America in the 1930s. After the collapse of the stock exchanges on the legendary Black Friday, the country suffers from the so-called Great Depression, one of the largest and longest economic crises of the 20th century. At the beginning of the decade, prohibition, i.e. the complete ban on alcohol, was also in force. A perfect breeding ground and a heyday for organized crime, namely La Cosa Nostra, the North American mafia. In pop culture, stories about the Italo-American Mafia clans have been taken up again and again, sometimes from a romanticized perspective. Among the most famous representatives are certainly films such as The Godfather and Scarface as well as the television series The Sopranos.
The most famous video game representative is of course Mafia from Illusion Softworks from 2002. Eighteen years later, the classic is now about to have its second spring. The developers of Hangar 13, who are now responsible for the Mafia series, have given the game an elaborate remake that is supposed to be more than just a graphically refurbished new edition. The title should also be raised to a modern level in terms of game design, handling and staging. We were now able to experience for the first time what exactly that means. With a preview version of the game, we were allowed to play the first five missions as well as a slightly more advanced chapter of the gangster epic ourselves.
The basic story of the game remains the same, of course. We take on the role of Tommy Angelo in the fictional city of Lost Heaven, which is based on Chicago. In 1938 he turned to Detective Norman with his story because he was looking for a way out of the mafia
Source: PC Games
to get off. In the following, he begins to tell the policeman his career in the honorable family of Don Salieri, which is told in corresponding flashbacks. It all begins in the fall of 1930. Tommy works as a taxi driver and more by chance is drawn into the war between Salieri and his rival Morello. In the end he has no choice but to become part of the mob himself.
However, it is already clear in the intro of the game that the developers of Hangar 13 are not afraid to change the way the story is told. While in the original we see Tommy getting out of an elevated train, going to a cafe and sitting there with the detective, the developers in the remake turned the tables. Here Detective Norman gets off the train and sits down next to the waiting Tommy in the cafe. The distribution of roles in the conversation has also changed. While Tommy was composed and self-confident in the original, in the remake he almost seems nervous and fearful, while Detective Norman usually has the upper hand in conversations. With this new approach to the first scene of the game, the developers convey the situation for the two characters in a much more haunting manner. For Tommy, it's a matter of life and death for himself and his family, while the cop doesn't have much to lose.
The creators keep making adjustments to the staging in order to better reflect the course of the story. When Tommy sits at Don Salieri's table for the first time in the original and reports how he was attacked by Morello's thugs, he is already there in a fine pinstripe suit, as if he has always been part of the family. In the remake, Tommy's first meeting takes place while still in his taxi driver's clothes. Only in the course of the first missions does he change his clothing style in order to gradually adapt to the dress code of the honorable family. The same example can be used to explain the small changes to the story that were made here and there. While in the original Don Salieri sends Tommy out on his own to demolish the cars of Morello's people, the initiative in the remake comes from Tommy, who wants to take revenge for his damaged taxi.
Mafia connoisseurs will not only notice changes in the staging and some story details, but also in the content design of the missions. It starts with the escape with Sam and Pauli, when we take control of the game for the first time. In the original, we are being chased by an enemy vehicle that we quickly detached with a few clever driving maneuvers. What follows is a rather uneventful drive across town to Salieri's bar.
The remake, however, offers gripping chase action throughout the mission. Several of Morello's henchmen are hanging on our necks and are nowhere near so easy to shake off. So new gameplay elements in the form of construction sites come in handy, which we use to take out a chaser in a short, stylishly staged sequence. No sooner have we got rid of all pursuers than more enemies with a car blockade are waiting for us. The drive across Lost Heaven remains exciting all the time, until we finally reached the safe realms of Salieri's territory in Little Italy by jumping over an opening drawbridge.
Source: PC Games
Another good example of how unspectacular the mission design of the original was and how the remake makes it better is shown in the third chapter, in which Tommy sets off with Pauli to destroy some Morellos cars. In the original we drive uneventfully to the scene, smash the target vehicles undisturbed and drive uneventfully back to Salieri's bar. The remake offers significantly more action. At the scene of the crime, Morello's henchmen get in our way, Pauli gets involved in the scramble, we steal an expensive luxury sleigh and finally have to get rid of the cops.
The developers have not only added, but also shortened where appropriate, if it was useful for a well-timed feel. After his involuntary flight at night, we see Tommy again at his regular job as a taxi driver. In the original, we drove various passengers across the city for 15 minutes. For the remake, the developers have compressed this section by about half in order to avoid unnecessary lengths. Whether we are transporting five or only three passengers here is irrelevant for the actual plot. The portrayal of Tommy during his daily work succeeds one way or another.
Source: PC Games
The playable missions of our preview version also included the notorious chapter with the car race, which caused quite a few players in the original to be quite frustrated. This was mainly due to the not very intuitive control of the nimble racing car, which often thwarted a proper race management. That we made it through the race without any problems on the first try this time should give hope to all those who were already afraid of this section. The lightning-fast racing car still requires more sensitivity than normal road vehicles, but it is noticeably easier to control.
This is also due to the various setting options that the developers give the player. On the one hand, there are four different levels of difficulty. Light, medium and hard mainly affect the strength of opponents, aiming aids and the attention of the police. There is also a classic mode that is more based on the feel of the original. Here, for example, opponents are particularly deadly and ammunition that is still in the magazine is lost when reloading. To control the vehicles, you can also switch between a normal and a simulation driving model. The choice between automatic and manual transmission is also included again.
For the gameplay, the developers have thought of some improvements that fit well into the concept, without deviating too much from the familiar feel of the game. Tommy's repertoire of movements was expanded. He can now jump, run and pull himself up on objects. This in turn allows more variance in the mission design. After our protagonist is attacked by thugs in the second mission, we have to escape on foot through winding streets. In the original, we simply run at normal speed in a zigzag course and try to break the line of sight to the enemy as often as possible so as not to be hit. In the remake, this sequence seems a lot faster because Tommy now runs nimbly through the alleys, climbing over boxes and walls.
Source: PC Games
Tommy also learned a lot in the firefight. So we can now look for protection behind objects in the best cover shooter fashion and target opponents from cover. But you can't feel too safe in a place either, as certain coverings can be destroyed depending on the nature and the impact of violence. In addition, the AI behaves according to our new skills and tries to flank us or drive us out of cover with projectiles such as Molotov cocktails. It all looks much fresher and more attractive than the rather stiff combat system of the original.
In general, modernization and comfort were the focus of all changes made to the game systems. For example, the game now has a real mini map and no longer just the vehicle radar as in the original. This eliminates the annoying permanent looking at the map. Other innovations, however, only bring a little variety and realism into play. This includes motorcycles, which are an exciting alternative to the well-known vehicle fleet and fit well into the scenario.
Source: PC Games
Technically, Mafia: Definitive Edition already makes a good impression. The in-house engine has been properly developed since Mafia 3 and shines above all with character and vehicle models, lighting moods and weather effects. While playing we were spared noticeable problems, even if the developers have already addressed some remaining deficiencies that should be fixed by the release. We really liked the smooth control with both mouse / keyboard and controller. You can also switch between the two input methods at any time during operation. The game will then automatically adjust all the ads.
So far we haven't been able to try out the "Free Ride" mode, in which you can explore Lost Heaven and the surrounding area at will. During the missions, we noticed that there were one or two collectibles to be discovered in the world. These include dime novels, cigarette pictures, comics and postcards. In addition, newspapers and other documents can be found in the game world, which give further insights into the city and its people.
It should be noted that the remake is exactly the same in every sense of the word. It is not a 1: 1 transfer of the classic into the modern age, but rather a contemporary interpretation of the known material. In the end, the final version has to prove whether the game succeeds in this in its entirety. Because mafia stands and falls with the story. Most of this is known, but the developers of Hangar 13 are brave enough to make adjustments to the dramaturgy here and there. Now it has to be seen whether this plan will work out in the end and you will get the feeling of being in a playable version of the godfather again. Even if America was in a depression in the 1930s, as a player in Mafia: Definitive Edition you will definitely have no reason for depressive thoughts. The game has every potential to become a very good action adventure for the honored family.
"The developers show courage to change, which leads to a better gaming experience."
When the Mafia remake was announced, as a fan of the original, despite the chic screenshots, I was not entirely without hesitation. I was particularly concerned about the announcement of story adjustments. Now that I've played the first missions myself, these concerns are almost completely gone. Yes, the game will not be a 1: 1 implementation of the original. But after looking at the old game again for this article, I'm actually very happy about it. I was almost shocked at how old-fashioned and unspectacular it all looks today. In the transfigured memory it all looked a little more epic. And that is exactly where the remake hits. It presents Mafia to me as I have kept it in my romanticized memory and goes a little further than that. I actually find the detail changes to the plot and the character drawing really exciting after the allusion. As long as the end result stays the same and maybe even more emotional, all the better. I am definitely looking forward to finally climbing the ranks of the Salieri family again with Tommy Angelo in a month's time.
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