It truly feels like 2020 is the year of remasters and re-releases. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, given the quality of re-releases like Final Fantasy VII Remake and Trials of Mana, but the sheer volume of them in the first half of the year feels almost unprecedented. The latest publisher to jump on this bandwagon is 2K with the announcement and immediate release of Mafia II: Definitive Edition, a remaster of the 2010 open-world action game that brings it much closer to today’s standard but falls just short of them.
For those unfamiliar with the game, Mafia II follows the story of Vito Scaletta, an Italian-American man who immigrated to America as a child. His story follows his rise from petty thief to mafioso, and the trials and tribulations he faces along the way. As with other similar games Vito is presented as an anti-hero more than willing to murder at will, but sometimes showing a shade of a conscience when the situation would remove any semblance of humanity from his character. Vito’s humanity is a concept that isn’t explored enough through the game, leaving a lot of the more dramatic moments feeling shallow and lacking weight. This isn’t to say the story of Mafia II is badly written or presented, it just isn’t a fantastic example of either. With that said, many of the themes within the game – such as its depiction of women and minorities – are somewhat poorly handled and can be a bit confronting at times. The game does provide a warning about this before you begin, but I feel it still needs to be explicitly called out.
The biggest change to Mafia II: Definitive Edition comes in the form of the games reworked graphics, which are somewhat of a mixed bag. Vito’s character model has been improved compared to the original release, as have many other main characters, but most NPCs still look like the same flat faced buffoons we got used to seeing in many mid-generation Xbox 360 games. Weather effects, some environmental textures such as snow on the ground and lighting have been upgraded to a degree, while many of the car models look fantastic. Animations look like they’ve maybe been tweaked to a degree, but they don’t seem massively different to their older counterparts. Honestly, beyond the NPCs, Mafia II: Definitive Edition doesn’t look out of place on today’s systems, even if it doesn’t come close to matching many higher end games.
If you’ve played a Mafia or Grand Theft Auto game in the past, you’ll likely already be used to the general gameplay beat of Mafia II. Third person cover based shooting and fist fighting are your main forms of combat, while driving your way around town in purchased or stolen cars is where you’ll spend the majority of your time. This is where Mafia II really begins to feel dated, with controls that are unresponsive and cars that often feel cumbersome to drive. They won’t destroy your enjoyment of the game, but they’ll certainly hinder and frustrate you at points. Combat itself is actually used surprisingly sparingly throughout the game’s story missions, with large swathes of them dedicated to conversations, driving around, stealth missions and exploration. The game rarely dwells on a singular structure for too long, although it does pull together a string of combat missions towards the end that feel a bit cheap and draw on a bit too long.
This mission variety is needed, as outside of story missions there really isn’t a whole lot to do in the world of Mafia II. You can rob stores or crush cars for some quick cash, look around for hidden Wanted posters and Playboy Magazines, but that’s about it. It just feels a bit lifeless without a raft of mini-games to go and try or side missions to mess around with. It’s all well and good to amass cash, but it isn’t enough to a reason to deviate from the game’s story beyond the first few hours. The inclusion of the original game’s DLC does help with content in the overall package, but it doesn’t stop those feelings of emptiness.
Overall, Mafia II: Definitive Edition is a good-looking upgrade to the original Mafia II, but there are a number of carry over issues that stop it from being great. However, while the cumbersome controls and empty world hold the game back somewhat, I still enjoyed my time with the game. If you’re a fan of the series wanting to go back and replay this or you’re a fan of open-world Crime/Action games, I’d suggest giving the game a look.
Rocket Chainsaw reviewed Mafia II: Definitive Edition on Windows PC in 1440p using a Ryzen 1600x, 16GB of 3000MHZ DDR4 RAM, and an MSI Evoke OC 5700XT graphics card, with a copy provided by 2K.
- Character models look fantastic - Game has stood the test of time better than others of its time - Good variety in mission content
- NPC models look like they weren't updated - Controls feel cumbersome - World feels lacking in content