MAFIA. WE ALWAYS HAVE A PLACE FOR A GUY LIKE YOU

Before we get started – yes, I went through the original.

Even if not when it would be the right time, but only a week before the release of the remake *, but nevertheless, everything that will be said further will be said with the knowledge of the context. Actually, the latter is one of the reasons why I finally decided to visit the streets of Lost Haven: of course, I have long wanted to join the classics, but besides that … I was waiting for holivars that would flare up with the release of its rethinking. Another holy war between those who liked the new creation of Hangar 13 and lovers of the original game. A war that … did not happen – after all, albeit from the second time, this studio managed something truly outstanding, something that I, without a doubt, can call one of the best games in the outgoing 2020.

 

However, before we start analyzing it, let me immerse you in the context of the original – in the end, the analysis of the remake will not be complete without some of its details.

 

So, Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven. This game was released in the second half of 2002, at a time when the gaming industry was at a certain “crossroads”: on the one hand, Silent Hill 2, Metal Gear Solid, Deus Ex and Max Payne, which had been released by that time, had already clearly shown that the famous the comparison of the plot of games with the plot of porn * is a little outdated, on the other hand, their sales faded against the background of the GTA series, which clearly hooked players with a simple story. Add to this the attempts of other “GTA clones” of those times, the past merits of the developers and the imminent release of GTA Vice City – and we get a seemingly disappointing result: while other eminent studios were telling their “complex” stories within very limited worlds, young Czechs from the town of Brno set out to create it on a large scale, and did not think to give in to the famous car theft series.

 

However, to call their attempt too “arrogant” would not be entirely fair – even though the studio, of the major projects, included only the tactical shooter Hidden & Dangerous, it already traced many features that later migrated to the next creation of Illusion Softworks: an emphasis on tactical battles in which any mistake could become fatal, a thorough study of the environment and its work on the gameplay, the ability to work with open spaces and an attempt, within the genre, to bring a bit of non-standard to each task. To these features, within the framework of the new project, a new engine has been added – LS3D engine, which has brought more elaborate open spaces to the formula, an even more expanded tactical component, technical bells and whistles and … however, I will not bore you with unnecessary details – check it out for yourself, if interested:

 

I will only note that … they did it. Of course, not financially – in 7 years the first part sold in a circulation not much more than 2 million copies, but the game was noticed and, most importantly, appreciated. And for what.

 

Frankly, I have never been a fan of the GTA series – although I played most of the parts, some of their “arcade” and frivolity of what was happening always scared me away from this franchise. But the contrast was even stronger when I first launched the first Mafia. And no, it’s not even about the graphics, which looks very decent even after almost 20 years, I’m talking about … realism. The original game does not babysit the player, from the first minutes hitting him in the gut and saying “Adapt”: he has not yet had time to move away from the first cinematic, and the poor man is already being thrown into an old-fashioned taxi and forced to flee from bandits along the streets of the night city, relying only on own skills. And this is not only an introductory task – this is an approach to game design, and a screaming “you can do it!”: Make a city that is not inferior in thoughtfulness to the real one, fill the dead streets with mise-en-scenes with random NPCs, put the forces of law with reason that can make the player afraid of them and much more. Truly, a fantasy that only modest teams are capable of – by the way, that a small Ukrainian studio was plodding several hundred kilometers away, at the same time, over another legendary project.

 

Of course, this manic desire for realism did not always turn out to be in place, but the approach itself bribed: the discarded unfired clips, which made you think twice about when to reload, and the logic of the enemies’ behavior – not only could they also run out of cartridges, so they also very cheerfully bypassed the player. The same piggy bank included the destructibility of objects, hand-to-hand combat chips, the variety and non-linearity of missions, an exciting plot … in general, what I want to say – starting the game now, in 2020, I, contrary to my custom, almost did not find in it the costs of game design of the beginning the noughties, which the eye clings to so strongly in our time. However, there were also those crutches that I missed …

.. but to summarize – even a single acquaintance with the Mafia was enough to say: such games – adults who do not take the player for an idiot, are not afraid to take risks, appear very rarely. And that’s why the news of the remake has caused legitimate fear among Orthodox fans.

 

***

Well, to say that they were excessive – to sin against the truth: the same studio Hangar 13 took over the development of the remake, which released a very controversial third part, rumors promised some “changes in the script”, and the first teaser, to put it mildly, caused bewilderment : Tommy Angelo in him appeared as a hardened gangster, “who did everything he did for the sake of the family.” This was followed by statements by Daniel Wavra *, screenwriter and one of the creators of the original, who was not involved in the remake, and the shown gameplay excerpt caused a flurry of criticism against the new project at all – it seemed that the developers had completely missed the spirit of the original, turning hardcore and thoughtful shootouts into a Hollywood attraction, with inappropriately joking protagonists, exploding barrels and ogres * in the lead roles.

 

And then the game came out and turned out to be a shitty remake. No kidding: if you want to exactly repeat or feel for the first time the experience that the original Mafia gave, you have to go to the original Mafia, since here you will not find the spirit of that very original source. But as a reimagining that borrows and improves on the merits of the original, Mafia: Definitive Edition turned out to be just great. And since it is customary for us to take games from the Resident Evil series as the standard of remakes, I will also follow this example – only I will not compare with the second part, but with the re-release of the first. She, if anything, took her original at one time, cut off 60% of the outdated parts from it, and carefully built up new ones instead, having submitted, it seems, the same game, but from a completely different angle. So…

Plot

Despite the loud statements about “changes in the script”, both the plot and the general plot outline in the remake remained unchanged:

 

In the courtyard in 1938, outside the windows you can hear the uninterrupted noise of the streets of the city of Lost Haven, and two men are sitting at a table in a cheap cafe: Thomas Angelo, a fighter of the Salieri mafia family, and detective Norman, who came here for some information promised to him by the man on the other side of the table … After a couple of sharp witticisms, the purpose of his visit becomes clear to the servant of the law: his counterpart, in exchange for the safety of himself and his family, offers the detective information about the activities of the criminal family – accounting books, testimony against former accomplices, information about the most notorious deals over the past 8 years in a word – everything that will make it possible to arrange the loudest trial in the next decade. However, first you need to make sure that the information is really worth it – and Tommy begins his long story …

 

However, a person familiar with the original will notice dramatic changes at first glance: not only have both interlocutors become much more talkative, but also Tommy finally looks the way a person should look in his position – haggard, disheveled, nervously looking around sides, and in their pockets there is no money even for coffee. Detective Norman is not inferior to him – a man whose knowledge was limited only by the fact that he is not Santa Claus, not only does he now look like an experienced detective: he immediately tries to find an approach to the interlocutor, notices his position and in general looks much more interested in what he came here for. Moreover, he throws a couple of hooks towards the second part. And yes, these are the very changes – even if the events in both games are similar in many ways, the remake has overgrown with so many details that the events themselves and the characters taking part in them feel completely new.

In order not to spoil much, I will manage with just three examples: the second mission (Running man), the disclosure of the dons, and the ninth mission (Country walk) – the very one that presented the gameplay of the new game.

And I think those who are familiar with the original remember the second mission well – after a dynamic chase through the city streets, the player was forced to slow down sharply and for a good 15 minutes, enjoying only the sounds of the radio and the screams of customers, to earn extra money as a taxi driver. I hasten to upset you – everything is the same in the remake, with a couple of exceptions: firstly, cars now go faster (and there is navigation), and secondly, that Tommy and his passengers have learned to speak. Yes, the actions of the first part take place during the “Great Depression”, and even the “Prohibition” is still in force, and clients will not hesitate to complain about it – they will come across an accountant complaining about the abundance of unemployed, then a drunkard will sit down, and sometimes even completely will happen … grandma. Well, you know grandma. Moreover, Tommy is now also not a reflective piece of the driver with a sad voice – this is noticeable from the last mission, but here he will never miss the opportunity to release a caustic comment on any occasion – in fact, this same character trait, before the release, confused the public.

 

And at the end of the mission, that very … ahem, a cup of coffee happens, which irrevocably changed the life of an unlucky taxi driver. No, unfortunately, without La Verdine – apparently, nowadays it is not so easy to license it. But with a much greater dynamics and intricacy of the route – not only is Thomas now really rushing like a man afraid of death, and fences, roads, construction sites and other common objects for back streets stand in his way. And the mission ends much more logically than in the original, at the same time smoothly leading to the next task.

 

By the way, somewhere in the middle of this series of events, there was a second moment significant for the remake: the very same “We are good, and Morello is bad,” repeated almost three times in a dialogue, and instantly convinced skeptics that Don Salieri would now be stereotyped and uninteresting character. Well … what did we even learn about Don Salieri, passing only the original? No kidding, I would be glad if you could answer me now, before continuing reading. Maybe I’m just so inconsiderate, but – only in the remake did I realize that the Dons who rule Lost Haven are far from being in an equal position.

Of course, in the original there was that very scene with the accident, which violently demonized the image of Morello for the player, but outside of it the game was in no hurry to reveal that it was him, that Salieri – only at the end, when one of them was already retiring, Mafia began to share the details of their past friendship, simultaneously swiftly trying to denigrate the second don. And against this background, it is especially pleasant to notice the small touches that the Definitive Edition is full of: that Sarah, the beloved of the protagonist, feeds the poor of Little Italy with the Don’s signal, that the punks with whom acquaintance with her begins has not just become insolent, but into nothing does not put Salieri, “whose time is gone,” and that Frank, who was previously a friend of the Don in words, takes a considerable part in its disclosure. Because of this, when the remake comes to an end, we are not put on… let’s move on to mission 9.

 

Where to start … no, I’m not going to justify that APC suddenly chasing the heroes at the end of this passage – not because it was a silly attempt to add an action that gets out of the mood of the main game, no. Such machines really were in service with the US National Guard, and, moreover, it would even fit into the very concept – after all, starting with this mission, Tommy and his comrades understand that Morello is going to strangle competitors, depriving them of all sources of income and sniffing the police. The problem is different – against the background of all the details that the game generously scatters during missions, it would be enough to add one cutscene where the detectives on the farm call for reinforcements, and there would be no questions.

 

But what raises questions is … carelessness. Yes, I can’t find another word, especially when it comes to the very selected segment of the game. Because it was categorically impossible to show it in isolation from everything else – especially in the form in which it was eventually shown. You don’t have to be seven inches in the forehead to understand: the PR manager took it into his head to present the game as something “stylish, fashionable, youthful”, with spectacular explosions, witticisms from the main characters and dynamic shootings. There is only one “but” – in this striving, in the absence of context, in just 15 minutes he generated a critical number of not very pleasant questions for the game:

 

Why did Tommy, who was very phlegmatic in the original, suddenly rush into battle like a real gangster?

Why did Paulie suddenly start acting like a loud hysterical woman?

Has the game turned into a linear shooting range?

Why do enemies now take in quantity and not quality?

And believe me, I also selected the most important ones, there were much more complaints about the game. But it was very easy to avoid them – no, not to change the mission (they, in general, would look controversial with such a presentation), but simply not to cut out the five-minute intro that follows before its start. In the plot plan, this is also one of the features of the remake – if most of the missions in the original game were cut off from each other, without reference to time and events, then they all follow like a full-fledged story (after all, this is Tommy’s story to a detective ), with interludes that immerse the player in what is happening.

 

And if we touch upon this specific mission: well, firstly, we have already missed the context of Tom’s acceptance of his new job, stretched out over two previous missions, and secondly, there are 8 (!) Months between the massacre in the church and the events on the farm, within which the whole trinity of heroes, forced to lie down, only did what they went down to the bottom: Paulie, who had been a frequenter of brothels before, did not get out of there all this time, Sam relaxed and was not ready for unforeseen circumstances, and Tommy became a slave to the bottle, who every evening staged drunkenness and fights – to the extent that it risked tarnishing the honor of the family. Agree, their behavior becomes somewhat more logical when illuminating these details. And in general, from about this mission, almost the middle of the game, new images of all three fighters of the family finally take shape – however, compare them yourself, because this aspect of the remake has the least in common with the original. But I would like to enter the gray zone – we will discussContinuing the theme of the questions asked to that gameplay segment: yes, in comparison with the original, the game has become much more linear, now representing a somewhat modified gameplay of the third part, but there are both disadvantages and advantages – no, following the form of the question, it has not turned into a linear shooting gallery, but, unlike that Mafia, the paths of passage in the remake are prescribed by the game designer, and not by the player’s imagination.

 

And in any other game, I would write it off as a disadvantage, but … sorry, the gameplay was not always an advantage of the original. Of course, rarely when in a story game, at its standard difficulty, you see the realism of the Arma level, where a stray bullet hitting the hero’s head will not reduce his health to a critical level, but will instantly kill him, and, sometimes, the original gave the same “ killed the enemy at the last points of health and survived “, but the key word here sometimes – in most cases, you caught that same bullet and started the level over. Moreover, here it is still not so critical – yes, you will go through this farm for an hour instead of 15 minutes, but it will not cause any special problems. But immediately after it follows … the airport.

Perhaps this is one of the most legendary missions in Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven, and the reason for this is precisely its prohibitive complexity. We will not touch on the plot, it is not so important now: you just need to get from point A to point B, taking care of several groups of opponents along the way, but … even if you have transcendental skills, passing it will quickly slide down to learning the location of all enemy spots at this location. I won’t say how long I myself went through this mission – maybe two hours, maybe more, but it all ended with the fact that I decided not to play by its rules: I empirically found out where the event markers are, cleaned most of the location without activating them, and then he simply forced the remaining adversaries to split up by means of the script, by shooting them one by one. In other words, I passed this mission with a bagoyuz. And no, I’m not ashamed.

 

But it was all the more unexpected to see how, in the remake, Tommy takes, carefully parks the car in the parking lot and … enters the building secretly. Of course, this mechanic was also in the original – within the framework of a couple of missions, and is rather crooked, but here the entire location is built in such a way that it could be passed both aggressively and quietly, without killing anyone. And the approach to it, in many ways, is a marker for the rest of the game: if in the original the variety of seemingly monotonous gameplay was created due to the abundance of small details and complexity that made the player think outside the box, then he was thought out at the stage of creating levels, from – why did the game become … more boring or something. This is partly smoothed out by the “classic” complexity that brings some of the mechanics back into the game, but still – I can’t decide if the curved variety of polished linearity is better.

 

Moreover, in the case of the Mafia, this works in two ways – this is not Dark Souls, where the complexity and the compulsion to think outside the box were originally part of the game, this is an excellent story game, through the gameplay of which you, sometimes, wade just to get the story. I don’t want to spin around the racetrack for three hours to see the story continue, I don’t enjoy a systematic 45-minute cleanup of the port that a random sniper can reset, and I’d rather have a dozen train rides with Paulie, during which he pours us a soul than any of these missions. And, you know … it gives a remake. Of course, not all the furious moments from the original are lost on the classic difficulty – the same race still makes you burn a chair, many shootouts, although they do not take 45 minutes now, still take 5-6 attempts due to the increased dynamics, but, in overall, it looks much more balanced. And he manages not to lose another important aspect of the original …

Atmosphere

Moreover, in many ways, it is achieved in both games in different ways. Of course, the original cannot keep up with the rethinking in the richness of details – the Definitive Edition, in addition to purely graphic bells and whistles, pays much more attention to micro-stories embedded in the very design of locations and a variety of notes that come across as you progress (and I’m not talking about radio, news notes , submission. But no, he said). The original is … more mundane: if the remake does not hesitate to flirt with the production, cutscenes and other small interactions, in the original Tommy gets a task, goes to the yard, stocks up with weapons and goes on a mission – without fanfare and unnecessary gloss, as befits a typical “dirty worker” … Although, at the same time, he does not hesitate, from time to time, to throw up mise-en-scenes, sometimes even affecting the plot – in the remake these are either removed altogether, or the protagonist performs them on his own, without the player’s intervention. If we give analogies with cinema: the original “Mafia” is “The Godfather” – overweight, unhurried, immersing in its atmosphere and telling a story slowly, while the remake is rather one of Guy Ritchie’s films. Considering the huge number of references to cinema, the comparison is even ironic. However, I hardly remember films that so vividly depict the atmosphere of the 30s, and even with such attention to detail *. True, sometimes we come across rather strange “references” …

… but none of them breaks the sense of immersion as much as … The Walk. In the original, of course, there was a similar mode too – moreover, it was divided into two: in one the player could destroy the city, and in the second he was given additional tasks not related to the main story. Only there, for the most part, these tasks, although they were comical, but quite fit into the everyday gangster life. The remake brings the idea to the point of absurdity – here you have a mission from the original, where you have to chase a flying saucer, in an explicit parody of the MIB, and the same clown, only in a more piquant situation, and a lot of other “strange” things. And, okay, this is additional content, but the complexity there is clearly unbalanced – even on the easiest one, not every task is given the first time. Although, they clearly plan to expand this mode due to post-release patches, so I will not bury it ahead of time, just keep in mind that the absurd comedy that is happening there is only spoiling the feeling of passing.

 

***

What is the end result, the original and the remake? Well, as I said at the beginning, “Mafia: Definitive Edition is a bad remake, but a good reimagining.” Therefore, I would probably recommend going through both mafias:

 

Original: for a unique, even today, gameplay and an excellent story, in conjunction with giving an unforgettable experience of the game.

 

To be honest, I had to delete the original mafia a couple of days after the passage, because, despite all the suffering, for several days I was tormented by a terrible “thirst” to return there again and relive it all: just ride along familiar streets, look for secrets, go through my favorite mission. But, nevertheless, I do not mind going through and

 

Remake: for the sake of an old story in a new wrapper. No matter how Vavra scolds her in comparison with his creation, the new Mafia really deserves to relive in her a seemingly familiar adventure. Most likely, this game will get lost among other high-profile releases of this year: like the original, such projects are destined to get lost in the information noise. But I believe that after another ten years she will be remembered with the same warmth as the rest of the series.

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