The remade and revamped Mafia Trilogy ends where it began – with Mafia I.
And it’s a peach.
Where the remade and repackaged Mafia II and III titles that were released earlier this year may have left a foul taste in the mouths of some fans of the series, Mafia I definitely picks up the balls that its compatriots dropped.
This is not just a fresh coat of paint on an old wagon – no, 2K went down deep and recast, retextured and remade a game that was an absolute hit in the golden era of gaming, set in the golden era of mafia during the prohibition of the 1930s.
Mafia I was originally made in 2002 for Microsoft and ported 2 years later to PlayStation 2 and Xbox. At the time, it was part of a whole horde of games that followed in the success of GTA 3’s open world mob crime game.
But Mafia I tackled it from a different angle which set it apart from the rest and put it in a class of it’s own.
Instead of running around in a world where you can do what you want to whoever you wanted, Illusion Softworks (now known as 2K) decided to bring a Godfather tier story right into the hands of the player in a bold attempt to bring a 1930’s city to life and make you, the player, a part of that history.
Now – with all that being said about the glory of the original game, Mafia I did come with its fair share of issues. It was not alone though, as most games from that era experienced similar limitations in what was known and possible within the realm of technology that existed then.
And so, 2K did something that a lot of other developers have done before them – take a classic and try and bring it into today’s era of gaming.
And they did a damn fine job of it too… mostly.
2K approached Mafia I as a complete overhaul, as opposed to just “prettying up” and older game like they did with Mafia II and III.
Let’s take a closer look at some of these changes;
Voice Actors – 2K recast a lot of the voice actors in the overhaul of Mafia I which was met with a mixed bag of opinions. A large portion felt that the voice of the game’s protagonist, Tommy Angelo, was not quite up to the sound of the character he is made out to be in the game. Personally – I had no issue with his voice and thought it sounded fine. My struggles came in more with a certain Detective who keeps buying you coffee. His Irish accent just wasn’t doing it for me, and I can’t quite place my finger one why that is. I just know that I didn’t enjoy hearing him speak during the game’s many cinematic moments.
Driving – driving mechanics in the original game was very clunky and unresponsive. In the Definitive Edition however, the driving mechanics are a lot smoother and easily mastered as you send 1930’s vehicles sideways through intersections while missing old ladies, other vehicles and trams all taking up space on the roads and sidewalks of the city.
NPCs – the change to the way the NPCs react with the player and the environment is probably one of the biggest (second to visuals) overhauls that the game underwent. Like most NPCs in games from around 2002 (and some even today) where NPCs were more like mannequins and crash test dummies that didn’t really exhibit realistic human behaviours, the NPCs interact a lot more “human-like” in the Definitive Edition. Both with the player, as well as with each other and the playable environment.
Visuals – as expected in a remake/remaster of a classic, a drastic improvement in graphics and visual aspects of the game to bring it to more modern standards is a given. Can I just say, 18 years and a few generations jump have done Mafia I good. The textures of the game have been smoothened out and rendered well, even on my OG Xbox One console. Light and shadows move well while driving and walking and the visual aspects of the cinematics look good. Although some emotional face movements seem to have fallen away a bit (too much Botox in the code?).
It must be said that not all is fantastic in the visual department though. While driving or fighting, some surfaces occasionally take a bit longer to render in, causing a “shadow flash” effect as it snaps into existence. This also sometimes happens with cars that suddenly appear to fall in front of you or get caught up in some mystical obstacle in the middle of the road.
Apart from these changes to the overall look and feel of the game, not much else has changed in the Definitive Edition as it is a remaster of an old game, and not a remake. The story is mostly unaffected and unchanged, apart from a few added or altered lines. So, players returning to the game should not expect a new experience, but rather a remodelled experience of a classic. Think putting a fresh spray and wax on that classic car.
Having not actually played the original myself, I felt the story of Mafia I was interesting and it succeeded well in drawing me in. It also felt very different to other games I have played in this genre, including the other Mafia games.
Mafia I really felt more like I was watching a classic mob film and being invited in to participate. This is achieved by great cinematic moments that happen often in the film with a lot of extra dialogue given during car rides on the way to objectives, either through the radio or via passengers travelling with you. The option to skip the drive entirely and fast travel to your destination is available though and I did make use of this feature from time to time when I was more interested in getting further in the story and not polishing off my driving skills.
The game is also a lot less repetitive than Mafia III, where I felt that missions were very montonous and were all the same run, gun and kill a boss type of play but he world of Mafia III was more open and exploring between tasks was always a temptation. Mafia I’s missions came with a little more variety, which was helped a long by the deep story being told throughout the game of the rise of one immigrant cab driver to power and prominence in the “family” in the early 1930s.
The game really does focus on storytelling and so I often caught myself falling into getting from task to task to focus on the story. This is very different to my usual play style which is look everywhere and anywhere and take ages to get to task. With this aspect semi removed from Mafia I, I felt that the game could feel a little linear at times.
I did still enjoy playing the game a lot and really enjoyed the more relaxed feel I got from it. Whereas I often feel a little more tense after competitive gaming, Mafia I Definitive Edition really brought me back to the kick back, put your feet up and relax type of gaming that is sometimes so needed in a busy world.
With the vast amounts of cinematics in this open world story game, I found the fluidity of the game to be a bit broken as every chapter starts and ends with a lengthy cinematic that I would highly recommend you don’t skip. Even with this though, I still enjoyed the game as the cinematics were of a high standard and gave mission, and game critical information.
Driving around in classic cars in a 1930s city that is dripping with life and atmosphere while climbing the career ladder in your life in the mafia definitely has a special kind of appeal to it and Mafia I does not let down as it transports you onto its streets and draws you completely into its world.
With all that being said – if you have played Mafia I before, I wouldn’t recommend getting this one unless you are a fan or collector as there is no change to the story. You would essentially be buying a good book with a new cover, which there’s nothing wrong with. Just not if you’re only interested in the story.
If you haven’t played Mafia I before then I would suggest this for the great story telling and modernising of a classic game. As well as the relax game sessions that are so needed.
Overall, I would give Mafia I: Definitive Edition a solid 7 out of 10.
Thank you to Prima Interactive for giving us a chance to review this gem.
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