Given its remarkable similarities with the Grand Theft Auto franchise, it’s a wonder why I hadn’t tried the Mafia series all those years ago when it was released. As we approach the 10th anniversary of Mafia II, games developer Hangar 13 have been working on something in secret, something many fans of the franchise will appreciate in all its Ultra High Definition glory, and I couldn’t think of a better way to test out my newly built PC.
As part of the upcoming Mafia: Trilogy, we were lucky enough to snag a very early access to Mafia II: Definitive Edition. So early in fact, that at the time of writing this review, the title doesn’t even register on the Steam store. After swearing an oath to secrecy and signing away my first born child to the MKAU bosses, I found myself exploring the fictional city of Empire Bay, driving beautiful cars from the 1940s, while munching on fifteen cent cheeseburgers. What a time to be alive.
As a remaster, Mafia II: Definitive Edition once again follows the story of Vito Scaletta, a Sicilian refugee, as his family moves to America in hopes of a better life. With an alcoholic father barely making ends meet and growing up in a rough part of town, it is no wonder Vito starts turning to petty crime to help support his mother and sister. When a simple robbery goes wrong, however, Vito finds himself staring at a prison sentence, or serving the American Army during World War 2. Returning home after three years of service, Vito finds out his deceased father owed some loan sharks a hefty amount of money, leaving his sister to pick up the remains. Vito can either help his family, or finish his shore leave and go back to the front lines.
I took some time to watch some gameplay from the 2010 release, eager to compare the difference between the two titles. While the 2010 version had fantastic graphics that have stood the test of time, the Definitive Edition leaps ahead of its predecessor. Everything in Mafia II has been recreated in beautiful ultra-high definition, with characters now featuring flowing hair made of individual strands and pores on their faces. Buildings feature complete retexturing, with visible plaster on the walls and cracks in the brick works, while the cars shine as though they’ve rolled freshly off the production line, with bold curves and smooth slopes. With this beautiful graphics remaster, you truly feel as though you’re looking at a picture showing New York during the 1940s.
Helping us fall deeper into the past, Mafia II: Definitive Edition is full of music and sounds we’ve all come to expect after watching plenty of gangster films. Talented voice actors have passionately recreated the strong accents we associate with the Mafia, delivering lines with so much emotion that you instinctively know that characters standing within the family. The musical choices for Mafia II are equally as immersive, featuring rhythm and blues, or classic rock and roll.
Blasting out of your cars radio, music is not as crisp as we are used to, more in line with what people would have experienced when played on an old record player, back when music was raw and couldn’t be fixed in post. Other sound effects, such as your car’s engine or the shots from your weapon share a similar treatment, with the heavy vehicles being powered by thumping motors, or the firearms barking loudly as automatic weapons are yet to be refined.
Given I play predominately on Xbox, the controls for Mafia II are relatively easy to manipulate. With the title being more of a third person shooter, mouse and keyboard controls came as second nature. Driving provided me with a little more challenge, as I am used to having fine inputs available in the form of a controller, and the in game weather system accounted for a number of crashes as I slide across snow covered roads, locking up the vehicles breaks as I desperately fled police.
Players familiar with titles such as Saints Row or GTA will find a number of similarities when it comes to playing Mafia II: Definitive Edition, with a couple of extra mechanics. Sure, you’ll build your wanted level as you run about breaking the law, but police in Mafia will be able to recognise Vito as he runs about the world, overcome by either spending money to bribe officers or changing your clothes. In the same way, police will be on the lookout for the vehicle you just stole, checking out your licence plates as you drive past, before activating their sirens and chasing you down. It was a pleasant, albeit frustrating mechanic that created a greater sense of urgency in dumping a stolen car or making your way home for a hot shower and changed of clothes.
The experience I gained from Playing Mafia II: Definitive Edition has left me wondering why; why I hadn’t played these titles before now. Whether it be a storyline that’s harder to escape than the Mafia, music that has you stepping back in time, or the open world gameplay taking place in a beautifully created city, Mafia II: Definitive Edition has me wanting more and wishing that I had jumped on the bandwagon sooner. In a day and age where a lot of games are getting remastered, Mafia II: Definitive Edition stands tall with the best of them.
- Beautifully updated graphics
- An immersive story
- Feels like you’re back in the 40’s
- Familiar gameplay mechanics/style
- Open world gameplay
- No multiplayer aspect
- Gameplay can feel a bit linear if you focus on objectives