A few weeks ago, hot on the heels of playing through the recently released definitive edition of Mafia II, we sent a bunch of questions over to the good folks at Hangar 13, and now they've sent back their answers, detailing the remake of the original entry in this criminally underrated open-world series. That being the case, you'll find the thoughts of associate game director Alex Cox below.
Gamereactor: What's the most important thing when updating a game like Mafia?
Alex Cox: The most important thing for us has been staying true to the original game while also making the remake relevant to a modern audience. Games have changed a lot since Mafia was first released, so we had to ensure that Mafia: Definitive Edition is a game that players in 2020 are going to enjoy just as much as it evokes nostalgia for fans who experienced it the first time around in 2002.
GR: What has been the biggest challenge in bringing the game back?
AC: Finding the right balance between what to keep and what to change. We remade Mafia completely, so we have been able to rework parts of the original game that haven't aged well and add some fresh new content here and there. Change too much though and it's no longer the game that fans remember. Change too little and you risk alienating modern gamers with outdated features from the original. Fortunately, we are big fans of Mafia at Hangar 13 and many developers who worked on the original are still at the studio. This has really helped us find the sweet spot.
GR: From a technical perspective, what's the thing that you think is most improved when compared to the original?
AC: When you compare the two games side-by-side, it's impossible to look beyond the visuals. We have moved ahead two hardware generations since Mafia was first released and we built the remake from scratch on our proprietary engine, so of course, there's a big difference in how the game looks. The city, the characters, the vehicles, the lighting and the facial animations have all taken a huge leap forward in Definitive Edition.
The gameplay is also hugely improved and has been brought up to today's standard. The original played well in 2002, but its punishing gameplay design is off-putting for modern players. The remake employs similar driving and combat models to Mafia 2 and 3. This means it not only plays better but sits elegantly alongside those two games in the Mafia Trilogy.
GR: With next-gen consoles on the horizon, what kind of support are you planning for those versions of the game?
AC: We're focused exclusively on current-gen for the time being.
GR: What is it about the Mafia series specifically that makes it a good fit for open-world adventures?
AC: Every Mafia story is set in a distinctive time and place. We build our worlds carefully around our stories so they inform the game narrative and create a sense of immersion. Mafia 3 was set in the 1960s Deep South and the racial injustice of that era featured prominently in the storyline. Mafia is set in the Chicago-like city of Lost Heaven, which makes a perfect backdrop for a story about Prohibition-era gangsters.
GR: What features, if any, are going to be added to the game?
AC: The feature-set of Mafia is very similar to the original game. We actually had to pare back some features from Mafia 3 because many of the things that Lincoln Clay could do didn't make sense for Tommy Angelo. We built out our melee combat system a little, as the Mafia story has several melee encounters along the way. Motorcycles are a new drivable vehicle type that hasn't been present in previous Mafia games. We also brought back a bunch of fan-favourite features from the older Mafia games, such as manual transmission in vehicles and a more realistic police system that issues fines for minor infractions like speeding.
GR: Are you adding any bonus features about the original production?
AC: Not to the game itself, but I'm sure we'll be sharing insights and anecdotes about the original development via our community channels as we move closer to launch.
GR: The soundtracks are an important part of the Mafia experience - is anything being done to improve this part of the game?
AC: Music is another area where we have expanded considerably over the original game. For the licensed soundtrack, we have more than doubled the number of tracks that play on the car radio as players drive around the city. There's lots of great jazz and swing music to listen to from well-known artists like Duke Ellington, Django Reinhardt and Louis Armstrong. Then for the orchestral score, we have an extensive new composition that takes the cinematic spectacle of the gameplay and cutscenes to a whole new level. And, of course, we re-recorded the iconic original Mafia theme for good measure!
GR: What has the reaction been like to the return of Mafia II?
AC: Aside from a couple technical hiccups on launch, the reception has been very positive. There is a lot of love out there for the Mafia franchise and for Mafia 2 in particular. The whole Trilogy project has been very inspiring for our team, which includes veterans of all three games as well as developers for whom Mafia: Definitive Edition is the first title they worked on. We're really excited to be bringing all three games to be played together for the first time - it's a cool package.
GR: And finally, when can players expect to get their hands on Mafia?
AC: The game launches on September 25, so not long to wait!
Mafia: Definitive Edition is heading to PC, PS4, Stadia, and Xbox One on September 25 (after a slight delay), so stay tuned to Gamereactor for more on the game closer to launch.