Mafia III is filled with visceral violence, open-world exploration and cinematic story telling. There’s a few bumps in what is arguably the most ambitious Mafia title in date, but despite these issues, Mafia III still represents one of the better open-world experiences currently out there.
Developer: Hangar 13, 2K Czech
Publisher: 2K Games
Platform: PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC
Release: (WW) October 7th, 2016
It can seem somewhat repetitive, but the open-world exploration and varied maps and venues add plenty of life and character to the experience.
Set a few years on from Mafia II in 1968, Mafia III takes place in the fictitious city of New Bordeaux, a New Orleans inspired set piece filled with racially-charged characters and gangland violence. Players take on the role of central protagonist Lincoln Clay, an orphaned Vietnam War veteran who has just returned home after being discharged from the Special Forces. Reuniting with his surrogate father and his black mob buddies, Lincoln agrees to take on a bank heist as a debt to the Italian mob, led by kingpin Sal Marcano. The heist is successful, but the black mob is double-crossed by the Italians, leading to his friends being killed and Lincoln with a fatal gunshot wound to the head.
Of course Lincoln survives and after being nursed back to health, sets about exacting his own brand of revenge on the Italian mob by destroying everything, and everyone associated with them. Although the introduction of Mafia III is a cut scene heavy affair, it’s presented in a refreshingly different documentary approach. It paints a pretty clear portrait of the type of person Lincoln Clay is, even if the narrative can feel a little disjointed early on. Some of it can be pretty ugly but this is a Mafia game after all.
Taking down the Italian mob isn’t all just a case of spraying bullets and killing everyone and everything in sight, well at least that’s just one part of it. In order to take over a district of the city, Lincoln and his crew will need to take out the influential power of an Italian mobster. In order to do so, you’ll need some intel from a confidant to determine who to kill. Then you’ll need to lure him out by killing some of his men or causing destruction. Once he’s been executed, you’ll take back a part of New Bordeaux before rinsing and repeating again.
It can seem somewhat repetitive, but the open-world exploration and varied maps and venues add plenty of life and character to the experience. And who says your victim has to die? Lincoln can always persuade an enemy to become an ally with some unsavoury methods if you’re feeling particularly generous. Controlled territories can be distributed among your loyal members, who each have their own personalities. Some can even turn on you should you leave them to their own devices for too long. Although there are side missions, there’s isn’t so much that you feel overwhelmed compared with other open-world titles. The excellent voice-acting and well-written dialogue, even for lesser characters is some of the best quality for narrative out there.
Although the central plot may be linear, your choices and path of action doesn’t necessarily have to be. The world of New Bordeaux is the largest open world environment in the Mafia franchise to date, touted as being the size of Mafia and Mafia II combined. In total there are ten districts for Lincoln is his recruited cohorts to explore, with each locale having a distinctive 1960’s flavour. The New Orleans inspiration is obvious and beautifully recreated, from colourful streets during Mardi Gras, to the murky swamps of the bayou – the air is thick with southern charm.
Mafia III is a joy to play, with plenty of tasks and jobs to get lost in, so it’s a shame that the quality of the overall product isn’t quite up to scratch.
Keeping true to the period, racism is rife throughout the neighbourhood and Mafia III is happy to keep the experience as authentic as possible. From the way Lincoln is perceived by the Italian mob, the racial slurs, and how civilians and NPCs react to his presence all adds to the 1968 atmosphere. Sure, Lincoln is jacking a car and should be reported to the authorities for his misdemeanour, but this is no modern day San Andreas so a little bit of extra precaution is needed if you plan on making a clean getaway.
Mafia III is a joy to play, with plenty of tasks and jobs to get lost in, so it’s a shame that the quality of the overall product isn’t quite up to scratch. Enemy AI are cumbersome and generally thick-headed, which often takes away the illusion of New Bordeaux being alive. Once you’ve figured out the mechanics, you can essentially lure characters where you want them to be, before despatching them quickly. Exploiting such simplicity almost borders on cheating at times.
Once you’ve accepted Mafia III isn’t a title that’s going to be a benchmark for artificial intelligence, it can be lots of dumb fun, and I mean that in a good way. Lincoln can feel like a one-man demolition team, taking out multiple enemies no matter the situation. Whether you’re outgunned or outmanned, you always feel like you can outsmart the game with a few well-placed Molotov cocktails, distractions, or use of cover. Being able to do things you obviously shouldn’t, and probably couldn’t in real life is a wonderfully satisfying experience that makes you want to try new things just to see whether you can pull it off.
Mafia III can be a big ball of hot mess, and other times truly sublime. Glitches and flawed physics can leave you wonder what just happened when your vehicle unexpectedly spears off trajectory, but then there are the moments when pacing and plot points just fall into place, before being undone by what feels like unfinished work in New Bordeaux. It’s a contrasting mix that leaves Mafia III feeling like it just needed a bit more work to get the game where it needs to be.