2002 was a long time ago, both literally and figuratively. In 2002, we were one year on from September 11 and feeling very unsure about the world in which we lived. Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring was tearing it up at the box office and Black Hawk Down was proving war movies could still bring it. People with good taste were listening to Queens of the Stone Age’s third studio album, Songs for the Deaf, and a bunch of deadset monsters continued to line Coldplay’s pockets by inexplicably hurling handfuls of dosh at A Rush of Blood to the Head. Oh, also, a little game by the name of Mafia came out to considerable critical acclaim.
Mafia was, at the time, a rather unique proposition. A story-focused game, told in a very cinematic fashion, that occupied a pseudo open world. Unlike the other big crime game released that year, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Mafia played it straight, with genuine attempts at pathos and historical accuracy. The story revolved around Thomas “Tommy” Angelo who, through a chance encounter, goes from a simple life driving a cab to joining the Salieri family, one of the biggest crime organisations in the fictional city of Lost Heaven.
The year is now 2020, eighteen long years from that innocent era, and Mafia has been remastered and tweaked into the slick, gorgeous-looking form of Mafia: Definitive Edition. Graphics and animation have been brought up to modern standards, and even the script has been given a punch up, with expanded and improved dialogue throughout the entire ten or so hour experience. So, is it worth the revisit? Kinda. See, while the presentation is superb, even a polished version of the script feels dated and a bit flat. It’s your usual ‘guy is seduced by the mob, realises it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be and tries to escape’ narrative you’ve seen a thousand times before. Hell, it was a bit creaky back in 2002, but in 2020? It’s practically an antique.
The gameplay also is very… adequate. Stiff driving, which is appropriate for the ancient cars you’ll be driving but not exactly a joyful time, combined with mediocre shooting mechanics make for an experience that relies heavily on your love of the original title. Are you super invested in revisiting the old favourite and willing to overlook its many archaic elements? You might have a good time. But for anyone pining for story and gameplay that feel fresh and unique, Mafia: Definitive Edition is probably not the family you’ll want to join.