Mafia Definitive Edition Preview: An offer you can’t refuse

I’ve never really engaged with the Mafia franchise, and to be blunt, Hangar 13’s dismal Mafia 3 meant I wasn’t all that eager to start. After a couple hours with Mafia Definitive Edition though, that’s all changed.

Straight out of the gate, Hangar 13’s take on the 2002 original comes across as crisp and polished. It looks amazing — breathtaking, even — with cinematography and lighting straight out of a Coppola film (and pretty amazing transitions from pre-rendered to in-game cutscenes too). As the names of the cast fly by your screen, you’re treated to glamour shots of the fictional city of Lost Haven, one that looks like an amalgamation of the best (and worst) that US cities like Chicago, New York and Los Angeles have to offer.

Definitive Edition‘s opening cutscenes introduced me to Thomas Angelo, a taxi driver who’s satisfied with keeping his head down. He seems to enjoy the simple pleasures in life, preferring to be poor and happy rather than rich and hunted like the mobsters he’s forced to drive late one night. Despite his best intentions, things spiral out of his control and he starts down the path as member of Don Salieri’s family. Angelo, much like the other characters presented in the hour or so I’ve spent with the title, seem fully-fledged and relatable… even if some can come across as walking stereotypes.

After playing through three chapters, I could resist to take a trip down memory lane and see how the experience compared to the original’s opening. Ignoring advancements in graphics, Definitive Edition seems to be a decided improvement in every way, from characterisations through to dialogue (whoo boy there were some stinkers in the 2002 opening). While all this is happening, Definitive Edition manages to stay true to the tone and intent of the original, which I’m sure fans will enjoy.

But enough about cutscenes, let’s talk about gameplay. It’s admittedly courageous to start things off with too many taxi driving sequences for my liking, but at least Mafia Definitive Edition will eventually let you turn off non-essential driving sections if they’re not your thing. While this is decidedly a 2020 affair, some of its 2002 roots shine through — watching Tommy’s taxi glide down the streets of Lost Haven in cutscenes is one thing, but then taking actual control of the vehicle and it feeling like a small boat is another. Despite the disconnect between cutscene and play, it doesn’t take long to get used to driving, with options like a speed limiter on hand should you want to lie low and not draw attention to yourself.

It’s not all driving, thankfully — Tommy soon gains access to a baseball bat and traversal functionality like vaulting, climbing and sneaking. It’s safe to say that those comfortable with Grand Theft Auto‘s mechanics will feel at home here. Granted, I could have spent more time in-game, but I chose to stop after a single hour. Keeping away from wikis and original gameplay videos, this is one experience I want to experience from start to finish.

Mafia Definitive Edition will head to Windows PC, Xbox One and PS4 on 25 September.

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About the author

Steve Wright

Steve's the owner of this very site and an active games journalist for the past ten years. He's a Canadian-Australian gay gaming geek, ice hockey player and fan. Husband to Matt and cat dad to Wally and Quinn.