I never paid much attention to game remakes, because I felt that it had become a prevailing trend among publishers to extract dollars from older properties. However, when Hangar 13 announced the remake of what I consider a personal favorite, since I got into gaming, I paid attention.
They released a couple of stunning screenshots with their initial announcement and I thought, if the game really looked like that, it might be worth playing for the graphics alone. The thing about older games, especially one that is almost 2 decades old, is that no matter how well you may have loved it in its time, they don’t usually hold up well.
The original game came out around the time of the far more popular GTA 3 which featured a proper open world filled with interesting things to do. Mafia had an open world but it mainly existed to support its story. A memorable story that took you through the life of a cab driver turned gangster. In my experience it was also a tough game, with beautiful set pieces and terrible checkpoints.
The announced remake was to be faithful to the story but with updated combat, a revised script and a complete visual overhaul. Almost like making a whole new game. Open world games have gone big these days. Games like The Witcher, Assassin’s Creed, GTA and Red Dead Redemption have open worlds filled to the brim with quests and activities, easily stretching out to 100s of hours of game play for completionists. In most respects this is considered a good thing. More game time per dollar.
Mafia Definitive Edition stays true to the original. It’s open world is the set dressing for its story. There is a separate mode called Free Ride, that lets you drive freely around in the city. Otherwise, there is no attempt to pander to the expectations of modern open world games. And frankly, I was rather glad for it.
I am a much older gamer than when I first played Mafia. Leisure time these days, is at a premium. Even though game play is important to me, I’m equally invested in the stories that are told through games. As much as I loved to play The Witcher 3 and experience it’s well written stories, making it to the end of its narrative was exhausting. Though I played several side missions and did enjoy them they often waylaid me on the way to my main objective. All that time lost was also in some way, at the expense of other games.
That’s not to say that this new Mafia doesn’t pay attention to it’s open world. Hangar 13 lavished an astonishing amount of detail on the architecture and the cars moving about the city. The lighting is phenomenal, and whatever solution they used to render building reflections on glass panes and water puddles on the road are something to write home about. The cars handle just they way cars of the era might be expected to and there is great attention to paid to the cutscenes as well.
There are modern game play updates like the cover based shooting, but by and large everything else remains the same. There is a more forgiving checkpoint system and what might be considered, as rather simple gun play. It all worked perfectly fine for me. I loved just driving around from one mission to the next marveling at the architecture and enjoying the set pieces. And everything took just enough time for me to feel a sense of joy on completion.
While some twists don’t have the same impact because its essentially the same story, everything else felt just as glorious as when I played this 18 years ago. A remake that stays true to its roots. Some who may never have played the game before, might be disappointed by its sparse take on an open world, but I am glad they stuck to this. Sometimes we just need to stop and stare, to soak in the beauty of a game’s world. We needn’t always be drawn to do the bidding of its citizens.