Mafia 2: Definitive Edition is a great reminder of the series' seminal value to story driven games
The news that Hangar 13 is working on a full remake of Illusion Softworks' 2002 open world classic, Mafia, has understandably got everyone talking. Few saw it coming, not just because we somehow hadn't heard a single leak or rumour about such a project up till now, but because it's kind of an unexpected move for publisher 2K Games.
While Mafia enjoys something of a cult classic status to this day, most assumed that Hanger 13 – the studio currently in command of the franchise – would have its attention focused entirely on its previously teased new IP, which is rumoured to be launching as a next gen exclusive for PS5 and Xbox Series X in the years to come.
It's also strange because Mafia 2, generally considered to be the best game in the series, isn't receiving the same treatment as its predecessor, instead entitled to a more typical remaster as part its inclusion in The Mafia Trilogy bundle releasing later this week. Perhaps, however, Mafia 2's enduring qualities are precisely the reasons why Hangar 13 decided to leave it be, as replaying the remastered sequel on PC ahead of release proves there's still plenty of fun to be had in this old dog yet.
Mafia 2 had the unlucky timing of launching just two years after Grand Theft Auto 4 set bold new bars for open world games in 2008. Given the production value of Rockstar's own ode to New York City, 2K Czech must have known it was going to face unflattering comparisons, but Mafia 2 nevertheless maintains a confident identity in both its similarities to, and differences from, Niko Bellic's ascent through the underworld of organised crime.
Like that of GTA 4, Mafia 2 embraces the mundanity of mob life as much as the glorified showmanship of crime thriller flicks. While the first mission is a Call of Duty mimicking tour through occupied Sicily, its follow up segment has you returning to Empire Bay, sitting in the passenger seat of your best friend's car as he drives you home, walking up to your childhood apartment, and enjoying a reunion meal with your family before going out to look for a job the next day.
While the original Mafia was a straight-played pastiche of classic crime flicks, Mafia 2 goes to great lengths to prove that the reality of mob politics is not nearly as glamorous as pop culture suggests. Vito doesn't enter the mafia because of any innate hunger for power or inner darkness nestled within his soul. Instead, he slowly, and almost without realising it, finds himself caught in the mob's gravitational pull after returning home an injured veteran with no job prospects or safety net.
That central tragedy, of a good man corrupted by a bad world, is almost Shakespearian in its laments on lost innocence, regret, and post-war America, even if those more mature themes are often at odds with the focus-group tested cover shooting that makes up most of Mafia 2's interactive action.
News by Andy Rixon, created 19 May, 2020
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