Mafia – Definitive Edition review (PS4)

A whopping 18 (!) years after the original, we’re getting a Definitive Edition of Mafia, the groundbreaking game from Illusion Softworks. The remake has been handled by Hanger 13, who previously developed Mafia III for 2K, which is also the publisher for this remake. We checked out the PlayStation 4 version.

Ahead of the release of the Mafia – Definitive Edition, I went ahead and installed Mafia III so I’d be able to see Hanger 13’s previous take on the franchise again in a bit more detail. While I loved the core story and all of the narrative-driven side missions, a lot of the optional quests felt too repetitive and the extremely lengthy campaign ended up feeling like a bit of a grind at time. Remembering the first Mafia game I thought of a much higher focus on story missions and excellent set pieces, but was my memory playing tricks on me?

Playing the definitive edition of Mafia now has made me realize that I wasn’t wrong. Mafia still feels like an epic gangster tale based on iconic works like The Godfather, with a firm emphasis on narrative and a relatively low number of side missions. The story from the 2002 original is completely intact here, and still does a good job of transporting us to the 1930s – including a brand new authentic and fully licensed soundtrack. Obviously these songs are lesser known than the ones features in Mafia III, but they fit the time period and are iconic in their own right.

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All of the amazing set pieces are still here as well, many of which feel unique to one another – something that was too rare in Mafia III, even in boss fights. But while the locations are the same, they’ve gotten a big visual upgrade for this new version, and the actors and voice recordings are all new as well, making use of 2020 motion capture technologies to create more lifelike characters and add more nuances to their performances both visually and through the voiceover work.

The only aspect that really feels dated is also the most fun part – the gunplay. The set pieces are absolutely great but guns don’t always feel as impactful as they should and enemy behavior is often erratic and mindless, rushing into certain death and acting completely bewildered when you change positions. It’s certainly still fun, but messes with the sense of immersion that the environment conveys so well.

The world around you feels alive, and cops actually react when you run a red light – pulling you over and forcing you to pay a fine. You can run, but it’s not worth the trouble. In Mafia III I was constantly running red lights and being reckless just to save time, but this version of Mafia’s stricter focus on the narrative means it’s much less likely that you’ll feel like you’re wasting time sitting in traffic – ultimately making for a more realistic experience.

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As with the Mafia II remaster that came out earlier, this Definitive Edition does suffer from a few technical issues, mostly with assets clipping through the environment. It’s certainly not game-breaking, but you’ll wish that these things were fixed when you see them. Performance itself, on a PlayStation 4 Pro, is otherwise smooth, and the audio is once again great.

Mafia’s Definitive Edition is a new way to play a piece of gaming history and will certainly delight fans of the original. Those interested in the series’ origins will also want to check this one out, but judged on its own merits there will also be players who can’t look past some of its more dated mechanics.

Score: 8.0/10

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