nice to have as replay incentives or for anyone who’s looking for a more faithful recreation of the original’s gameplay.

Ooo, kinky

So taken as a whole, then, Mafia: Definitive Edition is well worth a purchase for anyone who’s interested in crime media. With a story that rivals The Godfather, some great graphics, fantastic voice work and a handful of convenience features in the gameplay, the only problem with the game is how mediocre its cover-based shooting is. However, that doesn’t drag down the game nearly enough to make it swim with the fishes, and the overall experience is still one of the best you can have if you want to wield a tommy gun while wearing a virtual trenchcoat.

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Mafia: Definitive Edition maintains its source material’s amazing story, adds some solid gameplay and brings the graphics into the 21st century for an overall experience that’s one of the few remakes that is genuinely worth a purchase.
Derek Johnson

Somebody once told me the world was going to roll me, and they were right. I love games that let me take good-looking screenshots and ones that make me depressed, so long as the game doesn't overstay its welcome.