Mafia Definitive Edition (reviewed on PC)

Re-posted courtesy of Koru-Cottage.com, which I originally wrote this review for.

With the release of Mafia Definitive Edition last month, 2K’s Mafia trilogy is now complete. When I reviewed Mafia 2 in August this year, I ended my review (based mainly on the lacklustre Mafia 2 remaster) by saying: “I can’t recommend this package right now, especially given it’s incomplete until Mafia is released in August.”

Mafia Definitive Edition

Well, now that I have finished Mafia Definitive Edition, my verdict is easy: It’s definitely worth your time. Especially with the love that has been lavished in updating the original Mafia for today’s modern gamer, a game that tells the rise [then fall] of Lost Heaven (New York) taxi driver Tommy Angelo through the ranks of a feared crime family during the 1930s.

The original Mafia was released on PC in 2002 – I still own the original but since deciding to forgo a disc drive in my PC I can no longer play it. It was a great game, despite having a few frustrating missions: the infamous race car one being the main culprit.

The graphical overhaul is the most obvious change to Mafia here and the game play/mission structure has stayed the same. Mafia comes from an age when games were linear, story-driven experiences and not open world. Mafia Definitive Edition sticks to tight mission structure of the original and is so well crafted that I didn’t find playing it a chore (apart from the occasional frustrating “lose the cop” missions which crop up from time to time where it seems every police officer in the city is chasing after you).

Mafia Definitive Edition

Mafia Definitive Edition has highlighted how tightly paced the narrative was in the original game. It doesn’t distract you with a multitude of side missions: It’s story driven and unapologetic about that. This remaster also has great voice acting and a likeable main character in Tommy Angelo, even if he is a gangster doing questionable moral things.

The city of Lost Heaven feels like it’s built on a living, breathing city, too. While it’s sparse compared to open-worlds of today, it has little touches that make it feel grounded: Pedestrians yelling abuse if you drive too close, cops that will pull you over and write you a ticket for an infringement. Cars and trucks will flash their headlights if you pass just a little too close to them, your car’s radio reception breaking up as you drive through a tunnel, tail lights reflect on wet roads. Top it off with a wonderful 1930s soundtrack and you’ve got a winner written all over it in my book.

Like the previous two games included in this collection – Mafia 2 and 3 – I played Mafia Definitive Edition on PC and it frankly looks gorgeous, with highly detailed car and character models, and a much more detailed Lost Heaven than the original, especially at night when it’s undeniably beautiful as you drive around the city with neon signs reflecting off the rain-soaked streets and car tail lights glowing in the dim light.

Mafia Definitive Edition

I’m no technical genius but it seems developers Hanger 13 are using some form of software based ray tracing here that looks so good that several times I just stopped mid-drive to just soak in the surroundings. 2K recommends a Core i7-3770 or AMD FX-8350, 8Gb RAM,  and an nVidia GeForce GTX 780 or AMD Radeon R9 290X. My i5 8400, 16Gb PNY XLR8 RAM and RX580 GPU handled things just fine, pushing out frame rates between 55 to 60 using the game’s high graphical settings (averaging around 56FPS).

Cut scenes, too, seemed locked at around 60FPS but I did notice drops into the mid-40s when driving through open countryside. It was certainly pushing the RX580 to its limit, that’s for sure, with temperatures sitting around the 70deg mark and it wasn’t uncommon for it to be sitting at 100% utilisation. An update seemed to lift frame rates to the high 60s – even 70s – at some points.

Mafia Definitive Edition

You’ve probably guessed by now that I loved Mafia Definitive Edition, but it’s buggy at times. One character model was missing entirely from a cutscene while the dialogue continued and the “lose the cops” missions are frustrating as hell. In the game’s favour, the infamous car race seemed more forgiving this time than when I played it on the original. Sure, the other drivers are still aggressive but I managed to win it on my second attempt.  

A new patch also lets you minimise HUD elements, which is particularly welcome when using free ride mode. Also, the game has a great free ride mode that’s unlocked after you’ve completed a particular mission meaning you can explore the city of Lost Heaven in any vehicle you’ve unlocked: It’s a good way to visit parts of the city that you don’t during some of the story drive missions.  

Mafia Definitive Edition is a remaster that has been lavished with love by developer Hanger 13. Now, all I need is someone to remaster EA’s The Godfather or Scarface on the PlayStation 2 and I’ll be happy as Larry.

Spec Ops: The Line – my impressions

As promised, here’s my impression of my time last week with 2K’s Spec Ops: The Line. Thanks to Ross Purdy, of 2K in Australia, for the two-hour hands-on session. Enjoy.

Sand is full of surprises.

Pack it together tightly in a bucket and children can turn it into sandcastles with moats and towers. Pack tonnes of it up against a floor-to-ceiling window in a luxurious Dubai hotel, though, as Yager Developments has done in 2K’s Spec Ops: The Line, and it’s a means of escape: an escape plan consisting of millions of tiny golden particles.

In Spec Ops: The Line sand is the unknown quantity.

Players take the role of Captain Martin Walker, a special forces soldier sent to investigate the disappearance of soldiers from the 33rd Division after a devastating sand storm hits Dubai, dumping thousands of tonnes of sand on the futuristic city of glass and steel on the edge of the Arabian desert.

Walker is voiced by veteran voice actor Nolan North (who brought life to Nathan Drake in the Uncharted series) but this is North as you’ve never heard him before: gruff, uncompromising, swearing …

After two uninterrupted hours with the Xbox 360 build of The Line  four chapters   I’m impressed with the mostly third-person action game.

My experience opened with Walker on an army helicopter swooping between the glass and steel buildings of Dubai. Several smaller attack helicopters buzz about, attacking Walker and his crew, who fend them off with a mounted mini-gun.

Glass and steel shatters as rounds rip through the buildings. An enemy chopper splutters flame from its tail rotor before spiralling out of control and hitting a building, engulfing the structure in an orange fireball. Walker’s helicopter is hit and goes down.

Along for the ride with Walker are two other Delta Squad soldiers: Adams and Lugo. “What happens in Dubai, stays in Dubai,” one of them mutters as they wander among abandoned vehicles. The trio pass a passenger bus, its luggage doors wide open, suitcases spilling out onto the golden sands. A crumpled shirt lies next to an open suitcase.

Walker, Adams and Lugo are searching for the distress beacon activated by the presumed missing American soldiers but on finding the beacon they also find bodies of American soldiers and a tattered American flag, flapping in the breeze. The body of a dead soldier falls from an abandoned Hummer.

Suddenly three Arabs appear on the deck of a truck and a firefight ensues. By holding the right bumper Walker can order squad mates to take out the enemy. Lugo snipes a foe hiding on a sign overhanging the road.

Walker can also perform brutal melee attacks (by pressing the B button), hitting an enemy to the ground with such force that it knocks him unconscious.

Pressing B again performs an execution, either smashing the enemy in the face with the butt of a rifle, punching him or shooting them. If you don’t execute a wounded enemy he gets back up and rejoins the battle. No-one said war wasn’t brutal.

Wikipedia informs me that The Line has already been banned from sale in the United Arab Emirates as it apparently paints Dubai in a bad light.

Approaching a downed plane, Walker quietly takes out two enemies, using his pistol’s silencer, but there’s a hostage situation at the front of the plane: Alpha Squad members are being held captive. The action goes slo-mo as Walker takes out four terrorists.

In the next chapter (not necessarily chronological) Walker and his colleagues approach what looks like an abandoned TV station. “You guys hear music?” one of them asks.

Deep Purple’s Hush, Hush is blasting from loudspeakers. It seems strangely appropriate as they assault the building. The glass frontage of a building shatters as Walker peppers it with shells.

Gun turrets that can be flipped over, letting Walker fire on advancing enemies, and he can also crouch while using a turret, affording more protection.

The next chapter takes place in an underground camp: thousands of small candles illuminate the gloom. Boards, corrugated iron and flapping cloth form makeshift homes. A handwritten sign proclaims: “No weapons in this camp”.

Walker uncovers what appears to be a CIA safe room after they locate one of the soldiers they are tasked with finding. Flak jackets with “Press” emblazoned across the front hang in a side room of the safe room. There’s a firefight with what appear to be American soldiers as Walker, Lugo and Adams wind their way down stairs. Walker clings on to life  the screen draining of colour after he is ambushed.

Suddenly, there’s nowhere to go. There’s a huge window and conveniently placed caches of dynamite. Instinctively, I shoot the dynamite using a mounted turret, causing the glass to implode on itself, pouring thousands of tonnes of golden sand into the room, engulfing the enemy soldiers. See?

There’s that escape route I was talking about earlier.

Walker is starting to suspect something is up. Have the soldiers from the 33rd gone rogue?

There’s a moral choice when Walker has to decide whether to take out the general they suspect has gone rogue or rescue civilian hostages. True to character, I decide to save the hostages and the rogue officer escapes. Heavily armoured soldiers wielding shotguns appear. Later, Walker sees civilians on fire, writhing on the ground.

The final chapter of the hands-on is called The Battle, which starts with Walker and his squad mates trapped inside the lobby of a hotel, all pastel-shades and luxury. “There’s eight miles of open desert between us and safety,” he says before shooting out another huge window. Sand cascades in. There’s that escape route again.

The bodies of American soldiers hang gruesomely from lamp-posts as Walker and his friends wander the streets. They reach a balcony overlooking a detachment of soldiers: the rogue 33rd? There’s a mortar with phosphorous rounds nearby.

The game view switches to top-down and Walker rains phosphorous hell on the troops and vehicles below.

Surveying the carnage  burned and charred bodies, injured and dying soldiers crawling on badly mauled limbs  Walker stops. “We were helping,” a badly burned soldier whispers before dying.

All is not what it seems in Spec Ops: The Line.

Spec Ops: The Line will be released this year on Windows PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3