I have a bit of a niche fascination with the American mob, its history and structure. Naturally, I have a love of classic gangster movies and video games, despite any annoying inaccuracies made for the sake of entertainment. It will come as no surprise to learn that I’m a fan of the Mafia franchise, a franchise that is not long off its 20th anniversary. There are three instalments, encompassing different periods in organised crime – 30s, 40/50s, and the most recent taking place in 1960s, Louisiana. The trilogy has built a loyal cult following over the years, but the recent past hasn’t been kind. Mafia III released in 2016, only to get the cold shoulder from reviewers and gamers alike. The game had an outstanding story dealing with the themes of racism, war, friendship and loyalty. It’s problems certainly weren’t in the narrative.
The third instalment’s failings lay purely on the abysmal gameplay. Not only was it a world devoid of meaningful content to pursue, but the gameplay also took the shape of a constant grinding loop. None of the monotony was avoidable, making the entire experience a drag to play. Rumours began spinning round that this was the end for the Mafia IP… But perhaps we’ve been a bit quick to judge. In game development, as in life, sometimes you need to go back, to get forward.
Old Mobster, New Tricks
I started hearing rumours of a planned remaster of Mafia II late last year. In my opinion, Mafia II is still one of the best games of the past 20 years and is undoubtedly the godfather of gangster games. I couldn’t have imagined that not only would that game get a remaster, but that the original would receive a full-on remake! My hype level went through the roof when that nugget of news hit my feed. I’m going to go out on a limb and assume the majority of people reading this piece have never played the original Mafia. It is by our modern standards a fairly old game. Still, I’m a big proponent of good narratives being timeless, regardless of outdated gameplay. If nothing else, Mafia is a game with a memorable mobster tale.
The remake is being helmed by Hanger 13 and will not only retell the tale of Tommy Angelo’s life but expand on it. This will include beautiful, fully rendered cutscenes, an expansive recreation of the city of Lost Heaven, plus new missions. Gameplay sees a complete overhaul also, bringing it more in line with recent games. Mafia: Definitive Edition will essentially be a new game for many and a 4K enhanced walk down memory lane for those who played the original. But what is the story of Mafia? Allow me to give you a little refresher.
Mafia is set during the golden era of the American mob – prohibition. What began as a misguided, naive law has opened the floodgates to mobsters, allowing them to create a vast empire of the back of illegal alcohol. Nowhere has organised crimes grip of society been so prevalent than Lost Heaven, Illinois. While scrupulous gangster rake in the profit, most are struggling to get by in depression-era America. Tommy Angelo is a working stiff, getting by as a cab driver. His life is changed in an instant when two men jump into his cab, brandishing handguns. After a short chase, you’re eventually introduced to these men, both soldiers for the Salieri crime family. Low on money and prospects, Tommy chooses a life of crime and everything that goes with it.
In the avoidance of spoilers, I’ll not pry further into the narrative. Just know that (for the time) Mafia offered a surprisingly mature story. Even Grand Theft Auto, which by this time had garnered significant success, didn’t provide as complex and realistic a tale of mobster life. Sadly, even for the time, the gameplay looked dated. Arguably, graphics weren’t as preeminent as they are now, but it certainly wasn’t a game known for its looks. It would be the best part of a decade before a sequel that eclipsed the original in most ways would be released. But that time in the shadow of Mafia II is about to end. If Hanger 13 can deliver on a faithful, well-made remake, Mafia: Definitive Edition could end up being the pinnacle of the franchise.
Living The Life
Apart from a few images and a spattering of information, we know little about the remake. The pictures themselves are enough for anyone with memories of the original to go wide-eyed with excitement. We’ll glean much more about the game as we edge closer towards IGN’s Summer of Gaming and its August 28th release date. Still, it is the prerogative of all gamers to make wild assumptions based on sparse information. Allow me to share a few features I’d like to see in Mafia: Definitive Edition.
- The ability to shakedown businesses for protection money
- A more detailed backstory for Tommy Angelo
- Hit Contract side missions
- A thriving, more densely populated city (a franchise-wide issue)
- Bootlegging side missions
- Worthwhile reasons to make and spend your ill-gotten gains
- In-depth wardrobe customisation (A made man must look the part)
Whatever Mafia: Definitive Edition ends up being, I’ll be playing it regardless. I love the franchise, and I have every faith that Hanger 13 has learned from the mistakes of Mafia III. In the meantime, I recommend picking up the Mafia II: Definitive Edition which, despite some frame stuttering problem and a few glitches, still delivers a fun time. If you’re a completionist like me, check out our trophies and achievements list for Mafia II: Definitive Edition, detailing everything you need to know about getting 100% completion.