Release Date: Friday 7 October Platforms: Xbox One / PS4 / PC
There’s never been a moment quite as perfect in a game as your character and his ragtag group of heist buddies escaping the police while singing The Bobby Fuller Four’s “I Fought The Law”. Mafia 3 will forever be known for its flashes of brilliance, but will have the eternal blemish of repetitive gameplay.
The deep story of Lincoln Clay is accompanied by the backdrop of 1960s USA. New Bordeaux is the setting. A New Orleans-inspired city split into districts that Lincoln has to take over to get his revenge. In each district there are two rackets you have to weaken, and then take out the boss. For the first few, it’s exciting. Shooting up the place is obviously the first port of call. Unless you fancy being stealthy, and then f***ing up and going all guns a’blazing.
Then the missions slowly but surely all merge into one. The objectives are the same, kill the people, grab the cash, destroy the supply, then onto the next one in a couple of blocks away. The only thing that distinguishes them is the story, the saviour of Mafia 3. A documentary twist interlaced throughout the game holds the story and gives it depth. Seeing the downfall of the Italian mafia before its even begun is a strange angle to go down, but it’s a necessary one.
Some of the story missions do stray from the repetitive formula, often enough to shake up the dynamic of the game. Forcing you to think outside the box of the usual stabby stab, guns and grenades. The gameplay is simple. Combat can be improved through upgrades to Lincoln which you can unlock from certain underbosses of your Mafia revolution. Shooting takes a while to master, with the need for you to put some work in to get that critical headshot. And then the stealth is probably the easiest way to go about it. Hide behind cover, whistle at the nearest guard, and wait for them to aimlessly wander over, conveniently hugging the wall as they do, and stab them in the neck. Once you unlock the silenced weapons after the first district is taken over, stealth is a breeze. So much so you’ll find yourself shooting and blowing up everything in your wake just to challenge yourself.
The object of choice in Mafia is one of its strong suits. Whether it is the stealth or full frontal approach of combat, or which underboss you give the district to once you conquer it. Each of the three underbosses can give you certain upgrades for Lincoln and his vehicles or unlock new equipment for Lincoln. Even though two of them, Cassandra and Vito, have much stronger abilities than the other underboss. Burke’s ability is to call off the cops, but the police presence is never really a major issue in the game. Slamming witnesses into the pavement usually does the trick to stop them from ever showing up. Depending on the way you play, you’ll soon decide which underboss you will lean towards for personal benefits.
The omission of a fast travel function is a dubious one for an open world game, but the amount of effort they’ve put into the world of New Bordeaux makes it less of a chore. Experiencing the diverse districts while bombing through with your incredibly cool car is a sight to behold, from 60s-style neon sign laden downtown areas to murky swamps filled with alligators. And it only takes five minutes to drive from one side of the map to the other. The world feels empty though. There are taverns and diners, but there’s nobody in them. They offer zero functionality to Lincoln as well. Being able to pull up and have a beer to get a bit tipsy or going to eat some food to restore health would’ve been pleasant features, if only to make the world feel more realistic.
What definitely does add to the realism is the fantastic facial animations of the cutscenes with the lead characters. You can truly see the emotions on their faces as you talk to them, or as they recount the events in the documentary. They even give life to the side characters when they demand you help them in their ventures. It all adds to the incredible story of Lincoln Clay.
Mafia 3 scratches the surface of the perfect game it could have been. It has the story, it has the interesting characters. Simple additions could’ve made the world way more immersive, and without monotonous gameplay, it would go down in history. Tackling important issues like the racism of 1960s USA and overcoming the impossible is what gives Mafia 3 its edge.
Buy Mafia III on Amazon.