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Mafia: Definitive Edition – Hands-On Preview
Post by KostaAndreadis @ 01:00am 27/08/20 | Comments
Ahead of its full release we spend a few hours with Tommy, Paulie, and the rest of the Salieri crew and channel our inner Wise Guy in this built-from-the-ground-up Mafia remake.


Game Highlights from Mafia: Definitive Edition captured in Ultrawide


Given enough time and a simple re-release can be cause for excitement, especially if it’s for a property or classic that has been out of the limelight for some time. In the case of the original Mafia, said limelight came from the glow of a beige CRT-display; a style of PC monitor that was as chunky and deep as it was long and wide.

Released in 2002, the first game in the Mafia series (referred to now as The Mafia Trilogy) presented an interactive take on the style of films popularised by Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese in the 1970s through to the 1990s; the crime drama. The mob movie. Where freshly pressed suits, slick hair, and the phrase “forget about it” became a single New York slice of pop culture.


Drawing inspiration from the likes of The Godfather and Goodfellas and released at a time when the concept of an open-world sandbox was one count of Grand Theft Auto away, Mafia took a more cinematic approach to both action and exploration. Using the impressively detailed play space of Lost Heaven as set dressing, a fictional yet bustling Prohibition era American city served as the stunning (for the time) backdrop for Thomas "Tommy" Angelo’s journey from cabbie to Made Man.


Drawing inspiration from the likes of The Godfather and Goodfellas and released at a time when the concept of an open-world sandbox was one count of Grand Theft Auto away, Mafia took a more cinematic approach to both action and exploration.



Mafia: Definitive Edition is a built-from-the-ground-up remake from 2K and development studio Hangar 13, and in keeping with the spirit of the original the studio’s proprietary technology presents a cutting edge and sumptuous visual feast full of tiny little details. Like the way billboards and signage present information, how police walk the beat and blow their whistles when they see something out of order, or how the radio cuts out or goes all fuzzy when you go through a tunnel. Authenticity abounds and you feel like you’ve stepped up and onto the silver screen.


Plus, quirks that made the original so memorable return too. Things like having to obey the rules of the road and speed limits in slow old-timey cars. Keeping your gun holstered whenever in public.

As a modern yet entirely faithful recreation of the original, amid the new and impressive visuals, facial animation, and expanded dialogue and cinematic sequences, lies a structure that will feel familiar. The opening scene recreates the one found in the original, the moment Tommy decides to side with the feds and ‘get out’. From there you flash back to what is essentially the game’s first mission, Tommy helping a couple of Salieri’s boys escape a few thugs after they stumble onto his cab. How that plays out is almost exactly like it did back in the day. A car chase full of twists and turns and using roadworks to cause a few crashes.

In our recent interview with Hangar 13 head Haden Blackman, he told us that the narrative core was something the team felt strong enough to carry through into the 2020 remake – right down to mission structure and big story beats. “We knew we wanted to keep the narrative spine intact, stay true to the characters,” he said. “And that it was a relatively linear, narrative-driven experience”.


In much the same way Capcom’s Resident Evil 2 Remake taps into nostalgia and presents a modern yet faithful take on a classic genre romp, Mafia: Definitive Edition is an equal blend of old and new. For better or worse. Having the same missions and mission structure means that the early parts of the game, although impressive to look at, feel a little, well, old in terms of what you can do. The size and scope of Lost Heaven is huge, but the missions themselves almost feel like they’re actively avoiding the city’s scope and detail. The actual interactive stuff found in the early story chapters is mostly slight, linear, and just-about on rails.


As a modern yet entirely faithful recreation of the original, amid the new and impressive visuals, facial animation, and expanded dialogue and cinematic sequences, lies a structure that will feel familiar.



That said the preview code did include a later chapter, set on a stormy night at a barn, a setting and sense of challenge that felt more alive and open than the first bit of action in a roadhouse. It’s a tricky thing, and one could just as convincingly argue that the linear and faithful nature of this remake lets the story shine and doesn’t get bogged down in modernity. Even though Hangar 13 still managed to pack each playable space with plenty of comics and collectible cards to find.


Familiar faces and places, situations and jams, certain race car sequences that will test the limits of your patience, but with new underlying systems. Refined cover-based action alongside more realistic vehicle physics and movement. In its pre-release state, Mafia: Definitive Edition feels polished but a tad easy. Arcade-like at times. Even when playing on the harder difficulties, or the old school ‘Classic Mode’ that aims to recapture the challenge found in the original.

Side note: Hangar 13 if you are reading this – do not make the race car missions harder on ‘Classic Mode’. The above only applies to the on-foot shooty stuff. We get it, you want us to want to smash our keyboards and mice and controllers just like we did back then. But, you know, our keyboards and peripherals are all shiny in 2020 – with RGB lights and mechanical bits and bobs. So yeah, tone it down (so we don’t have to go to the options screen and do it for you).

Ahem. That easy talk isn’t a flex about skill, or a hint that Mafia: Definitive Edition plays more like a run and gun arcade shooter. The same lack of overall firearm skill on behalf of Tommy exists, having it be harder to shoot at a distance. The guns too feel slow and old-timey as they always have, and ammunition isn’t plentiful. In other words, it’s great when it’s challenging.


With the team at Hangar 13 comprised of people that have worked on all three Mafia games, it should come as no surprise that playing the Definitive Edition has that strong sense of ‘coming home’ – it nails the tone. It doesn’t, to borrow a phrase made popular by The Godfather, “forget the Cannoli”.


In its pre-release state, Mafia: Definitive Edition feels polished but a tad easy. Arcade-like at times. Even when playing on the harder difficulties, or the old school ‘Classic Mode’ that aims to recapture the challenge found in the original.



For newcomers though, the vibrant and inviting 1930s settings, classic jazz music, and old timey get-ups present a fresh time and place to stage a modern videogame tale of action, friendship, loyalty, and criminal behaviour. And having the option there for those that simply want to enjoy the story, is a definite plus, and the story and writing is good enough to make even that side of Mafia feel complete.

Being more malleable in accessibility (yeah, we, err, toned down the difficulty down when it came to ‘the big race’) plays a role in Mafia: Definitive Edition’s appeal – but only a small bit-part. A Jimmy Two Times or Johnny Roastbeef. What makes it even more exciting is just how good it looks. No doubt Hangar 13 has used all that extra dough to spruce up the joint.

Just shy of two decades of technological progress means that original ambition, what stood out back in 2002, feels more relevant than ever. When it comes to videogames, better graphics help sell cinematic ambition – whether that’s The Last of Us Part II or Ori and the Will of the Wisps. Mafia has always felt a little special in that regard, and with Mafia: Definitive Edition we have an experience that is more cinematic than ever.

Mafia: Definitive Edition is out September 25 for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.
Read more about Mafia: Definitive Edition on the game page - we've got the latest news, screenshots, videos, and more!



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