Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Hangar 13
Release Date: 05/19/2020
Also Available On
I remember Mafia back in the early days of the PS2 era. I also remember not really understanding it because I was 12 years old and probably shouldn’t have been playing a Mafia game. I also remember the game being hard as nails, but that’s about it. 18 years later, Mafia is a classic and a surprising choice for a full-on remake. The game takes you through a story of the 1930s mafia motif as you follow Don Salieri’s family, and particularly, the story of Tommy Angelo. A simple cab driver just happens to be in the right, or wrong, place at the right time and gets inducted into the family. You and your pals Sam and Paulie go through the ebb and flow of a Don losing turf in a fantastical Chicago, Lost Heaven, and trying to gain the turf back from a rival mafia family.
The story and characters are the best part of the game, and honestly, the only reason to stick around. While the game looks and feels like 2020 it’s structured like 2002 still. You see a cut scene, play out a mission, and that repeats about 15 times. The missions are at least varied somewhat from running on foot, long shootouts, and being a getaway driver. Sometimes there’s stealth involved with sabotage, espionage, and subterfuge. I was entertained throughout the entire game, but I kept feeling like I was playing an old game with a new coat of pain. While the controls work, the animations are fine, and the cover shooting is awesome, it just feels like an older game in the way it’s structured. I also felt the large open world of Lost Heaven was wasted as the game is linear in design despite this open city. There are zero side missions or activities to complete and the open city just acts as a living breathing hub world for you to drive around in during missions. It’s honestly a huge waste as side missions could have been added in.
When it comes to driving the game feels great. There are simulation and arcade types modes with automatic and manual transmissions and you also must drive on the road and follow the rules or get pulled over and cited. This was a super awesome concept back in 2002, but today it feels pointless as you can speed if you don’t see a blue blip on your map nearby. Until I understood that I got pulled over only twice early on and used my speed limiter. Once you figure all of this out the whole “traffic law simulation” gimmick is completely out the window. You can get wanted rating stars and lose the cops like in any open-world crime game as well, but that’s literally it for the world. Shooting feels fine with a decent cover system and peeking over and blind fire all work well, but the shooting feels loose and ancient. It has this wonky feel to it that I can’t quite put my finger on, but it still retains the stench of a 2002 third-person shooter, and while not game-breaking by any means, it’s still noticeable and just feels a bit off. The PS2 era difficulty spikes are also present as more than a few shots will kill you. You can find pills laying around sometimes, but overall you have to use the cover and play whack-a-mole or you will die fast.
My biggest gripe is these difficulty spikes. I will play a few fun missions and then I get thrown a huge shootout level with wave after wave of enemies and I would die numerous times. The same goes for overly long chase scenes. One crash and I would lose my chase and have to start all over again. This is more of that 2002 stench that just lingers in the air around all the 2020 glitz and glamour. Sneaking is fine as well as you can perform takedown moves, and those missions weren’t insanely long and the levels were easy to navigate. This simple mission structure is also a piece of 2002 that Hanger 13 just couldn’t shake. I would have loved a whole new shooting system and some more stuff to do in Lost Heaven. See the issue here lies in absolutely zero reasons to go back. There’s a “free ride” mode but you just drive around doing nothing in the city. Again, that was fun and exciting in 2002 but today it’s a snooze fest.
Overall, the visuals are fantastic with great lighting effects, animations, and terrific voice acting. Lost Heaven looks like a living breathing world, but you’re just shuffled from mission to mission unfolding a well-written story with likable characters only to have zero reason to go back afterward. With nothing to do inside the open world and having silly collectibles distract you from mission objectives, as well as lingering issues from the original game, there’s just too much 2002 mixing with the 2020 stuff that makes things connect weird. It’s a fun ride the first time around, but after that, there’s no reason to revisit.