Remakes come left and right, many of which may miss the mark. Hangar 13 goes back to the roots of its crime drama trilogy by recreating the first installment from the ground up. It may suffer here and there, but Mafia: Definitive Editon is compelling throughout with the gameplay to back it up.
My only experience with the trilogy was with the second and third games, which also got remastered to follow the older sibling. Mafia 2 was great back when it came out in 2010, and in some areas, it still is, but the remaster shows its flaws more than ever. Then there is the disappointing third entry, which had a strong story but fell apart more so than its predecessor. Going back in time to see a classic 2002 game through a modern lens shows why it was highly regarded back in the early 2000s.
Story – Gripping and bloody
The story delivers itself through a conversation between the protagonist, Tommy Angelo (Andrew Bongiorno), and Detective Norman (Dameon Clarke), who is listening to Tommy confess his sins in the mob to secure safety for his family. He goes through how he went from a cabbie in Lost Haven, being forced to help out to gangsters named Paulie (Jeremy Luke) and Sam (Don Dipetta), and meeting the boss himself, Don Salieri. The story moves quickly to get him into the family without being rushed, making me believe this relationship he forms with these hardened criminals until the inevitable day he goes to the police.
Every character, whether it is someone small like the mechanic Ralphy (Ward Roberts) to the pinnacle roles like Tommy and Salieri, each one of them is memorable and easy to love, despite all of them being quite horrible people. The charm of the group is irresistible, mostly due to the acting. Much of the cast have never done anything major, with some exceptions like Clarke being Handsome Jack from Borderlands, DiPetta being in the 2018 film Green Book and Luke being in last year’s The Irishman. Star power means nothing here as even the obscure actors who have no-named characters on network TV shows like NCIS; everyone delivers S tier performances.
Tommy gets held up Bongiorno’s charisma, but the character has problematic beats in his arc, making him the weakest link in this dysfunctional crime family. His relationship with Sarah (Bella Popa) feels halfbaked, but gets made up for their chemistry. The main issue stems from his internal struggle of committing crimes that feel out of balance. Kill one guy, that’s okay, but another one draws the line does not make much sense.
The narrative brings together various flavors. The buddy chemistry between Sam, Paulie, and Tommy brings out much-needed levity. When the crew goes into the business mindset, then the tone gets tense without being overly dramatic. Finally, wrapping everything together is the action, which has those blockbuster setpieces that toe the line to keep it grounded to fit the Martin Scorsese vibes.
Gameplay – Classically modern
The overall gameplay has mechanics that don’t fit the mold, but the core to what brings this experience to life never gets old.
The vehicles are an important aspect of the DNA of Mafia, and the driving feels just as great. I could drift around corners and explore the city all day. Each car has its unique stats and feeling, which are available in a test driving mode called Carcyclopedia. Without the cyclopedia of transportation, the second you enter a car or hop on a motorcycle, it is in the garage to choose at the start of most missions. The one downside is the customization offered is unappealing due to its limited preset options. I can customize the color of the interior and exterior of select cars and some variants like swapping out roofs. It’s a shallow design that gets stronger with the sequels.
Combat is a mixed bag. Shooting packs the punch I want from the genre. The melee and stealth fall under the same trap as the sequels, despite getting remade entirely. Sneaking around to choke someone out is bland and overly simple. Fighting rivals or police in a fistfight or with a melee weapon are also too simplified as it doesn’t feel good to hit and ends too quickly. Countering is an easy QTE that does not flesh out the fighting.
Aiming is wobbly, on purpose. The mindset behind an unsteady reticule is that Tommy is no soldier, unlike Vito from Mafia 2 or Lincoln from Mafia 3. It makes sense and works without being annoying at first. While it never got on my nerves, it did bother me from a story perspective as Tommy should learn how to shoot better if he is going to be doing it as a part of working under Don Salieri.
NPCs are smart enough to put up a good fight. The game underprepared me for some fights due to a lack of ammo, but nothing felt overdone when it came to the challenges that were presented.
Two more gimmicks come from lockpicking and picking up bodies. Lockpicking is automatic, so it does not share the precision needed from the other entries in the series. Both are unnecessary as you can break the window without any consequences to steal a car or need to pick a body up to hide it. Even the missions don’t require me to move some corpses or pick a lock to enter a vehicle or room.
One of my favorite things across all three games is the collectibles. Notes to read or comic books to collect with interesting front pages, I was motivated to do my best to find everything. To make it easier, if close enough, then the minimap will mark the item. Somehow I still missed a few, but I am tempted to go back to complete my collection.
As this is more linear than the next installments, the police system is not as prominent outside of scripted sequences. Still, I always appreciated that extra level of immersion by having cops give me a ticket for speeding or trying to arrest me before bringing out machine guns.
After completing the main story, there is Free Ride, a rather worthless game mode to explore the city with any car, weapon, or outfit. It is only meant to snag collectibles because outside of that, there is nothing to do but fight the police and drive around the city.
Graphics and Audio – Flawed yet beautiful
The animations and graphics are stunningly beautiful. It brings life to the characters and the world around them. I found cutscenes even more captivating, seeing how real it felt witnessing these characters interact.
Lost Haven is gorgeous to look at as I drove to my destinations. Each district distinguishes itself from the others. My personal favorites were Chinatown, and Little Italy due to the cultures in those communities make it even more distinctive than the rest of the areas. The linear scope makes it feel more alive than the open-world sequels while still have some lifeless qualities that are made up due to the pacing of the game, keeping me moving away from seeing too many of the seams.
I had a few inconsistencies here and there, but that was mostly in the beginning. The first hour or two had a few pop-ins from the vehicles and weird, unnatural reactions with the lighting. Magically, these visual bugs stopped, and I could enjoy the beauty of this world.
The sound quality is good, but somethings like explosions feel a little on the weaker side. As many negatives to this game, something comes around to make up for the lesser qualities because the music is the cherry on top to transport me into the 1930s of an American city. I had music playing during every car ride that I could. On top of the radio, the score that played during cinematic scenes hit the right emotional beat that I needed.
The biggest glitch, like the graphical issues, only happened briefly. I had two cut scenes that completely cut out all audio, both from dialogue and sound effects. It fixed itself after the cinematics were over, and I had subtitles on, but it did catch me off guard, missing out on somethings that were said between the characters.
Mafia: Definitive Edition was reviewed on PC via Steam