OPINION | GAME ON: ‘Mafia: Definitive Edition’ a huge visual upgrade from the original

Tommy Angelo is a cabbie who joins the Mafia in the video game "Mafia: Definitive Edition." (Photo courtesy of 2K)
Tommy Angelo is a cabbie who joins the Mafia in the video game "Mafia: Definitive Edition." (Photo courtesy of 2K)


‘Mafia: Definitive Edition’

  • Platform: Windows, Xbox One, PlayStation 4/5
  • Cost: $39.99
  • Rating: Mature for blood, violence, drugs, sexual themes
  • Score: 7 out of 10

 


Is it just me or is the 1920s-30s aesthetic timelessly appealing? The cars, the suits, the suspenders, the hats, the music. I could do without the poverty of the Great Depression and Prohibition-era violence, though, and I'm betting Tommy Angelo would agree with me.

Tommy is the protagonist of "Mafia: Definitive Edition," a from-the-ground-up overhaul of the original game from 2002.

We meet him in a diner, making a deal with Detective Norman of the Lost Heaven Police Department to rat on the mob and recounting his years as a made man. The game-play is essentially a flashback, which is pretty useful in explaining why the story is on rails and you don't get to make decisions for Tommy, such as who lives or dies -- it's in the past and has already happened.

From a number of standpoints, this remake is phenomenal. It uses an entirely different game engine from the original, with the city created anew, new voice acting, new character models, additional vehicles and weapons, and a new original score. It looks fantastic; driving is a much smoother experience; and the game-play, such as running around and shooting, is much improved. There's a lot to like.

Tommy's story starts with him as a simple cab driver in the fictional city of Lost Heaven, Ill., in 1930. With the economy in shambles, many Americans are struggling to get by.

After spending some time picking up fares and driving them around town, Tommy has his first interaction with the Salieri crime family when two mafiosi, Paulie and Sam, on the run from the rival Morello family, point a gun at him and force him to drive them to safety. It's an offer he can't refuse.

After successfully helping Paulie and Sam, Tommy is invited to do more work but refuses. He's not about that life — until some Morello boys recognize his cab and give it (and him) the business with some baseball bats. And that's when Tommy makes the first in a long series of terrible decisions, choosing to give some payback to a major crime family in the form of Molotov cocktails. Bad move, Tommy, bad move.

After that, he's all in, and the game follows his exploits over the next several years.

For those familiar with Mafia movies like "The Godfather," "Goodfellas," "A Bronx Tale" and many others, the story will be new, but also immanently familiar.

As the story progresses, Tommy will unlock more outfits, weaponry and a garage full of vehicles. An alternate game mode, Free Ride, allows for a free roaming experience across Lost Heaven, with Tommy able to use those unlocked items, do side missions, find collectibles, participate in races and even drive a cab again, picking up random fares and taking them to their destinations.


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There are a number of other big changes from the 2002 original. Some are clearly for the better. Others are pretty neutral and designed to streamline the experience, such as combining some missions together, reducing the time required to play certain sections of the game, and expanding gunfights on some missions. But there are also some deeper changes to the story itself -- but of course, those new to the game likely won't realize it, although some of those changes include who lives and dies (and how).

To avoid story spoilers, I won't go into details, but I felt the new ending completely changed the entire tenor and message of the story. I wouldn't go so far as to say one ending is definitively better or worse than the other, but it's not what the original writer intended. I'm, personally, not a fan when remakes, translations and edits take someone else's story and words and give them a post-mortem, bowdlerized face lift to update them for "modern audiences," whatever that means.

All in all, the game is fun, playable and only takes 10 or 11 hours to beat. However, if you're aiming for all the collectibles and side quests, it will take about 25 hours. It gains points for the excellent visual and audio updates, but loses a bit for its script changes. A solid game though, if these kinds of games and movies are your jam.


 

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