Family Is Who You Die For
Mafia’s one of those franchises that has left a big mark on the genre it fits into, and it really brought up how interesting organised crime can be in a video game in terms of narrative and gameplay. Naturally, from the success of Mafia II, we knew we’d see a third instalment, but is it any good? A new cast of characters with a few returning ones, and the brand new setting of New Bordeaux, Mafia III is pulling out all the stops in order to rise to the top of open world games.
New Bordeaux, 1968
Mafia III’s strongest point for the entirety of it’s 20-30 hour campaign, is definitely its story, and the way that it’s told. Mafia establishes what it’s going for right away, with an opening interview with various characters talking about Lincoln Clay, who takes the centre stage for the duration of Mafia III’s story. Lincoln is a Vietnam War veteran, a killing machine who still suffers from the things he did and saw done during his time in Vietnam. Mafia wastes no time establishing who Lincoln is, and I found he was an incredibly likeable character, and the cracks in his moral compass definitely show. Without spoiling too much, Lincoln is screwed over by Sal Marcano and the rest of his mob, setting him on a path of revenge against the mob boss and his family. It sounds extremely cliche, and it would be if Mafia III didn’t deliver it in the way that it does. A majority of the story-telling in Mafia is done through interviews from experts of a particular, or through characters from the story itself. It’s hard to describe how it really works, but trust me when I say it’s excellent, because it truly is. Characters are likeable, well established, and well voice-acted, and Sal Marcano serves as a good villain and antagonist to Lincoln. Supporting characters like Donovan, Father James, and the returning Vito Scaletta had me smiling every time they came onto the screen,and there were moments where I legitimately laughed to some of the things they said. The story also has 3 separate endings, and what you get depends on the choices you make throughout the duration of the campaign. Finally Mafia has some really interesting commentary on the racism and gender equality of the time it’s set in. I found it genuinely confronting that police always had their eyes trained on Lincoln when he was nearby, the ever-underlying presence of the KKK and Lincoln’s refusal to kill females also had me surprised. Mafia III easily has one of the best narratives I’ve experienced this year so far.
A New Breed of Mobster
Mafia III doesn’t do much to differentiate itself from its predecessors or other entries into the open world crime genre in terms of gameplay. It’s fairly standard, but that isn’t a bad thing, and it’s definitely not Mafia’s biggest downfall. Mafia starts off incredibly strong, with a solid opening act/prologue that really sets up the characters and the story, but then it takes a turn for the worst, and that’s Mafia’s gameplay structure. Mafia’s gameplay structure, is it’s biggest problem, and when I say biggest, I mean really big. Most of the game comes down to Lincoln shutting down rackets, luring out the boss, assassinating the boss, and then rinse and repeat. This is easily what 60% of the game is made up of, and after a while it gets boring, monotonous, and the story missions are few and far in between to be help break up the pacing. That being said, every single story mission is fantastic, and incredibly to playthrough, with multiple set pieces to keep the action and octane up, but they simply aren’t enough to redeem the rest of the game. Fortunately enough, Mafia III’s combat systems are handled fairly well, with a simple but robust stealth system, tight gunplay, brutal melee combat, and fun driving mechanics. As you take down rackets, you can allocate them to 1 of 3 underbosses, all of which have specific bonuses, and allocating rackets increases the amount of cash you can collect from them. It’s also worth mentioning however, that the underbosses that don’t get territory start to get angry with Lincoln, and they can actually decide to leave your mob. It’s a really interesting mechanic which gave the choices we’re given a lot of meaning. What bothered me quite a bit about Mafia, is that there’s very very minimal customisation in terms of Lincoln’s attire, cars, and weapons. There’s a fairly low number of cars to choose from once you get access to them, weapons can’t be given extra attachments, only upgrades to accuracy, ammunition etc. and Lincoln can’t be customised in any way, shape or form.
Beautiful New Orleans
Mafia also manages to consistently excel from a technical stand point, albeit some minor downfalls. Mafia III looks beautiful, and the entire game is a treat to look at, textures are nice, lighting is beautiful, effects are solid, and the overall art style of the world is amazing. I loved seeing the difference between the bustling streets of The Delray Hollow as opposed to the crocodile infested waters of the Bayou. Mafia III’s performance is passable, the entirety of the game ran at a solid 30 FPS on the Playstation 4, with minimal dips, and no bugs apart from one very funny texture glitch I had, which fixed itself almost instantaneously. One thing that really stood out to me was Mafia’s authentically awesome soundtrack, and I always found myself with the radio on because of it, however it did make the lack of a custom soundtrack option very apparent.
Mafia III simultaneously does so many things right, but so many things wrong at the same time, and it just so happens that the things it gets wrong are the vital ones when it comes to game design. It’s definitely not a terrible game, it’s quite enjoyable if you can get past its repetitive nature, but as it stands, I can’t recommend Mafia III at full price unless you’re really interested. As good as the story is, it doesn’t save the fatal mistake Mafia makes with its gameplay structure.
-Fantastic story and storytelling
-Brilliant story missions
-Great set of characters
-Tight gunplay, robust stealth, solid melee combat
-Beautiful open world
-Extremely repetitive gameplay
Thanks for reading guys! I wish this one was a lot better, but it definitely wasn’t a terrible experience. Up next is Rise of the Tomb Raider, and so far it’s been absolutely amazing. Harry :).