Written by Maurice Verschuur
September 28, 2020 – Good games from the past will always be good in memory. Mafia, originally released in 2002, is one of those games. In my memory the graphics looked good and the gameplay was smooth and realistic. But when publisher 2K announced Mafia: Definitive Edition in May 2020 with a beautiful but short trailer, I immediately searched on Youtube for the original gameplay footage for some good old nostalgic feelings. But, one may think not surprisingly, I was a bit shoked: is this the game I was so excited about back in the days? The graphics look horrible and the gameplay is clunky as what. Is this really the game from my memory? So you can imagine how excited I was about the announced remake of Mafia and thereby the opportunity to relive this great mobster story with modern graphics.
The game Mafia has one of the most classic gangster story, taking place in the fictional city Los Heaven. Tom Angelo (Tommy) is a simple cab driver trying to get by during the Great Depression in 1930. One day he comes across two mobsters from the Salieri family who are on the run from the opposing Morello mafia. The two force Tommy to drive them to safety. Tommy is compensated for his trouble and thinks that’s that. But a while later the Morello’s retaliate by beating him and his cab up. Tommy seeks revange and asks Don Ennio Salieri, the boss of the Salieri mafia, for permission and help to get back at the Morello’s. For Tommy this is the start of his career in the mafia.
Tommy works his way up in the Salieri’s family and earns the trust of the Don and thereby getting the opportunity to take on higher stake jobs.
Mafia: Definitive Edition has multiple difficulty levels ranging from ‘Easy’ to ‘Classic’. I started out with ‘Normal’ until I got to the notorious race. Everyone who played the original game knows how challenging it was to complete it. The Salieri’s have a lot of money riding on a driver to win the race. Unfortunately the Morello’s beat him up and he ends with a broken arm and unable to drive. Minutes before the race the Don asks Tommy, as his best driver, to take the place of the beaten up driver.
The race starts, the crowd cheers and the wheels of my sports car start to spin like crazy. The tires are screaming and my car sprints forward. It’s hard to keep the car in a straight line but at the first corner I see an opportunity to start takeing over my competition one by one with ease. After the first round I’m already at 1st place and thinking by myself: there is something wrong here. Where is the struggle from the original? This can’t be right. That’s right. The dificulity is set on ‘Normal’. Let’s try ‘Classic. Immediately I notice the difference. The other drivers where a lot harder to catch up and brought a lot more effort to the game.
After many, many crashes, over steering, spins and ending upside down I learned to handle the car. About 45 minutes later, it truly is challenging, I finally succeeded and finished first. Yes! This is Mafia as I remembered it!
Not just a remake
If a remake build from the ground up isn’t enough, developer Hangar 13 took the liberty to overhaul some missions, cut scenes and added extra elements to the game. The obvious one is the introduction of motorcycles. Just like cars they drive as you would expect from vehicles in the ’30; hard, like driving a battleship on the road. And don’t even get started about driving in the rain. It’s like driving on ice and I like it. It’s how you would expect a car from that age would drive.
Without going to much into details to avoid spoilers, changes to missions and cut scenes really comes to light when the Don tasks you, Sam and Paulie (two of your companions in the Salieri family) to steel cigars from the harbor’s Customs Offices. In the original game this mission was considered to be poorly explained leaving some players behind wondering what they needed to do. To me it looks like Hangar 13 have simplified this particular mission. They also removed the part you had to carry the boxes full of cigars into your stolen truck. And since I vividly remember this, I was a little bit disappointed this was removed in the remake. But having said that. This is only a small change I personally didn’t like against a lot of positive changes made.
The world in context
The radiostation in Mafia: Definitive Edition brings the world to live and making the immersion complete. With typical swinging ’30 music the different radiostations sets the tone. And especially the breaking news, which are mostly related to in game events, or special reports give you a broader perspective of the time and world you’re playing in. From police chiefs who preach against organised crime to politicians who embrace prohibition to fight crime.
Often I found myself cruising through the streets and really focusing on the radio. And correct me if I’m wrong, but I do believe these reports didn’t exist in the original game and do give a lot more context to the story.
Honoring the original
Mafia: Definitive Edition is not just a remake build up from the ground. The developers took the liberty to adjust some missions, cut out or rearrange little details from the story without doing any injustice to what already was an iconic mafia game.
As one of those who played the original I had a blast going through the 10 to 12-hours story filled with action, betrayal, a world that breathes the ’30 atmosphere, beautiful made cut scenes and a story which, for me, still stands as one of the most iconic and true mafia stories. Mafia: Definitieve Edition truly honors the original Mafia.