Written By: Graham Lewis
Publisher: 2K Games
Developers: Hangar 13, 2K Czech and Mass Media Games
Released: October 7 2016
Consoles: PS4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows and OS X
Mafia III completes the trilogy of entertaining, crime-based tales of retribution and power. Before writing this review, I took the time to complete the game on PS4, just to be absolutely certain I was giving it a fair chance.
So how has the series’ transition to current-gen consoles gone, I hear you ask? Well, it isn’t exactly perfect.
The Mafia series is burdened with being compared to the open-world innovator that is the Grand Theft Auto series. It’s not really fair to compare this game to the much-celebrated Grand Theft Auto V though; any comparison would be a win at a canter for the Rockstar Games creation.
What Mafia does well is tell a realistic story. A story of racism and organised crime, painting an eye opening picture of the troubles in 1960s Deep South states in the aftermath of the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King. The setting of New Bordeaux is a fictionalised take on New Orleans. The depiction of unrestrained racism is clear throughout the game to the extent developers Hangar 13 felt it was necessary to explain their decision to include this, with a sobering screen of text before the story begins.
“Mafia III takes place in a fictionalised version of the American South in 1968.
“We sought to create an authentic and immersive experience that captures this very turbulent time and place, including depictions of racism.
“We find the racist beliefs, language, and behaviours of some characters in the game abhorrent, but believe it is vital to include these depictions in order to tell Lincoln Clay’s story.
“Most importantly, we felt that to not include this very real and shameful part of our past would have been offensive to the millions who faced – and still face – bigotry, discrimination, prejudice, and racism in all its forms.” Hangar 13
The game tells the story of Lincoln Clay, a man who appears mixed race, as explained by in-game family friend Father James in an interview …
“His mother, I heard she was Dominican. I always figured his father was white, maybe even Italian. Not that it mattered, back then if you looked black, you black.”
Lincoln is a Vietnam veteran, returning after his service with the intention of moving to California and starting fresh. Things did not go to plan.
The mechanics of the game aren’t explained very well. I did spend a long time not really understanding how rackets work, why side missions are useful and (almost shamefully) how to throw a grenade.
The playable story is interjected with interview segments with certain characters, who are recalling the story of the protagonist Lincoln. This is done in the form of creating a documentary about the events of the game and adds to the immersion of the story, hearing the perspectives of Father James Ballard and former FBI agent Jonathan Maguire on Lincoln Clay’s crimes and personality.
Gameplay is centred around keeping your lieutenants happy. These lieutenants are the three allies you have in New Bordeaux and it’s vitally important to maintain good relations to ensure you can achieve your ultimate goal of getting rid of Don Sal Marcano and his Capos from the city.
The main method of doing this is to give them control of areas of the city you take from the Mafia, allowing them to run the rackets there and earn themselves (and you) money. Be careful though! It’s possible to upset lieutenants by not giving them enough control, which can eventually turn them against you.
It’s fair to say the game is repetitive, it does feel like you spend hours repeating similar missions with the same outcome just to progress. Even side missions lack originality at times, one area of any game where you sort of expect something different.
Enemy AI is designed to be fairly predictable in order to allow players to take a stealth approach, which I took full advantage of, completing most missions without actually being seen. One huge issue however is the cover system, which is extremely temperamental and often costs you a bullet to the back as you desperately retreat.
New Bordeaux looks stunning at times, the scenery is fantastic and character models of main characters are detailed and well done, showing emotion very clearly.
The game suffers with lighting glitches which does ruin immersion at times as well as a huge issue with draw distance when travelling in a vehicle. It’s not particularly fun hurtling into a tree at 120 mph because the game didn’t display it until it is far too late.
Simply put, it took me five minutes to press “Continue2 on the title screen every time I loaded the game as I enjoyed All Along The Watchtower by Jimi Hendrix blast through my headphones.
It has a fantastic mix of genres, all of which from the 60s which are a pleasure to hear and adds another much needed layer of authenticity to the experience.
The music on the radio is interlaced with absolutely fantastic talk shows referencing deaths and news from New Bordeaux linked to the activities of the player, as well as monologues from radio hosts whose opinions are reflective of the time.
The voice acting across the board is excellent, making the story and emotions seem absolutely believable.
Mafia III is a good game. It has high and low moments, but it ultimately feels unfinished. The resulting game almost feels … forced. Almost as if it is an attempt to get it out on release day, relying on future patches to correct the lack of polish.
It has extremely little replay value and has no multiplayer to extend past the single player.
The story is the positive in all of this. It gave a fantastic insight into the struggles of black people in the 60s and produced characters that were believable and interesting. It gives players a real moral dilemma in the actions of the protagonist, which are continually highlighted by Father James Ballard.
It’s extremely unfortunate the problems in the game weren’t fixed before release, as the premise for the game had such potential. Sadly, the delivery in gameplay and mission variety leaves a lot to be desired and, to an extent, lets down a much-loved and successful series.
The move in location and complete switch of the protagonist was a brave decision that worked, but the fundamentals are what let this game down.
Good, but not good enough.
Overall Rating: 6.5/10 – Okay