Game: Mafia III
Platform on which it was played: Playstation 4
Score: 6.5/10 – A terrific soundtrack, interesting characters and plotline fit for Hollywood aren’t enough to save this banal graphical mess from the graveyard of mediocrity.
Developed by Hangar 13 and published by 2K, Mafia 3 is an open-world crime-thriller set in the 1960’s in the fictional town of New Bordeaux – a faux representation of New Orleans. The game follows the tragic post-Vietnam life of orphaned African-American war hero, Lincoln Clay. Lincoln returns to New Bordeaux to find his adopted father, and leader of the Black Mob, Sammy Robinson, indebted to Don Sal Marcano of the Italian Mafia, due to interference by a local Haitian crime gang.
Lincoln helps to eliminate the Haitians and is invited to meet the Don himself to discuss an upcoming heist. During the meeting Lincoln is offered the job of underboss for the district which he politely refuses, Don Marcano is visibly annoyed by this decision but the job goes ahead as planned.
After the job is completed, Marcano double-crosses Lincoln by killing his close friends and family. Lincoln is tended to by the ward Priest, Father James. Father James informs Lincoln of the events that had preceded and advises him not to embark on revenge as it is a ‘one-way road, which only leads to misery.’
Lincoln ignores the advice and enlists the help of a buddy with whom he worked in Vietnam, John Donovan. John Donovan is a former CIA agent who specialised in assassination and destabilisation during the Vietnam war. John helps Lincoln by providing him with Intel about targets, possible strategies, local contacts and tools of the trade which can be used to make each takeover easier to accomplish.
Mafia 3 is a 3rd person action-adventure game which revolves around the aforementioned plot. In the game, you hunt and kill different members of the Italian mob with a view to finally killing – after reducing to nothing, by taking away his financial projects – Sal Marcano. This is accomplished by taking over districts, allying with, – or killing – under-bosses and enemy racketeers and killing key members of Sal’s army.
There are ten separate districts to take over, they are; Bayou Fantom, Delray Hollow, Barclay Mills, Frisco Fields, Pointe Verdun, Tickfaw Harbour, Southdowns, River Row, Downtown, and the French Ward. Each district is linked to a certain type of criminal behaviour which Sal uses to gain money, be it; prostitution, drugs or Moonshine. In order to take over each district, you must complete extortion, assassination, robbery and vandalism missions. Every time a racket mission is completed, the racket can be added to an under-bosses list of responsibility.
There are three under-bosses in Mafia 3, all of which are unique and effective in their own way. Firstly we have, Vito Scaletta, a one-time enforcer for the Italian mob. Vito is an injured war veteran who, in the events of Mafia 2, wiped out the Falcone crime family after he was betrayed by his allies. Next we have, Burke. Burke is one of the former under-bosses of New Bordeaux, however after his rackets were taken from him and he was left injured, Burke returned to being a mechanic and is often found propping up the bar at the local watering hole.
Lastly we have Cassandra. Cassandra is a Haitian crime lord – or lady – who specialises in psychological warfare and uses her small stature to her advantage by ensuring the trust of those around her, before she finally stabs them in the back and takes all they had as her own. Once a district is completed, a made-man from the Marcano crime family will appear, once he is killed, the district is claimed for Lincoln.
The game utilises a ‘free-choice’ game-play standpoint as you are free to take over each racket, business and district whichever way you wish. While some forced assault sections DO exist, the majority of the game can be played in a stealthy manner. This can be accomplished using suppressed weaponry – which can be delivered by your personal arms dealer – or using melee attacks.
The melee attacks have both lethal and non-lethal variants which can be turned on and off in the in-game menu. Both types of attack are entirely silent (to the NPCs and enemies anyway) and ensure you remain undetected. Once the enemy is neutralised, you can pick up their body and hide it somewhere isolated to remain undetected.
When completing rackets, you are given the choice to recon the area first – using junction boxes which can be ‘tapped’ to gain information about the location, or you can simply enter the area and recon as you go using Lincolns ‘Intel’ vision. Intel vision highlights enemies and important items in the immediate vicinity, which can be exceptionally helpful if you are a stealthy player who likes to remain hidden and strike from the shadows.
If you do however decide to mount a full-frontal assault on the location, you are given a limited selection of weaponry as you can only carry two weapons, in comparison to the – almost unlimited- number of weapons which ‘magic pockets’ Vito could carry in Mafia 2. Shotguns, pistols, rifles, SMGs, specials (which are basically grenade launchers and the like) and explosives are all on offer as ways and means of violently and loudly dispatching enemies.
Every weapon in Mafia 3 is punchy, every shot lands with a beautifully choreographed *bang* followed by a *splat*, however none of the weapons which you get access to after the main pistol really have any incentive for use as the pistol can be used at both long and short range due to bullets having no travel time and the enemy AI being thicker than a Mississippi mud pie. The only thing worse than enemy AI is civilian AI while driving, I counted seven times when I was minding my own business only to be mowed down by a pick-up truck at high speed – not impressed.
The minute-to-minute game-play in Mafia 3 is largely the same which we have seen in countless other open-world games since the GTA series became third-person, fifteen years ago. It doesn’t offer any difference or change. You travel to a locale, to be given a job, you then complete said job and report back to the person for whom you did the job – I thought we were past this?
The first time I assassinated a guy, extorted a business and wiped out a shipment was exceptionally fun, however as the task of doing those things became routine – aside from a few quips from NPCs – nothing helped to shake the experience up. The world is filled with TONS of things to do, but all seem just inconsequential and tedious due to the mechanics of the core game-play being so by-the-numbers. The most noticeable thing that is missing from Mafia 3 is a fast-travel system.
It is very strange to see a 2016 open-world game without the trademark ‘fast-travel’ systems which we have come to know and expect from video games today. Driving around New Bordeaux is no tedious affair however is often tarred by graphically popping, bland textures, glitches – which interfere with the driving experience – and the occasional bug which – inexplicably – may lead to you being thrown from your vehicle by way of your vehicle de-spawning mid-journey.
The setting of New Bordeaux is a beautiful social commentary on 1960’s New Orleans, the vehicles are era appropriate, the music is in-keeping and the architecture and weather patterns could have been torn straight out of a Scorsese movie.
Look to the sky however – which you don’t do often and one can’t help but feel that Hangar 13 know this – and you will be greeted with a bland and poorly shaded sky box which looks like it would be better placed in a PS2 game. On top of this, the weather patterns in Mafia 3 have no consistency. You can find yourself driving through the French Ward being soaked through by downpour however seconds later, the sky changes, – via an extremely jarring shutter-board effect – to reveal a clear blue sky.
The character art in Mafia 3 is appalling, by the end of your 30 hour play-through you will have killed over 1,000 people, though you could be forgiven for thinking you have killed hundreds less because the character models for non-essential NPCs are copy-pasted to death.
The characters that ARE designed well are astounding representations of what this game is capable of when it tries to impress. The main characters are tangible, 3-dimensional characters with pockmarks, scars and advanced facial interactions which go over-and-above the standard 3-track smile gallery which most games opt to use.
The soundtrack of Mafia 3 is a wonderful combination of era-relevant swinging numbers separated by quick rock-based numbers such as ‘Paint it black’. The sound is delivered crisply and never feels dull, be it; slashing a guys throat or crashing a car into a lamppost, each is a bass-filled weighted noise, backed with echos and reverberations respectively, these serve to flesh each effect out to add to the gritty realistic nature of the game.
Mafia 3 is – at best – a high-end Playstation 3/Xbox 360 game which has the nerve to be new-gen exclusive. It suffers from graphical problems, bland minute-to-minute game-play and a criminally underused cast of interesting characters. If you enjoy gangster games and are looking for a new game to get your teeth into, Mafia 3 will definitely offer you that meal, however if you are an open-world aficionado looking for a new opportunity-filled experience, you may be left rather hungry, Mafia 3 is no GTAV.
Here’s a trailer for you!