I have a love/hate relationship with the Mafia series. I played Mafia II for the first time earlier this year and very much appreciated its linear design within an open world that felt lived-in and authentic. By comparison, when I attempted to play Mafia III on its 2016 launch, the repetitive missions bored me so much that I never made it further than halfway in. It left one to wonder how Mafia: Definitive Edition would be handled.
I had never gotten the chance to play the original Mafia, so when the announcement was made that a full remake was coming – right after I finished Mafia II – I was pretty excited. So if you’re reading this Mafia: Definitive Edition preview, take it from the perspective of someone who has never experienced the original version of the game.
Mafia: Definitive Edition follows the same story as the original, though the developers have indicated that they’ve updated the script with new dialogue, expanded backstories, and new cutscenes. Elsewhere, Hangar 13 has added a fully re-recorded orchestral score, and, obviously, the gameplay has received an overhaul as well.
The game plays like a modern third-person shooter now with a full cover system and updated movement mechanics. The driving mechanics have also received an overhaul, with vehicles feeling generally comfortable to drive and not weightless, which was a complaint some had about Mafia III’s driving mechanics.
If you weren’t a fan of Mafia III’s repetitive open world, Mafia: Definitive Edition stays faithful to the original game, avoiding the extra open-world bloat you might expect from a modern game. So, unlike in Mafia III, you won’t have to do the same missions over and over again just to get to the next story beat.
There is a Free Roam mode though if you do want to just go out and explore the city of Lost Heaven. The preview didn’t offer the chance to try this mode, so I’m not sure if they’ll be adding anything extra for players to do, but if you just want to go out and mess with the sandbox, it seems you’ll have the option to do so.
Visually, Mafia: Definitive Edition is extremely impressive. The city is gorgeous and is absolutely littered with detail, just as you’d expect from a Mafia game. Cars fill the road, citizens going on about their daily business, broken-down buildings and garbage-filled alleyways during America’s Great Depression.
The game’s lighting engine also, ironically, really shines at night. One of the missions has you out in the countryside at night during a lightning storm, and I think it was easily one of the most impressive nighttime sequences I’ve seen in a video game.
I ran the game on an RTX 2080TI and an i9 9900k, and the game ran pretty much flawlessly at maxed out settings. There were a few frame rate dips here and there, some texture pop-in and character models that seemed a bit stiff, especially around the eyes. But it was nothing game-breaking and nothing that can’t be sorted out with another polish pass before release, which the publisher already indicated is coming.
I also didn’t experience any serious gameplay or visual bugs during the preview, which is a far cry from the experience I had when trying Mafia III. One can only hope that this level of polish extends to the final retail release as well.
The only other issue I had with the presentation was the music. While good, it almost seems out of place in certain areas, such as orchestral scores playing during dialogue sequences. Even though it was meant to be background noise, it was actually distracting and didn’t feel on pace with what was happening on screen.
Since I haven’t played the original, I unfortunately don’t have anything to compare the music to, but something about it just seemed off throughout the entirety of my time with the preview build of the game.
Ultimately though, I came away from the preview excited to play more of Mafia: Definitive Edition. After giving up on Mafia III due to its painful repetitiveness, I’m glad to see that Hangar 13 stayed true to the original vision with this remake and didn’t try to add in a bunch of open-world bloat to pad out the story.
Knowing the pedigree of the original Mafia, the only thing I can really see hampering this remake’s enhanced experience is if the game suffers a buggy launch, but my experience with this preview suggests that won’t be the case.