Mafia II Definitive Edition is a faithful remaster of the original game in pretty much every way. However, that isn’t necessarily a good thing. While the game has been given a new lick of paint, and runs fairly well on modern consoles, it has a number of bugs that should really have been ironed out with the remastering process, and it’s semi-pointless open world doesn’t quite sit right in 2020.
With that said, this is still a good game in many respects. It builds upon the first Mafia game in a huge number of ways, and it’s easy to see why so many people were captivated by it when it first released almost ten years ago. If you’re still game to hear more about it, let’s get into the Mafia II Definitive Edition review.
A Classic Tale
There is absolutely nothing new when it comes to the story of Mafia II Definitive Edition. The game packs in the original campaign, plus the three pieces of DLC; The Betrayal Of Jimmy, Jimmy’s Vendetta, and Joe’s Adventures.
Each DLC has a different flavour to the main game, and they’re a nice addition with this remaster, because they give you something to do once you’ve powered through the base story. While working through the menus I managed to start The Betrayal Of Jimmy before the main game, and I can tell you now that it is one wild ride.
Back to the base game though. You play as Vito Scaletta, a war veteran who returns home to Empire Bay for a month of vacation before you ship out again.
Soon after meeting up with Vito’s old pal Joe however, who manages to get some papers forged that mean Vito doesn’t need to go back to the fight, you see Vito become involved in a power struggle between the Mafia crime families as he attempts to secure the funds to pay off his now dead father’s debt. On paper, this is a cracking story, and it does play out really nicely on the whole. Vito and almost every other character feels fully realised and fleshed out, no doubt due to some level of research into real life mobsters.
However, each chapter doesn’t quite play out as realistically as you’d imagine. If you don’t mind suspending your beliefs while Vito becomes a master safe-cracker and thief in the first few hours, then you should get on fine with the rest of the game.
I Don’t Like Vito
While I enjoyed the story, and actually found myself wanting to squeeze in just one more chapter where I definitely didn’t have time, I really did have a problem with Vito himself as a character. This is a man who grew up in a dilapidated neighborhood, got caught stealing jewels, and was then shipped off to war.
He returns without any real woes to speak of, which I can cope with, but he seems to flip flop between being an honorable man and a complete psychopath in the middle of most sentences. One moment he’ll be talking about how he doesn’t want to go back to the war and the shooting, and the next he’s whipping out a pistol and threatening to kill people even when he doesn’t need it.
His character is completely flawed, as if one person was writing an overarching story line made up of one point every other chapter, and someone else was writing the dialogue for your classic trigger happy gangster. It’s jarring, and it really did take me out of the game.
Great Setting, Odd Implementation
The game is set in Empire Bay, which is based on New York. It presents you with an open world that you’re free to explore at certain points in each chapter. Rather than the traditional GTA style of picking up missions when you want to, the game forces a mission on you with each chapter, but gives you the freedom to mess around and explore once you’ve completed it.
This works well, and I never felt like I was being pushed to do something I didn’t want to. The missions themselves are very well crafted, and keep the game’s pacing at a level that doesn’t feel as though it gets away from you.
The tutorial aspects of the game are also out of the way within the first two or three chapters, and from there you’ve got everything you need to wreak havoc in Empire Bay. The trouble is, there’s very little point in messing around in this pretty gorgeous world. There are police, and if you drive too fast they’ll start to pursue you, but you can escape them quite quickly without even thinking about it.
Once the police have clocked you they’ll notice you every time you drive past a car, either by your face or number plate, but this can be fixed by ending the chapter or getting your plates changed.
Outside of speeding, yes you can run around and run people over, or shoot them, but there’s not much point. The world isn’t filled with interesting things to do, it’s just the setting for the story that you should be working through. It feels like at some point the game was meant to have more going on in it, but as it stands it just feels weird.
If you like driving around in old cars though, you’re in for a real treat, because there are loads of good-looking automobiles to be found and driven.
Glitches That Should Have Been Fixes
For a remaster to come out in 2020 and have issues that were almost certainly present in the original game is, as far as I’m concerned, completely unacceptable. It makes the game feel rushed, cheap, and like a waste of money.
I’m sad to say that the glitches still present in Mafia II Definitive Edition mean that you may as well buy the PS3 or Xbox 360 version, because they’re cheaper and there’s no difference in how they run. There’s pop-in that’s so noticeable that I had trouble concentrating on what I was doing for a start. This mainly applies to scenery, with trees being the major culprits, but it does happen elsewhere as well. You can also see low-resolution versions of textures as they higher-quality ones load in as you drive past them.
I’ve not seen this in any other recent remasters, and I’m still confused about why it’s in there at all.
Another incredibly annoying glitch ruins the otherwise outstanding audio in this game. The soundtrack is fantastic, it’s something that I’d choose to listen to while working, and would highly recommend you pay attention to. Everything from the in-game radio ads to each ancient sounding track is just beautiful in a way that sparks a strange sort of nostalgia for this hauntingly lovely time period. But in-game conversations are a nightmare.
You know the drill with open world games. You pick someone up, drive somewhere while they talk, and do a thing. This is fine, it’s a trope now, and it was a trope in 2010. My issue is that the conversations will go from being louder than the radio, to too quiet to hear, then back to being overly loud again. There’s no real pattern with it either. I was able to pick up the quiet voices by chancing the vehicle camera to face the windscreen, but that just led to driving disasters and ruined my immersion.
Once again, this is a bug that should really have been picked up and fixed. It’s not a quirky aspect of a beloved classic, it’s just broken.
Overall, Mafia II Definitive Edition is a good game. It has it’s flaws, some of which will drive you around the bend, but there’s a good game to be enjoyed here if you can work to find it. The story is one of those that you simply have to play so that you know it. Mafia II is an intrinsic part of the last gaming generation’s history, and you’re worse off not having played it.
With that said, this isn’t a polished game. I don’t think it’s worth paying full price for it right now, and would say that you can stand to wait until it’s on sale, or gets discounted in a year or so. Yes, it’s probably one of the best Mafia games out there, but it’s nothing that won’t wait.
A code for this game was supplied by the publisher.
Mafia II Definitive Edition
Mafia II Definitive Edition is a great remaster of a classic game. While it has a few glaringly obvious issues that will ruin your immersion, it's a classic that you'll be better off for having played and experienced for yourself, when the time is right.
- Fantastic story
- Varied missions that keep you wanting to play
- A believable world
- Vito is an impossible to believe character
- Pop in is awful
- Audio issues almost ruin some parts of the game