Eighteen years ago (!!!!!) I fell in love with a game: Mafia, by Gathering of Developers. A third-person shooter set in 1930s America, telling the story of a young cab driver who is drawn into a crime family. The setting, the city of Lost Heaven, utterly absorbed me with its working trolleys, el-lines, and drawbridges, and the story was one of the best I’ve ever encountered. It was for Mafia 2 that I finally held my nose and installed Steam for the first time, though neither of Mafia’s sequels ever came close to the original for me. I’ve continued playing and replaying the original — simply for the atmosphere — long after it’s been left in the dust, gameplay & graphics wise. And now….now it’s been remade with modern gameplay elements and modern graphics.
Playing this game is absolutely surreal, because it’s technically a new game — and I yet I know its map. There are differences between the two Lost Heavens, but when I played an early missio, I ignored the on-screen routing in favor of my known shortcuts, and made it there easily. When I wanted to drive across the map to Oak Hill, I ignored the map and found my way easily enough. There are marked differences, however; not just in the flavor of the street (there are far more details in DE-Lost Heaven). For instance, Oak Hill, based on Nob Hill in San Francisco, was an unapproachable mansion district in the original game: there were two roads in, and both were annoying. One was an incredibly steep path that many vehicles couldn’t make, and the other was a very long, winding path on the opposite side of the hill. Now there’s a tunnel that makes the steep path easier, as well as a third road that goes down through some slums
So far I have played the first few missions, up to Fairplay; I’ve also fooled around in Free Ride. I’m getting used to the ‘new’ characters; they’re the same ones I know, but their voice actors are different. Salieri lacked a certain gravitas at first, but I’m warming to his new actor, and frankly I can’t tell Paulie and Sam apart most of the time. They both sound like they’re imitating Joe Pesci & Steve Buscemi at the same time. I LOVE the new dialogue and expansions to existing missions: for instance, during “Ordinary Routine”, Tommy got to go inside a place and collect money from a business instead of just shuttling Paulie and Sam around. Inside, Tommy was sworn at in Italian (or Sicilian). Based on the cognates in the subtitle, the little old lady was calling him a blood-sucker. I was greatly disappointed to discover that the elevated lines & trolleys, while present in the world, are not accessible to the player. The el-lines access stairs are closed, and the trolleys open their doors to let people out — but the player has no ability to pass through the door. The mundane ability to ride around the city on trolleys & elevated lines was one of my favorite features in Mafia, and the el-lines were useful for losing the cops: they didn’t patrol up there, so it was easy to lose the heat after doing something innocuous like borrowing a car. Parts of Free Ride are reminiscent of Mafia 2; players are teleported out of water, and taxis can be driven but not operated for money. I understand that on the PC version there’s an updating pending which will allow players to operate taxis again. I hope, if they’re going to be updating the game, they add trolley transit once again. RDR2 managed it in St. Denis!
Next week, once I’m back to my own home and out of my quarantine quarters, I plan on exploring the story more, and may do some updates here on what I think of it. So far I’m quite pleased despite a few omissions.