The Mafia series is critically underrated, overshadowed by the bombastic Grand Theft Auto. Whereas the GTA games’ plots are driven by humor and social commentary, Mafia takes a more historically grounded approach to open-world gangster gameplay. When Mafia 3 launched to lukewarm reviews, I feared that the series would be forgotten, but 2K Games is giving it another shot with Mafia Trilogy.
I played through Mafia 2: Definitive Edition on PC, and I was surprised at how well the game holds up. It’s been ten years since the title was released, but for the most part, it avoids the irritating quirks of the time. Unfortunately, though Mafia 2 is still very much a game worth playing through, this remaster isn’t as thorough as I had hoped. Instead of lovingly updating each facet of the game’s design, all you get is a slight, inconsistent graphical touchup and a physics downgrade.
Review PC Specs
|CPU:||AMD Ryzen 7 3800X|
|Motherboard:||ASUS ROG Strix X570-E Gaming ATX Motherboard|
|RAM:||32GB G.Skill Trident Z Neo Series DDR4 3600MHz|
|GPU:||NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Founders Edition|
|Install Drive:||Sabrent 1TB Rocket PCIe 4.0 M.2 SSD|
Mafia 2: Definitive Edition Review | City of Missed Opportunities
Mafia 2: Definitive Edition includes the base story and all the DLC released with the original game. A few things have been added, like Lincoln’s car and clothes from Mafia 3, but that’s about it. For the most part, the only intended difference between the original Mafia 2 and the Definitive Edition is the graphical update.
For the most part, the higher-res textures and revamped lighting do a great job of making Mafia 2 feel like a more recent title. The driving physics are still top-notch, and the combat is serviceable, so the fresh coat of paint helps revitalize the whole package.
Vito Scarletta’s journey through the ranks of the Italian mob is thrilling as ever. Mafia 2 gives you the unique opportunity to play as one of the bad guys, and thankfully it doesn’t rub your nose in it. As you progress through the story, it becomes evident that Vito is, at best, an idiot. He’s best friends with Joe, a bigger idiot, and is continually paying for other people’s mistakes. However, the game doesn’t cast judgment. Instead, it lets you conclude whether Vito is good, evil, or something in between.
However, Empire Bay, the city in which the game takes place, is still woefully underutilized. Despite the open-world design, the game is meant to be played with tunnel vision. There’s really no side missions to do besides jacking cars for Derek at the docks or crushing cars for cash at the scrapyard. It’s a shame because the atmosphere is one of the reasons the game is so appealing, and I would have liked to have gotten to know the ins and outs of Empire Bay a bit more.
It’s unfortunate that more time wasn’t put into restoring some of the content cut from Mafia 2 instead of just working on the visuals. Although Mafia 2 is still very much worth playing, ten years later, the feeling that the game is full of missed opportunities is stronger than ever.
Mafia 2: Definitive Edition Review | Breaking more than it fixes
The real issue with Mafia 2: Definitive Edition is that it breaks more than it fixes. The new textures look good, but not every asset in the game has been redone. So, you’ll often have low-res and hi-res textures loading next to one another, which is incredibly jarring.
For example, you’ll see a cutscene with a character whose face is so high-res you can count their pores next to a wood cabinet with a blurry texture that barely looks like wood. This mish-mash of texture quality is worse than just playing with the original assets. At least with Mafia 2 Classic, everything is uniformly blurry.
The team behind Mafia 2: Definitive Edition also broke certain aspects of the game. In the original Mafia 2, the eye movement of the characters was fairly realistic. They’d follow the person they were talking to or the object of interest with their gaze. Now, whenever a character looks at something else, they blink, and when their eyes open again they’ve instantly changed directions. Even worse than this is that sometimes characters just don’t blink or do anything with their eyes. They’ll just stare ahead like they’re possessed or a robot. It may not sound like a big deal, but at least 2 hours of this 11-12 hour long game is cutscenes, so you’re looking at a lot of weird eyeball hijinks.
PhysX has also been broken somehow in Mafia 2: Definitive Edition. It’s permanently turned on, regardless of what menu option you choose. However, it doesn’t work correctly, so you’ll see bugs like your character’s body and weapons clipping through clothing. Smoke effects also are not appropriately physicalized, so sometimes, you’ll get visual glitches with those as well.
Mafia 2: Definitive Edition Review | A step backward
Mafia 2: Definitive Edition doesn’t really feel very “definitive.” There are bugs and visual quirks that have been introduced with this new release. Additionally, the game is still missing the songs that were patched out in 2016. You’d think a high profile re-release like this would warrant re-licensing them, but I guess not.
The worse thing about the bugs and visual oddities of Mafia 2: Definitive Edition is that the original version of the game can be modded to include a much better mesh of hi-res textures and visual upgrades than what we got here. Mafia 2 is still a game that’s worth playing, but if you own the original for PC, you’re better off just modding it. If you don’t own it, the Definitive Edition is only $20, and you get Mafia 2 Classic with it, so you don’t have anything to lose.
Mafia 2: Definitive Edition was reviewed on PC via Steam. Also available on PS4 and Xbox One. Code provided by publisher.