As a game developer, if you dare to remake a classic, you can only lose. If you deviate too much from the original, the fans of the first hour complain, who no longer get the gaming experience they used to be. If, on the other hand, you stick to the template too slavishly, you will probably scare off new players who cannot do anything with outdated game design. It was therefore the task of Mafia: Definitive Edition for the makers of Hangar 13 to find the right balance between these two extremes.
Now, a few years ago, Hangar 13 wasn't exactly covered in fame when Mafia 3 struggled with various technical problems and was also criticized for its repetitive game design. But everyone deserves a second chance and the developers from Novato, California took advantage of it. The remake of Mafia is technically well-rounded and fascinates again, like the original 18 years ago, with its fantastic story. And not just in spite of, but precisely because of, courageous changes and modernizations.
Between loyalty and morality
The year is 1938, and Thomas Angelo is a high-ranking member of Don Salieri's mafia family. But Tommy has a problem. He has made his own family an enemy and is looking for a way to protect his wife and daughter from the wrath of the Don. So he confides in a police detective and tells him about his career. This is how the story begins, in which you see Tommy rise from a simple taxi driver to a respected member of the honorable family.
Source: PC Games
Even in the original, the authors managed to tell an intelligent story that, despite the fun action gameplay, is not about glorifying violence and organized crime. Tommy is an average guy who struggles with getting involved with gangsters. The circumstances drive him on this path. Even if he eventually grows more and more into the life of a mafiosi, one can feel his inner doubts again and again. The developers of Hangar 13 have worked out these aspects of the story even more clearly in the remake.
Extended cutscenes and dialogues paint a picture of a profound character. A guy who shrinks from shooting someone in cold blood and, for example, is generally reluctant to use violence against women. In order to tell this morally complex story, the developers also give some characters more weight and personality. For example, the role of Tommy's wife Sarah, which serves as his moral compass, is more clearly emphasized. The creators succeed in all of this without compromising the essence of the original story.
The developers have also left the general structure of the game unchanged. Everything happens in the open game world of Lost Heaven, but the process is linear, without any freedom. Cutscenes, action passages and car journeys alternate in a harmonious rhythm, so that you never get bored. Especially since the developers have pleasantly compressed some of the sagging problems of the original, such as the taxi missions shortly after the game started.
Source: PC Games
That the game hardly gives you time to deviate from the given path is not a problem either. Because apart from the actual plot, there isn't really much to do in the open game world. Various collectibles such as comics, dime novels and cigarette pictures are hidden in Lost Heaven, but you will look in vain for side tasks, mini-games or other activities as you know them from modern open-world games.
If you still want to go on a tour of discovery through the beautifully designed city, you can do so in the so-called "free ride" mode. Here you can look at the various sights in peace. Those familiar with the original will also notice various changes in some details of urban planning. Salieri's Bar has a slightly different location, the racetrack has moved a little closer to the city and some adjustments have also been made in the surrounding area. The basic street layout is still recognizable. Unfortunately, the developers have not adopted the "Extreme Free Ride" mode from the original. This became accessible at the time after the story had been played through for the first time and offered various entertaining bonus jobs in which, among other things, special vehicles could be unlocked.
Source: PC Games
The developers have put a lot of effort into making the game accessible on all levels, without losing sight of the fact that experienced players are looking for a challenge. Therefore, the game can be adapted in many ways to suit your own gaming needs. Aiming aids, tutorials and camera settings are just the beginning. At the start of the game there is a choice of four different levels of difficulty. Easy, medium and difficult differ in the difficulty of the opponent, in their own survivability and the aggressiveness of the police.
Source: PC Games
If you want to make the fewest compromises compared to the original, you can choose the classic mode. Vehicle control and police operations are switched to simulation and the opponents are a little more deadly. In addition, helpful ads in the interface are reduced. For example, enemies are no longer shown on the minimap. That the developers are serious about the classic setting becomes clear at the latest when it comes to the notorious car race. While this mission is a pleasantly manageable challenge on a normal level of difficulty, the level of frustration known from back then was reached very quickly in our classic mode. The opponents drive mercilessly, the car is difficult to control and once traded backlog can hardly be made up. By reducing the number of laps to be driven from five to three, the problem was even exacerbated because there is less time to iron out any mistakes.
On the other hand, in classic mode you benefit from the changes to the gameplay on other occasions. In the intense battles, where every hit by opponents should be avoided if possible, it helps that Tommy can now smoothly take cover behind objects. So you can relax briefly in the protection of a wall or a pillar or recharge in peace. When things get really tricky, you can even try your luck at blind fire from cover. However, you should also pay attention to what your opponents are doing. Occasionally they try to get into Tommy's flank or to lure him out of cover with Molotov cocktails. But regardless of whether it is a normal or classic level of difficulty, the arguments are always gripping and intense.
Everything new for the eyes and ears
The same engine is used that Hangar 13 used in Mafia 3. The graphics engine has since been expanded and improved. Above all, its technical inadequacies have been weeded out. While Mafia 3 was still suffering from unsightly glitches, clipping errors and pop-ups, we could hardly observe such problems in Mafia: Definitive Edition. The game does not set new standards in visual presentation, but with wonderful lighting, great water effects and good motion capture animations, the game creates a successful 1930s atmosphere. Fortunately, we were also spared the crashes that were still common in Mafia 3.
Source: PC Games
The soundscape of Mafia: Definitive Edition can not be seen, but can be heard. For the remake, the developers basically re-recorded everything. It starts with the dubbing, which had to be re-recorded due to the changed script. Both the English and the German version do not use the same speakers as in the original. But that doesn't affect the quality. In both language versions we were very satisfied with the work of the actors. It's also great that the German dubbing was done at least as far as possible on lip-synchronicity.
The orchestral background music, originally penned by Vladimir Simunek, has also been lavishly re-recorded. In addition, there are 35 pieces of classical music by artists of the time such as Duke Ellington, which can be heard on the two radio stations of Lost Heaven. Unfortunately this is not the same music as fans of the original are used to. This is due to licensing reasons, for which the Steam and GOG versions of the original released in 2017 had to do without the radio music. The new pieces do an at least as good a job to put us in the flair of the 30s.
Mafia: Definitive Edition is an excellent action-adventure game that brings the classic into the modern in an excellent way and will delight both newcomers and those familiar with the original. The story of loyalty, morality and tragedy is even more fascinating today because it is staged even more haunted. Even open-world grouches should give the game a chance, because it does without all the ballast that otherwise plagues open game worlds. The remake is available as a single title for around 40 euros and as part of the so-called Mafia Trilogy. This also includes Mafia 2 in the Definitive Edition and Mafia 3 with all DLCs and is available for around 60 euros.
A cinematic Mafia experience as I wished it to be.
You could have messed up a lot with a remake of Mafia, but luckily the developers of Hangar 13 got a lot right. The original was 18 years ago, so many people probably only have it in a glorified retro memory. And this is exactly where the Definitive Edition comes in, in which it provides us with a mafia, as one would imagine it to be a modern action adventure. Of course, it cannot keep up with modern open-world genre representatives of the caliber of a GTA or Watch Dog in terms of scope and gaming activities. But it doesn't want to. Mafia wants to tell a story, a story about family, friendship, morals and tragedy, and the game does this very well. The changes to the script that the creators have made are not a disruptive factor, but rather add to the drama. It doesn't always have to be more, higher, further, better, as it seems to be the standard in today's open-world madness. A coherent gaming experience that focuses on the essentials also has its charms. Mafia: Definitive Edition delivers exactly that to me with flying colors.
Games current 10/2020: Wasteland 3, Mafia: Definitive Edition
PC Games 10/20 with cover story about Mafia: Definitive Edition