Mafia III Tells Quite a Story
Some gamers believe that we should omit politics from our games, but that’s a nearly impossible feat. The games we play reflect the times in which they were created, and creators are likely to include their political opinions intentionally or not. Hangar 13, the creative studio behind Mafia III , fully embraces the idea of discussing politics in their product, and their game is stronger for it.
Games like Mafia III make me wish Cheat Code Central had a category for story in its score card, because it really is the game’s strongest trait. Mafia III is, at its heart, a classic tale of revenge. Lincoln Clay is a bi-racial soldier who returns home only to lose everything at the hands of Sal Marcano and his gang. Now, with the help of a former CIA colleague and the gangsters he recruits, Clay must orchestrate a systematic plot to eliminate the killers who took everything from him. It’s almost as if Lincoln never left Vietnam.
What makes Mafia III ’s story so special is the details in the world, not just the writing. New Bordeaux may be a fictional reimagining of 1968 New Orleans, but it also feels like the real deal. You can hear it in the dialogue, because all of the accents sound authentic. Even the extras who might have phoned it in don’t stoop to the painfully offensive overtones you’d hear in an Outback Steakhouse commercial. You can see it in the beat up automobiles you can steal and feel it as you adjust to the vehicle’s unfamiliar weight when you turn on the ignition for the first time. You can hear it in the music – an amalgam of classic and swamp rock – and the DJs who struggle to understand the hippies and “folks who just don’t know their place anymore.”
These themes even carry over to Mafia III ’s gameplay. If you commit a crime in a poor neighborhood, police dispatchers encourage its staff to take its time. Commit that same crime in a wealthy neighborhood and the police will attack you with sudden, awakened ferocity.
So, Hangar XIII has created a convincing depiction of 1968 New Orleans, but the city is lacking the usual trappings found in open-world games. In fact, Lincoln is so focused on revenge, most of the side missions are either casual conversations with secondary characters, which provides characterization and backstory, or additional violent missions that reward you with money, weapons, and upgradables.
Mafia III is a linear experience for the first few hours, and it slowly opens up as you progress. It’s easy to remain focused on the story missions for at least the first half of the game. Personally, I enjoy the city’s limited scope, because every side mission contributes to the ultimate goal: revenge. If you’re not interested in the story and prefer open worlds with plenty of minigames, then you might be disappointed. However, I don’t think fans of the Mafia series will care too much. Still, it would have been nice if Hangar XIII had included a few more local attractions to visit, as it would have made the city feel livelier.
The story missions also display little variety. Lincoln has devised a systematic approach to dispatching his enemies and gaining money and power, and he knows better than to deviate from his plan. Essentially, the pattern is as follows. Lincoln talks to someone who can help him, and then he causes enough damage to multiple rackets (mob operations) until he can take out the next target on his list. Lincoln’s plan makes sense, but unfortunately the repetition began to wear me down after several hours. At least the targets – the bosses – have unique levels.
Combat reminds me of Uncharted IV: A Thief’s End . While it isn’t the game’s strong suit, it’s functional and satisfying. Hand-to-hand combat is simple with its two-button configuration and plenty of brutal animations. Weapons are old school and varied. While it doesn’t take long to burn through a magazine, you can thankfully radio in an arm’s dealer to bring you more guns and ammo before infiltrating a racket. As with the classic automobiles that populate the city, their weight is unfamiliar compared to more modern weapons and takes an appropriate amount of time to adjust to. Aside from a few questionable missed shots – sometimes I swear the reticle would be lined up perfectly, yet I’d still miss – the gunplay meets the standards you expect in an open world game.
You can either go in guns blazing or take a more stealthy approach in Mafia III ’s missions. Personally, I relied on stealth, because Lincoln can only take a few shots before dying. It’s so simple too. As long as you hide behind something and then whistle, you can lure enemies to your position one by one. Maybe a few will notice the body and draw their weapons, but even the worst stealth player could probably conquer an entire racket without raising any alarms. Lincoln’s whistle is so useful, so overpowered, that it almost renders the guns-blazing style useless, but at least you do have options.
Mafia III has a lot of minor technical issues that sometimes do more than breaking your immersion. For all the praise I gave the voice actors earlier, too often in-combat NPCs will utter one line ad nauseam. When in stealth mode, I often encountered strange audio of bizarre heavy breathing, regardless of an enemy’s position, and I’m not sure what’s causing it. It almost sounds like placeholder lines that accidentally slipped through quality control. The game also has some baffling lighting issues that I’ve never encountered before in a console game. One moment, Mafia III is uncharacteristically bright, triggering my instinct to grab my sunglasses, and other times it’s as dark as the void itself. Adjusting the display, which I had already been set up so that the logo was barely visible, provided marginal improvement.
But nothing scared me quite as much as when Mafia III ’s story missions glitched out. Thankfully, I was able to resolve that issue by resetting the PS4. While looking for a solution that might fix these broken story missions, I found accounts of other annoying glitches. Fortunately, I’ve yet to encounter other issues. Still, be wary, because this isn’t the most polished game.
Mafia III is an ambitious game that tackles serious, relevant themes. Unfortunately, it lacks technical polish, and the mechanics aren’t much better than anything on the market, let alone offer anything new. Still, it’s a good game that’s worth your time for at least one serious play-through. Whether you replay it depends on how enthralled you are by the adventure and if you can tolerate the repetition.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.0 Graphics
New Bordeaux is a fully realized world that’s occasionally marred by strange technical issues. 3.5 Control
Controls are pretty standard for an open-world shooter. 3.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Dialects and accents sound authentic and the music is fantastic, although the audio features some pretty strange bugs. 3.0 Play Value
It’s a decent single player experience that doesn’t offer much beyond the campaign. 3.5 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best