I still remember the first time I played this series. It was on PC many years ago, 15 maybe? I had seen and played Grand Theft Auto 3 but in comparison, the original Mafia looked like such a step up. Graphics were amazing and the gameplay felt so realistic. That 30’s Lost Heaven city was really a world to immerse in. I can’t remember how I managed to beat that infamous race mission but that’s beyond the point. What I’m trying to say is that the original Mafia game was kind of a staple in gaming for me so, since then I’ve felt like I’m almost in debt with the series so I just had to play the rest. Mafia II on PS3 was also a great game even if it would never reach the mythical status of the first one and now… there’s Mafia III.
Just like with the previous sequel in the series, this game starts by sending you forward in time. It’s not the 30’s, not the late 40’s but actually 1968. The city in which all takes place is New Bordeaux which is a reimagined version of New Orleans.
Gameplay-wise the game has what you come to expect from the series which is free roaming driving and also shooting but to that we have to add the new stealth mechanics. That possibility lets the player tackle each of the missions and activities in a different way if they want to which is a huge plus in my book.
The hand-to-hand combat and executions feel like a gorier version of what you can find in Uncharted 2 which means that it’s useful but not too deep.
Talking about gore, the shooting in the game is quite gruesome. The way the enemies react to the bullets, how the blood splats the environment and their own bodies, the animations as they drop dead to the floor… I don’t want to sound like a psycho but I have to admit that it was very satisfying. Also, since the game incorporates a stealth system, you can be sure that the AI will be more complex than the average game. They’ll still take dumb decisions like trying to go all out on you even when they know you murdered all of their friends already but well, this is still a video game.
As for the driving, know that the cars feel very heavy and they’re somewhat tricky to handle. Is that bad? Hardly. That’s actually how cars from the era were, it wouldn’t have made sense if cars felt swift. Just be adviced that once you get your muscle car at 100 mph, making it brake and turn will be hard.
In the game you’ll be playing as Lincoln Clay. An african american that fought in Vietnam within the Special Forces. He returns to his hometown and decides to help his “family” with some “work” before he moves to LA but then something really bad happens. The thing is, Lincoln is the kind of guy you should never piss off so those who did him wrong are gonna pay. How? By taking from them all what they have.
As you can see, Mafia III’s story is very “typical”, it is specially in the movie medium but it still is engaging and it is well told. It is told in the perspective of a documentary on the life of the protagonist, Lincoln Clay. There’s testimonies of different characters telling their perspective on the events that happened and even found-footage moments. That part of the story-telling is more original even if the overall story is the classic revenge story arc.
It should also be mentioned that racism is a very important topic within Mafia III. The game takes place in the late 60’s era in the southern parts of the US after all.
The game’s graphics is kind of a mixed bag. Sometimes it looks good, very good in fact. The lighting can be fabulous and so can be the weather effects. The city is big, varied and specially very detailed with every locale feeling full of life. But, on the other hand, there are plenty of graphical glitches to notice. Reflections that are completely blurry, entire objects popping in and out of existance (sometimes even spawning floating over the ground), and there’s this very strange glitch that happens sometimes when you spawn indoors and all the surfaces seem to glisten as if it was a wet sidewalk on a sunny day.
On the sound department I have nothing but praise though. The cars sound great, the voice actors did a great job (specially Donovan the CIA guy, he’s great). But, my favourite part of it has to be the soundtrack. The late 60’s was a great era for rock music and this game goes all out boasting a licensed soundtrack to remember. Probably the best licensed soundtrack ever from a non musical-themed game (Guitar Hero and such).
Things I liked
- Core gameplay: The gameplay of this game is supported by three elements; the driving, the shooting and the stealth. The thing is that those three elements are done very well. The shooting is very satisfying, the driving feels realistic and the stealth is reliable and fun.
- Setting: Louisiana inspired late 60’s environent. New Bordeaux feels lively and real. It’s not just the design of the city but the themes that will be brought to the table, politics, racism, the atrocities of war… It’s a background very interesting and worth experiencing in a video game.
- Soundtrack: The animals, James Brown, Johny Cash, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Jimi Hendrix, Iron Butterfly, Jefferson Airplane, Elvis Presley, The Rolling Stones, Steppenwolf, The Supremes, Three Dog Night… and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Things I didn’t
- Buggy: Have in mind that there’s been already some patches made for this game, this isn’t a day 1 kind of thing but the state of the game as of today and… the game is still quite buggy. I’ve already mentioned that the game has various graphical glitches but even at one point the game the game got stuck repeating the same cutscene over and over again and I had to close it down and boot it up again. Definitely not the most stable of experiences.
- Formulaic: Now this is actually the biggest problem with the game. The game has this one formula they call game progression and it sticks to it like barnacle to a rock. You have to kill this mafia boss controlling an area but for that you have to kill first its two sub-bosses and for them to come out you have to do multiple activities that involve killing someone or interrogating or something else. The thing is, those missions are pretty much copy and paste and the formula is there to stay for the whole game. Doesn’t change a thing except for the different districts in the city they take place. The only missions that feel somewhat hand-crafted and unique are the boss missions.
Who’d like this?
The core gameplay of this game is fun, very fun and, in that sense, it’d be easy to say that you’ll probably enjoy playing this game. The bugs may come and break your immersion for a couple seconds when they happen but they’re not really that important. However, being the game so repetitive and formulaic, you may as well grow tired of it before you even finish it and that IS important.
If the story and the setting interests you and you feel like it could hook you, that may drive you forward. That, or the joy in stabbing KKK rednecks in the throat.
If I had to compare my experience with this game with some other, I’d say Mafia III is like the original Assassin’s Creed. It’s cool and immersive but definitely not perfect and above all, repetitive like hell.