Developed by Hangar 13 and Published by 2K Games
Released 25 September 2020
Available on Xbox One, PS4 and PC – Reviewed on Xbox One X
Family, loyalty and deception, are themes brought up throughout the roughly 10 hour campaign of this stunning remake of the 2002 classic. Hanger 13 have done an extensive job recreating the original game in many ways. Not only have the graphics been given a complete overhaul to bring it in-line with games from this generation, the gameplay itself has seen a huge revamp and improvement, that breaths new life into the experience, which a fresh coat of paint couldn’t have done alone. While there are things which do hold it back somewhat, the overall game is a great experience from start to finish.
The game takes place in the fictional city of Lost Heaven, during the 1930s. You play as Tommy Angelo, a cab driver who gets involved with the Salieri crime family after helping two of its members. The campaign takes you on his journey through the years he spent with Mafia, as he slowly climbs his way up towards the top of the family. This story is told through 20 chapters/missions, including a prologue and an epilogue. These are all focused in their delivery, each taking around 30 minutes to complete. Within these you will likely encounter driving, potentially in chases/getaways, various combat scenarios, stealth and exploration. The pacing of these chapters is concise, yet packed with enough content to keep you engaged throughout. There are many standout missions in the game, particularly the infiltration of a large yacht to assassinate an important individual, as well as one that has you manoeuvring through a prison.
While the campaign does take part in an open world, you won’t really be able to divert much from the mission’s area. While this may come across as a bit disappointing and at odds with the purpose of an open-world, this means that the pacing can be controlled far more and kept at a brisk speed. Where you will be able to experience the world properly, is in its ‘free-ride’ mode. You can enter this from the main menu at any point and just go off exploring, locating the various collectibles strewn about at your own pace. There isn’t a whole lot to do in this mode, apart from explore and collect, since there is really no proper side missions to complete. However, if you are a someone that wants to complete and collect everything, or explore the city of Lost Heaven, then this mode is here for you.
Combat is a huge aspect of this game, where most missions include some form of it. Outside of graphics, it’s perhaps the biggest change over the original. The Definitive Edition now features a fully fledged cover-based system, which was non-existent in the 2002 version, where you were strafing around objects and walls to cover from enemy fire. This makes the remake much more consistent with modern games and overall, much better. It can still be a difficult game mind you, where health doesn’t recover on its own, instead, you have to locate and use health packs across the maps. Unlike may other cover-based shooters, this adds a greater layer of strategy and challenge when in fights and can take a while to get used to. Making use of cover and flanking your enemies, is key to success and to avoid sustaining too much damage. For the most part, combat and shooting is solid and feels good, if pretty basic and nothing revolutionary. I would have liked to have seen a bit more variety in the weapons, however, it’s not that much of an issue.
While you will likely be in combat throughout large parts of the game, there are stealth mechanics in place, with a handful of sections to make the most of this. This will allow you to sneak through a few parts of the game without having to initiate combat, as well as perform stealth takedowns on unsuspecting foes. There are also some parts that require stealth to complete. It’s definitely the weakest aspect of the game’s mechanics, which ends up being a very bare-bones feature that can lead to frustration in the some of the forced stealth sections. It’s not terrible, but often feels out of place and shoehorned in for forced variety. There were a lot of times where I simply avoided stealth and went in guns blazing, just because it was more efficient to do so.
Unlike the basic implementation of stealth, which isn’t a core aspect of the game, driving on the other hand features in practically every mission of the game. Therefore, its mechanical success is far more important and up for scrutiny. For the most part, it does the job well enough to get you through the game without much frustration. However, car handling still seems off in some ways, never feeling satisfying or enjoyable. This isn’t more evident than in the notoriously bad race mission about a third of the way through the campaign. While it appears improved over the original, it still remains an awkward and quite frustrating section of gameplay. If there is one silver lining, you are able to skip non-important driving sections if you want to. I only ever did when Tommy was the only one in the car at the time, to avoid missing dialogue between characters.
One aspect that really shines throughout, is the engaging narrative and the various characters that you encounter along the way. Tommy is an intriguing protagonist and his journey from simple taxi driver, to a formidable, Mafia member, is engrossing to witness. You see many facets of his personality come to light, as well as growth, particularly in regards to his blossoming relationship with Sarah. His story is so well told that, the player becomes heavily invested in the narrative. Tommy’s partners in crime, Paulie and Sam, are equally memorable in their own right, offering both depth to the story, as well as comedic relief in all the right moments. As mentioned earlier, the pacing of the campaign is brilliant and never gets dull or sluggish. If anything, this can lead to a few small criticisms, where I wish there was more involvement of Sarah and their daughter. However, this is a small complaint in an otherwise excellent story.
The struggles and fights between the Salieri crime family and that of Don Morello’s, is a blast to play through and kept me hooked right till the end. The various twists and turns surrounding family and testing the loyalty of its members, was a consistent theme that added a layer of tension, particularly in the latter half of the game. While the ending is pretty predictable and can be seen coming from a mile off, it’s not necessarily a bad thing, where it hit all the right emotional notes.
The vast leap in graphical fidelity over the original is clear to see, and where most of the work seems to have gone. The character models in particular are the most visually impressive aspects, where they are honestly up there as some of the best character models I’ve played in a game to date. This, along with the high quality cutscenes, really helps the tone and storytelling. The city of New Heaven also looks impressive, although, lots of pop-in and various texture issues, even on the One X, can lead to a messy finish at numerous times. The lighting on the other hand, is a a real treat that can help alleviate those others issues somewhat. Audio, particularly the voice acting, is another highlight of the experience. Every main character you meet sounds appropriate and is acted excellently, anchoring you in the moment and the story. Performance was also very solid throughout my time with the game. There was really only a few times where the frame-rate dipped below the 30fps target, usually in scenarios with a lot of gunfire and explosions happening. I didn’t notice any drops while driving or traversing the world in the free-ride mode.
At a time when huge, open-world games are a constant occurrence, it’s a breath of fresh air for a game which features an open world, yet contains a focused narrative without all the added fluff. I had such a blast playing through the campaign, witnessing Tommy Angelo’s compelling journey through the Mafia of New Heaven and meeting all the intriguing characters along the way. While its gameplay can be on the basic side, with some questionable decisions in regards to stealth and driving, it was solid enough that it didn’t hamper the narrative that much, if at all. The visuals, especially the character models, are a treat for the eye and this a story I will love to come back to many times in the future.
Score = 8/10
Thank you so much for reading and let me know what you thought in the comments, have you played, did you like it? Have a great day!
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