Review

Mafia: Definitive Edition Review – Loyal To A Fault

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Mafia: Definitive Edition is an interesting time capsule that not only allows players to experience the rise of Tommy Angelo in a 1930s ersatz Chicago dubbed Lost Heaven, but will likely inspire a greater appreciation for how far the industry has come since. 2002. Hangar 13 was rebuilt from the nearly 20 year old game, bringing the visuals up to contemporary standards and adding some quality of life improvements while ultimately keeping the basic design of the original. It’s an admirable approach, but then you really have to play the damn thing. Early Mafia games used their open worlds differently than their competition, with cities that aren’t exactly interactive playgrounds, but more like soundstages from movies. You are free to detach from the next story and explore the side streets and side roads, but don’t expect to find a lot of optional activities or interesting secrets. Instead, the narrative pushes you forward relentlessly, the end of one chapter propelling you straight to the start of the next. Need to catch your breath? Pity! It’s an interesting approach and one that I would probably appreciate more if the story was more engaging. Sadly, Angelo’s story is rambling and boring, with time leaps that undermine how you’re meant to feel about the relationships he’s apparently built over the years. Angelo’s story is told in flashbacks as he looks back on his past with an investigator. He begins his rise as a taxi driver drawn into the crowd by chance, then becomes the victim (and participant) of all the intrigues, stabs, and capers you’d expect. There is an interesting story somewhere here, but the timeline moves so erratically that I have never felt connected to Angelo’s fate as a man caught between loyalties. We meet his future wife and are told they love each other, but their interactions are so lifeless and rare that Angelo’s eventual talk about the importance of family seems hollow and undeserved. The newly recorded vocal performances are solid, but inconsistent. Some characters, like Angelo and Don Ennio Salieri, give sober and naturalistic performances. It’s shocking to hear them interact with characters like Paulie, who gives her lines a more lively (and sometimes hammered) read. Sometimes it was as if these characters had been taken from different stories. Almost all missions end with a shower of gunfire; it’s a gangster story, after all. In addition to throwing molotovs and filling the air with bullets, I also launched a constant stream of profanity on my television. The shooter is just terrible, with guns that feel slow and underpowered. It’s not uncommon to do multiple headshots before an enemy registers the damage, falling to the ground in a dramatic ragdoll flop. Rival gangsters slide between cover points like Fred Astaire on ice skates, or enter and exit safely in suicidal frenzies. Melee combat is even worse, with successful buttons rewarding you with canned finish move animations that resemble a hokey fight choreography from a West Side Story middle school production. And woe to those who trigger one of those non-skippable animations in the middle of a battle. Enemies may be able to ignore your bullets, but you’re out of luck. In the end, it’s hard to shake the very real feeling of playing a relic from a bygone era. There are defining moments, like smashing a warehouse door with a wagon or escaping an abandoned prison, but the thrills they once may have offered are reduced by the poor play you get stuck with. once the smoke has cleared. The worst examples are the times when you are forced to go through stealth sequences. There are only a few of these sections, thankfully, but the stakes of “sounding the alarm is ending the game” make it more a matter of frustration than tension. The original Mafia was well received upon its release, and I’m sure a lot of people remember it fondly. To me, it’s probably something that’s probably best seen as a foundational statement in a series that has improved over time and subsequent entries. As part of the Mafia trilogy, this is an interesting footnote to the above. As a standalone game that can stand up to modern titles in the open world genre? Fugetaboutit.

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