2K Games and developer Hangar 13 have revealed gameplay footage of Mafia: Definitive Edition, the from-the-ground-up remake of the original Mafia from 2002. The Mafia 1 remake will be released on September 25 for $39.99 or as part of the $59.99 Mafia: Trilogy, which also includes remastered (not fully remade) versions of Mafia 2 and Mafia 3. The latter is available now, though Mafia 1 won’t be downloadable until its release date next month.
The new 14-minute Mafia 1 video, which you can watch below, shows off the complete rebuild that Hangar 13 undertook, with assistance from some of the original developers at 2K Czech (nee Illusion Softworks). I sat down with Hangar 13 president and chief creative officer Haden Blackman to ask him about how the studio approached the revival of this well-loved but almost-20-year-old game.
I asked Blackman what the impetus for this project was, seeing as how we’re still two years away from Mafia’s 20th anniversary. He said it was a matter of timing in a less obvious way. “It was a pitch that came from the team. We have a number of people on the team who worked on the original Mafia, and they saw it as a good opportunity as we were bridging the gap between Mafia 3 and the next project we’re working on. And I agreed.” So was it originally planned as a full-blown remake, or just a remaster? “A full-up remake was the original pitch,” he said. “I think that once we got into it, though, and we kind of started looking at all the things we could do, it became a little bit more than we originally anticipated.”
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It’s not a shot-for-shot remake, however. “We knew from the outset that the core narrative would hold up well,” he said. “There weren’t giant plot holes that we had to shore up. The mission flow — the number of missions — we knew would hold up. The tone and central themes and setting — the Prohibition era — we knew that all those things were things that would hold up. Then, when we started looking at the next layer, that’s where we said we needed to take things up to modern standards. The way in which we tell the story, the quality of the cinematics, the representation of certain characters.
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Blackman cites tweaks made to the story to give main character Tommy Angelo’s wife Sarah more than the literal one scene she had in the original game, in service of Tommy’s family-driven motivations in Mafia’s story, which is regarded as one of its strongest aspects. Its driving model has also been updated to give players a lot more freedom – literally, as speed limits were enforced by the in-game police. In Mafia: Definitive Edition, you’ll have the option to use the new driving model or stick with the version from the original game. “We’re trying to cater to new fans but also let the existing fans know that we knew that that was important to them.”
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The streets are also wider, and the layout of Lost Heaven has been tweaked slightly in order to have more visible waypoints for the player – a choice also fueled by the fact that draw distances are much greater now than they were in 2002 thanks to the power of modern hardware. All of this is in service to the core story and underlying gameplay. “The way that Mafia 1 originally worked, there were a lot of bespoke gameplay sequences that all were very specific to that specific mission,” Blackman added. “So we wanted to continue that and make sure that we had gameplay sequences that felt true to the original, but also have underlying mechanics that were really solid. So we brought in a lot of the cover shooting mechanics from Mafia 3 and polished those even further.”
Finally, I asked Blackman about the tech side of things for this from-the-ground-up remake. “It’s built on [the Mafia 3 engine] as the foundation,” he said. “But we continued to make improvements to it.” For instance, the team added a new lighting model and environmental audio. As for next-gen versions – what with this releasing on the eve of the next-gen consoles release, Blackman said, “There’s nothing we can talk about right now” but added, “It’s definitely something we’re looking at.” He did say that Mafia: Definitive Edition will run in compatibility mode on PS5 and Xbox Series X, at the very least.