In 2002, Illusion Softworks made a game known as Mafia (2002) and eight years later it spawned a sequel, Mafia II (2010). Both were critically acclaimed for their story, but were also critiqued for its “empty” open world. Now almost six years later and after much anticipation, Mafia III (2016) attempts to fix the issues of its predecessors. Newly established studio Hangar 13 had big shoes to fill, so they began to work on a new story, one that was completely original. One thing Mafia has been known for is having a connection between each of the games. After so many years in between each of the Mafia titles, Mafia III (2016) reaches some of the expectations, but not all.
Six years after the release of Mafia II (2010), we are given a new story about a man named Lincoln Clay who serves as the game’s primary protagonist. Lincoln was a mulatto orphan who was taken in by the Black Mob. After serving in Vietnam, specifically in the special forces unit, he returns to a segregated and biased America. The game takes place in 1968 and in the fictional city of New Bordeaux, a reimagined version of New Orleans. Considering that it takes place in the south, in some places, there are segregation. This game shows how cruel and brutal the 60’s were. In order to show that, the developer Hangar 13 wished to create an authentic, and historically accurate world, but 2K Games wrote a message saying that they only wished to create a historically accurate and authentic setting for the main protagonist. The story takes place after a bank heist condoned by Lincoln and Giorgi, the son of mob boss Sal Marcano who serves as the game’s main antagonist. Later on after the heist, Sal Marcano decided to take the whole cut, which resulted in the death of Lincoln’s surrogate family. After waking up from a coma due to the gunshot wound to his head (Yes, somehow he survived that.) Lincoln vows revenge and sets out to destroy everything Sal Marcano has built and loved. Assisting Lincoln on his pursuit for revenge are Haitian gang leader Cassandra and Irish mob leader Thomas Burke whose son was double crossed by Giorgi during the bank heist. Also returning to assist Lincoln is Mafia II’s (2010) protagonist Vito Scaletta. It is now up to all of them to take down Sal Marcano.
Mafia III is played from a third person perspective and has the basic cover shooter mechanics and some stealth elements. One thing that is new is the ability to do a “brutal takedown”, either lethally or non lethally. There really is no consequence for not killing, or killing the enemies in the game, besides having a guilty conscience. There are the basic shooting mechanics, that you can use with a variety of weapons such as shotguns, pistols, and long range rifles. But these must be bought from a gun runner that works for the Haitian mob. Crouching and going to cover is a little rugged and tight, but you get used to it. Driving, on the other hand, is dreadful, almost every vehicle slides all over the place like there is butter on the tires, which can be extremely frustrating on some occasions. Driving in the game is something that needs to be learned within the game, but it could’ve been worked on a little bit more. The most interesting mechanic the game has is its territorial system.
Similar to the whole, “taking the territory” trend going around in open world games, Mafia III’s (2016) system revolves around taking down the mob, financially. There are objectives such as destroying illegal trafficking, and interrogating enforcers that you can either have join your cause, or be removed entirely. Money you steal, also deals financial damage to the illegal rackets, which draws out the lieutenants assigned by Sal Marcano. After you take over one of the ten districts, you can assigned them to one of your lieutenants, Vito, Cassandra, and Burke. But what makes this mechanic so original and unique is that if you assign to many districts to one of your lieutenants, the other two will lose patience and leave your gang. This will cause them to rebel. In my playthrough, I equally shared all the districts with my three lieutenants. Mafia III (2016) makes you feel like you’re in charge of what happens. When this happens they gain a “cut” of the profit which unlocks favors that they can do for you. For Burke you are able to call in any vehicle you want for free, for Vito you call in a consigliere to take cash off you and store it in the bank that way you’re profits are not stolen.
It doesn’t stop there, the game has over 5 endings, all of which I will not spoil, but I will say that whichever Lieutenant you assign the most territory for, they will be in charge if you choose the “best” ending. For an open world game, there are a variety of choices that can make each playthrough unique.
The setting is by far the best part of the game, as New Bordeaux is one of the most intriguing open worlds seen in a long time. Considering the racial tension during the time period the story is set in, there are actual buildings that strictly enforce segregation, considering that Hangar 13 wanted to make setting as historically accurate as possible, they decided to include this within the open world. This is a first for an open world title, and it was a risk that should be commended for. This also applies to the police force in the game, they will often be suspicious of Lincoln even if he is not doing anything illegal or troubling. One other thing about the time period that makes the setting so different is the music. The licensed soundtrack in this title is truly amazing considering how rare it is for a open world title to have such a variety of licensed music from other artists within the open world. There are songs such as “Paint It Black”, “Sympathy For The Devil”, “Street Fighting Man”, by The Rolling Stones, and other classics like “Fortunate Son” and “Bad Moon Rising” by Creedence Clearwater Revival. There over a hundred different licensed songs within the in game radio, most of the time you will be listening to the soundtrack while driving, despite the driving mechanics being less than sub-par, it can still be very gratifying experience to drive fast while listening to some CCR (Creedence Clearwater Revival) .
Although it is enjoyable to mess around in, Mafia III (2016) does have it’s issues, graphically the game can be impressive on some occasions but sometimes it looks awful. There is almost no customization, which is disappointing as they were promised that feature before the game’s initial release. For an open world game, it can get very repetitive, the racket system is enjoyable at first, but most of the objectives are really the same. Which is unfortunate because the idea of dealing financial damage in order to gain territory is an original idea not seen before in open world games. In the previous Mafia titles, if you didn’t abide to the rules of the road, the police would chase you. In this title, they only look at you, the only time a chase begins is when you do something drastic on foot or in a vehicle, which doesn’t make any sense. This issue also is similar to the A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) within the world. They often don’t notice Lincoln until you walk right in front of them, on some occasions you can walk right behind them when you’re supposed to be furtive and they won’t even attempt to question you.
- The story is entertaining enough to keep you wanting to see what will happen next.
- This game captures the southern setting almost perfectly, there has been nothing like this since Sucker Punch’s inFamous 2 (2011).
- The gameplay is brutal, dark and cinematic all at the same time.
- The territory expansion system used throughout the game is interesting and unique, it is by far the best gameplay element of the whole game.
- Lincoln Clay is a Vietnam vet, this causes him to not only have racial tension due to his ethnicity, but also political tension as the Vietnam war was looked down upon during the time period this game is set in. Which makes his interactions with the pedestrians and characters feel realistic and compelling. Lincoln’s character development keeps you curious to see if there is anything left of the Lincoln Clay that came home for family, or if he is becoming no better than the man he wants to ruin.
- Side characters such as Cassandra, and Burke are entertaining and likable.
- Vito’s character is much more different than his previous role in Mafia II (2010) , Vito is much older and cunning. Which makes many of his scenes in the game’s story beguiling as you never really know if Vito will, “snap”.
- The choices within the game vary, each one changes either the fate of a character or the outcome of the story.
- All endings have an emotional impact and conclude Lincoln Clay’s story perfectly.
- Licensed soundtrack is remarkably superb.
- Voice acting and facial capture is noteworthy and engaging.
- The territorial system can get repetitive.
- Graphically can look awful and has serious motion blur.
- Driving is not as polished as it should be.
- Sound design is in no way impressive.
- Stealth elements are not nearly as smooth or reliable as it should be, it can be extremely difficult to be silent with some of the design choices they had made. It is sometimes better to just go in through the front door.
- Enemy A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) is in no way intelligent.
- No “fast travel” system which results in the player driving back and forth with the problematic driving mechanics.
- Very few selection of vehicles within the city.
- Mission design is monotonous.
- Frame rate can drop significantly, especially when driving.
- Almost no customization, they have since released DLC (Downloadable Content) that allows the player to change the “outfit” Lincoln. The main issue with this is that this feature should’ve been within the game at launch, not months after.
- Character models are extremely repetitive.
- The animations are smooth, but there are some occasions where heads literally go through walls which breaks the immersion.
Mafia 3 (2016) is the continuation of Vito’s story, and the introduction and possible conclusion of Lincoln Clay’s. Lincoln is a great protagonist, and his story is emotional and entertaining throughout. Sal Marcano’s final confrontation with him in the finale is one of the best and most memorable parts of the whole game. The open world of New Bordeaux is thematic and one of a kind which makes every new area discovered a joy to look at. Unfortunately, the repetitive mission design and performance issues can sometimes make playing the game a chore. With no “fast travel” system, driving can be an extreme annoyance. Mafia III (2016) has some great ideas, one such as the idea of a racket system dealing financial damage to the opposing organization in order to gain that piece of territory is a new take on the open world genre that is amazing at first, but gets overly repetitive after multiple hours doing it again and again. Mafia has always been about story, in each game it’s story over gameplay, but hopefully they will understand that they must balance both in order to create a great open world title. Mafia III (2016) is enjoyable, and considering that there are very few open world titles out, Mafia III (2016) is worth picking up, after they have fixed the performance issues.
Final Score: 7.2/10
Xbox One, Playstation 4, PC
October 7th, 2016