2K and Hangar 13 have bundled up and revamped the Mafia franchise with Mafia: Trilogy. While the top down remake of Mafia is drawing a lot of attention, Mafia II: Definitive Edition was remastered and bundled with all previously released DLC. As a bonus, anyone who owns the original Mafia II received a free upgrade to Mafia II: Definitive Edition.
Mafia II is inspired by classic gangster films like The Godfather. Players are taken to Empire Bay, a fictional city inspired by New York City, where a variety gangs battle for territory as people struggle to achieve the American dream. The story has aged reasonably well over the years. The plot moves quickly with plenty of interesting twists and turns. The cast of characters are well developed, and players easily get attached to protagonist Vito over the course of the game. Out of the three story DLC released, only “Joe’s Adventures” expands upon the main story, filling in the details of Joe’s activities during one of the game’s time skips. The remaining two appear to be completely non-canon.
Mafia II was originally billed as an open world shooter, but the game is better described as a linear shooter set in an open world. The distinction is important because Mafia II misses some of the distinguishing features of a proper open world title, such as optional activities and side missions. Instead, the game is laser focused on the player completing the main story mission and immediately pushing the player onto the next chapter. Therefore, Mafia II is a pretty lousy open world shooter, but is still a decent linear shooter.
The gameplay has aged reasonably well in the last 10 years. Mafia II was originally released when a number of mechanics we take for granted today were still being refined or were completely new and innovative. Things like the cover system has stuck around, while the stricter enforcement of traffic laws in game has died out.
Combat is still enjoyable. The game offers a wide variety of period appropriate weapons. In terms of combat, the cover system has probably aged the worst as it is become clunky for modern standards. The melee combat is still excellent as it requires most skill than simply spamming one button. While Mafia II will never be mistaken for an actual fighting game, Vito can perform a small number of combos, counters, and finishing moves.
The driving is still solid. There are a large variety of cars from the two time periods the game is set in. Cars are a little more realistic than most open world games, needing to be refueled and repaired. Police enforce basic traffic laws like speeding, though are less strict that I remember from the original Mafia. Mafia II hit a good balance between realism and tedium as the player needs to be a little more aware of their car status, such as turning on the speed limiter and keeping an eye on the gas, without having to be utterly paranoid about obeying traffic laws.
The PC version of Mafia II: Definitive Edition is decent, but it could use some improvements. The graphic options are more granular compared to the original game. However, there is some ongoing debate on exactly how the game physics has changed in the Definitive Edition as some of the Nvidia physics technologies the original game relied on have been long discontinued. The mouse and keyboard controls are still barebones. There are a few key functions like use and enter vehicle that could have been grouped int a single key binding. There are also missing quality of life options like toggle to aim or crouch that should be added. The game still needs some patching, I ran into glitches like clothing clipping into models and AI pathing bugs.
The most noticeable upgrade in Mafia II: Definitive Edition is the improved textures. Everything looks sharper, more detailed, and more realistic. The models and the animations do not appear have changed much. The improved textures do a decent job of hiding the dated models, but the animations are not as lucky. The humans look a bit wooden and awkward, very much in line with other games released during that period as motion capture was not the norm for major titles.
The audio experience is has held up very well over the years. The radio is still packed with licensed music from the appropriate eras along with a fair amount of advertisements and radio DJ commentary. The sound effects are enjoyable. The voice acting is excellent for the most part, but a few minor NPCs are voiced by very bad actors in comparison to the main characters.
Mafia II: Definitive Edition adds some visual modernizations to a 2010 game that has aged reasonably well. Unfortunately, the remastered version failed to upgrade some of the control options to bring it up to modern standards and struggles with a variety of bugs that will need to be patched out in the coming months. The linear nature of the game will be disappointing for those looking for a true open world, and a few features feel clunky 10 years later. However, Mafia II still offers some of the best storytelling from the last twenty years.
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