While Mafia II recently received its definitive edition upgrade, and Mafia 3 has been repackaged with all of its DLC, there's no denying that the remake of the first game is the crown jewel of the trilogy.
We went hands-on with the game and came away feeling like this is an offer that you really shouldn't refuse.
Back To Where It All Began
The Mafia franchise has been around since 2002, and Tommy Angelo's adventure is well-regarded not just for a remaster like its younger brother, but a ground-up remake. This has given developers Hangar 13 a chance to not only sand down the original game's undoubted rough edges, but bring the world of Lost Heaven to life in a way that makes it feel like a true "definitive" vision for wannabe wise-guys.
For the uninitiated, Tommy begins his story as a taxi driver, before a chance encounter leads him into the waiting arms of the Salieri crime family, an up-and-coming syndicate waging a war on the Morelli family. In our preview build, we help Paulie and Sam, two Salieri associates, escape from a squad off Morelli's men, before ending up in the employ of Don Salieri.
It's obvious that Hangar 13 has spent plenty of time on the game's visuals. Lost Heaven is absolutely stunning in places, with the shimmer of puddles, the shine of 1930s cars, and the way Tommy flees from his pursuers through crowded alleyways and across bustling streets mean it feels more alive than either of its sequels ever did.
Playing on an RTX 2070 Super, our preview build frequently looked beautiful even on medium settings. Particle effects, like the smoke from a passing riverboat or leaves blowing in the wind add a rich layer of detail, and aside from the occasional NPC walking the long way around to get somewhere, animations are fluid.
Cutscenes, in particular, stand out, bought to life by exceptional voice work and subtle facial expressions. It's not always obvious, but little touches like Don Salieri's wink to his colleague when Tommy leaves the room, or the way reloading a revolver drops empty bullet casings to the floor make this feel just as modern as anything else you'll play in 2020.
Baseball Bats, Guns, and Racing Cars
Our preview sends us off to rough up some of the Morelli family's prized automobiles, where we're introduced to some rudimentary stealth mechanics as we choke out a guard and proceed to do our worst to the cars with a baseball bat. A few Molotov's later, and we're skidding through the streets to avoid the boys in blue.
Next up, Tommy is behind the wheel again as Paulie and Sam are collecting money from local businesses. All is going swimmingly until Sam is captured and Paulie is shot, giving us our first real glimpse of combat.
If you've played either of the other games in the series, you'll know what to expect. Gunplay is weighty, with the cover mechanic feeling much more refined than it did in Mafia 2's recent update.
Sneaking into a house via the second floor, we knock out one guard and stumble upon a shotgun in an upstairs bedroom. Heading downstairs, we clear each room before escaping with Sam and chasing a fleeing Morelli thug with our money.
It's clear that Hangar 13 is looking to avoid the monotony of Mafia 3's recycled missions, as well as the pitfalls of open-world mission design. This isn't a "choose how you approach" style sandbox, more a carefully curated series of set-pieces that tell a very defined story. Each mission almost feels like its own TV episode, with a clear arc - none more so than the infamous racing track mission that returns from the first game.
Through a series of unfortunate "accidents", Tommy is entered into a race. Back in 2002, the mission was derided for its difficulty and car handling, and while it's still no cakewalk, the car handles much better than it used to. It's no Forza, of course, but it's fast and frenetic, while still being forgiving enough for Tommy to slide around corners and use the other racers as bumpers.
Pop A Capo
Mafia: Definitive Edition is shaping up to be a gorgeous retelling of a classic, with more than enough to suggest Tommy's criminal origin story will be just as captivating in 2020 as it was in 2002.
Excellent visuals, solid combat, vastly-improved vehicle handling and memorable missions could make this the sleeper hit of the year - we're just looking forward to seeing how Hangar 13 ties it all into its open world.
Mafia: Definitive Edition launches on Xbox One, PS4 and PC on September 25.