Mafia II deserves better than this. Originally released for PlayStation 3 in 2010, it was by no means the greatest of its time. However, ten years later, anything the game got right has been thwarted by the technical disaster that is Mafia II: Definitive Edition. This remaster fails on all fronts. From an atrociously bad frame rate and questionable slowdown right the way through to bizarre audio glitches, it quite literally has the complete package. Mafia II is still in there, somewhere, but it has been trampled on to such a degree that it can be considered long dead and buried.
For those who don’t know, this remaster brings together the base game and three pieces of DLC for a cinematic period piece dedicated to the illegal dealings of the mafia. Vito Scaletta finds himself wound up in one such criminal organization after returning from World War II with the aim of ridding his family of debt. What ensues is a narrative that still holds up to this day, but it can only do so much for an experience which even gives the Silent Hill HD Collection a good run for its money.
There are so many faults and flaws introduced by Mafia II: Definitive Edition that you better buckle up for the long haul. The remaster seems to target just 30 frames per second on PlayStation 4 Pro, but it never, ever achieves it for any decent length of time. Stutters and frame rate drops are an incredibly common occurrence while out in the open world, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. Confined spaces such as building interiors, apartments, and tunnels have it far worse as the frame rate nosedives into the literal teens. And this is something which happens in these locations every single time you visit them. No ifs or buts.
It may be tough to wrap your head around what that really means for the undertaking, so allow us to lend a helping hand. The vast majority of the game's missions take place in specially designed environments, so outside of driving to and from these scenes, you will spend a lot of your time indoors. Can you see where we're going? The title runs like a complete trainwreck during every story-critical sequence and it only gets worse when you throw combat into the mix. This is an unacceptable state to launch in, especially so when the remaster's foundations were already laid a decade ago.
The new 4K visuals are hardly worth shouting about either. Sure, a handful of character models look like they've been brought into the modern era. But then others which usually stick to the background stick out like a sore thumb with poor texture work devoid of any real detail. Meanwhile, lighting glitches make a mockery of the Empire Bay skyline and special effects such as fire and explosions disappear without explanation. There's even plenty of texture pop-in and teleporting civilians, just for good measure.
And then there are the bugs and glitches. For some bizarre reason, dialogue will only play through the left earbud when using headphones roughly half the time. AI doesn't always trigger correctly, leaving enemies completely motionless. If you back out to the PS4 dashboard, the game occasionally won't register inputs upon your return. If you're unlucky enough, it'll crash completely. We shall state it again -- this is not acceptable.
The most frustrating thing about the situation then is that underneath this technical mess is a game with statements which still ring true 10 years later. Yes, it covers every cliché in the book, but the writing holds up with a heartfelt tale of doing what's right for your family no matter the cost. Those tribulations get rather grandiose the more you progress, although a series of unique set pieces lend weight to keep you at ground level. And while it still features an open world with nothing to do and a complete joke of a police force, Mafia II continues to excel in the one place it had something to say.
We can't say the same for combat, however. Simply put, it feels completely archaic in the year 2020. An awkward cover mechanic makes smoothly getting about the place a complete chore while aiming and shooting is the clunkiest it could possibly be. Since the game opts for a camera perspective directly behind the protagonist rather than one over the shoulder, taking down enemies in tight spaces is a tougher challenge than it has any right to be. This becomes even more of a detriment as you near the game's conclusion. Bigger groups of thugs can get the drop on you before you've even caught wind of their location which, combined with a surprisingly small health pool, makes for a truly miserable experience in the latter stages.
It's very safe to say that D3T's attempted remaster of Mafia II is nothing short of a failure, but there is one more glitch which has left us baffled. Every time you boot up the game, you will be asked to log into a 2K Games account. If you do so then all is well and good. However, should you choose to skip the option then an on-screen icon will appear to remind you that your profile hasn't been linked. While some users have been lucky enough to have the prompt disappear, we had to play the entire game with it visible. It doesn't go away during gameplay and it's even present in cutscenes.
The cherry on top is that it actually covers up gameplay-critical HUD elements such as in-game timers when you're racing against the clock. You have to resort to guessing if you're doing well or not all because an icon has glitched its way onto your screen for an entire playthrough. What a complete and utter disaster.
Mafia II: Definitive Edition could have been a welcome distraction during the quieter summer months, but in its current state, it must be avoided at all costs. While its narrative and writing may still hold up 10 years later, the long, long list of technical flaws and glitches overshadows its few accomplishments. And that's all it deserves because this is the worst remaster of the PS4 generation.