Mafia II: Definitive Edition, the remastered version of the 2020 classic Mafia II, is dropping today. Just to set expectations, Mafia II did not get a full-blown remake, unlike the much-hyped Mafia: Definite Edition. Instead, what we have is a spruced up Mafia II, complete with all the DLC.
I never got to play Mafia II when it first came out a decade ago, so I was eager to give a go and review it with fresh eyes. This review was done on Steam with a GTX 1080 and an i7 9700k, both moderately overclocked, playing at a 1440p resolution.
Graphics and Graphical Options
You get a decent selection of graphical options. You’ve got all the staples – anisotropic filtering, shadow quality, level of geometry, ambient occlusion, chromatic aberration, multisample anti-aliasing, post aa, and framerate limiting. The one thing that’s missing is the ability to enable/disable APEX PhysX.
Even when I turned everything as high as they can go, I was still getting pretty good framerates for the most part. It’s not like I wasn’t expecting to — it is a 10-year-old game, after all. All told, I would say, I average about 70 frames per second on all the scenes, except for some pretty unoptimized parts where it would drop into the 20’s, mostly when there’s a lot of shrubbery involved.
Like I said, I didn’t get to play the original release, so, unfortunately, I can’t make direct comparisons, but I imagine the remaster would look quite a bit better. However, I did notice a few graphical inconsistencies, especially with today’s standards in mind. Some textures, when you get really close them are crazy low res. And most of the text gets fuzzy on a 1440p monitor – as if the image files used were the original low-resolution ones and got ported straight into the remaster.
I enjoy games that try to accurately replicate specific time periods, and Mafia II does it very well with their recreation of a fictional version of late 40’s, early 50’s New York City called Empire Bay.
Everything looks and feels authentic to the setting — buildings, roads, clothing, advertising, decorations, establishments – everything! Empire Bay is just lush with the charm of the era. I almost feel as if the city is a character unto itself.
The two major standouts for me, though, are the music and cars.
If you enjoyed any of the Fallout games for its music, then you’re going to LOVE Mafia II. The soundtrack is just phenomenal – you have hits like Return to Me by Dean Martin, Mr. Sandman by The Chordettes, Rock Around the Clock by Bill Haley & His Comets, and the borderline offensive Chow Mein by The Gaylords and Ling Ting Tong by The Five Keys.
The commentary on the radio is awesome, too – they talk about newfangled things like the credit card and take out dinners.
And if you’re a classic car enthusiast, Mafia II is just a treat. A large part of the game revolves around driving and jacking cars (because you can’t hail a cab), and it made sense to pump a lot of effort into making the cars look amazing.
You can customize the paint job, license plate, and rims of whichever car you wanna drive around at these automobile repair shops.
I don’t think they changed the controls of the Mafia II: Definite Edition remaster. I played on Steam, which normally accepts Xinput and DirectInput controllers and I was able to use an Xbox One and Dualshock 4 controller on the game, but the control scheme was weird and I found no way to remap the buttons. Also, the button prompts never changed – it always displayed mouse or keyboard buttons. Even if you get used to the controls enough to never rely on prompts, controller support is still very poor.
So I stuck with the mouse and keyboard, but that had some issues, too. The control scheme is really where Mafia II starts to show its age. I normally use 1600 DPI for most gaming, but even as I set the in-game sensitivity to low, I had to drop down to 400 DPI because the camera controls are crazy sensitive! However, using the same 400 DPI setting inside a menu or the map, the mouse moved incredibly slow, so I had to switch it back up to 1600 again on the menus. Thank goodness for on the fly DPI switching.
My keyboard isn’t pressure-sensitive, so walking was very rarely an option – it was always a jog or a sprint, which kinda breaks immersion especially when you’re supposed to be walking with a buncha other mafiosos and you’re just jogging a couple steps at a time.
With driving, a controller would’ve been ideal, but since I was on kb&m, accelerating and decelerating was either pedal to the metal or full stop only – any finesse was practically non-existent.
The core gameplay loop was pretty standard for open-world games for the time (or even today, really).
The critical path usually has you go to a point, a cutscene plays, you find a ride, you drive for a bit until you reach your objective, then you start shooting or boxing. Then to end a mission, you drive back. That is pretty much it, with very little variation. There were probably two or three missions that deviated from this pattern but even then, it wasn’t that massive of a change.
At first, it was great – driving around in a classic car and shooting up some people with my trusty 1911 in the face was awesome. After doing it a few times, it got old real fast.
The driving itself is pretty good, despite the limitations of my controls. It feels a lot better than that other open-world, crime-based game named after a felony. The roads are narrow, so if you want to avoid damaging your car, you’d have to more or less follow traffic rules.
You can plow through red lights, and the people in your car will often admonish you for it but the cops won’t come after you. The only time the cops start chasing you is if you drive above the speed limit. If they catch you, it’s a $50 fine.
And unlike that other crime-based game named after a felony, no car is ever left unlocked so you have to pick the locks via a mini-game. The mini-game itself isn’t very fun, but the time needed to jack a car adds tension especially when you’re being shot at or if a cop car is nearby.
You can go on a tear and drive like a maniac should you choose to, especially on highways, but otherwise, you’re gonna end up with a lot of this:
Combat reminds me so much the first Uncharted. You stick to the closest wall for cover, and you peep out to shoot people every time they pop out. Enemy AI in Mafia II isn’t very smart. They don’t try to flank you or flush you out with molotovs or anything. They find cover and pop out to try and shoot you from time to time. Sometimes, they run from cover to cover, but that’s pretty much it.
You hit them in the head one time and they drop, which I guess is pretty realistic, but makes gunplay a little too easy with a mouse. Combat was never really that challenging as long as you make sure to take cover, as well, because you go down in a couple of hits, too.
Apart from shooting, another core component of the gameplay is a boxing mini-game, which I mistakenly tried to play like a fighting game. Don’t do that. It’s way simpler than that. All it really requires is for you to hold down the dodge button (spare bar for the keyboard) and you’re pretty much untouchable. Pressing the attack button after a dodge will have Vito do a counter-punch, and when the opponent is weak enough, do the special grab combo finisher, and that’s pretty much all you need to do to win a match. It’s not a very fun mini-game – more of a chore, really.
It is an open-world game, and there are a few things to do in between objective hopping. You can sell cars at the docks, crush cars at the junkyard, hold up stores, search for collectibles, but there seemed to be no side quests at all – at least none that the game gives you as you follow the main objectives.
I found the core gameplay loop to be rather dull after a few hours in. Driving classic cars was cool for the first 30 minutes or so, but eventually became repetitive and dull. Being behind the wheel for 8 minutes to get to your next location to have a shootout was quite predictable. It’s a good thing the supporting cast of characters gave so much flavor to the missions that you had something to hold on to emotionally.
By far, the most interesting part of Mafia II is the supporting cast. Everyone surrounding our main protagonist, Vito Scaletta, is way more interesting. It’s far more rewarding to pay any attention to the storyline is for the people around Vito, really, not Vito himself. Compared to the rest of the cast, Vito actually comes off rather bland – almost as if he were a blank slate on whom the player can project a personality.
The cast does act appropriately and realistically for the time period. The game warns you from the beginning that there will be sensitive content, and there’s a lot in there.
I found it really hard to get invested in the story, especially in the first half of the game. The chapters early on felt directionless, as if there was no clear and present goal or obstacle to overcome. It’s almost as if the build-up to the good part of the story took almost three-quarters of the entire game to get through.
It was a struggle for me to get there, but once I reached a point where Vito starts defining himself and starts to get into shenanigans that he’ll need to pull himself out of, that’s when it started to get interesting. Stakes got higher and there was now an overarching, clear, and present obstacle for our hero to overcome.
There are quite a few things you can find and look at from the extras menu. You can check out the album that shows all of the cast. You can read about their backstories there.
And if you’re a classic car kinda guy, you’re going to love the Carcyclopedia. You can scroll through all the cars available in-game to check out their stats and view them in different paint jobs.
You can also view all the artwork and posters that unlock for progressing through the story, as well as any collectibles you pick up. Yay for 1950’s Playboy pics! Side note: the game actually tells you how long you’ve been staring at the “Playboy articles” in the statistics page.
I wish I had time to play through all the additional content. I wasn’t able to touch them, but just know that they’re all in the Definitive Edition.
Final Verdict – 7/10
If you’ve ever seen any mafioso movie in the last few decades, you know what to expect. If you like classic cars, 40’s/50’s music, third-person, cover-based shooters, then this might just be up your alley. Just be aware that there are limitations to the controls, some textures are still pretty low res, the gameplay can get extremely repetitive, and that the story takes a while to pick up.