Review: Mafia III
Let’s start very easily with a quick statement: While it’s quite a niche series, I myself was eagerly waiting for Mafia III. Admittedly considered as a revival of a cult license after 6 years of silence, this was not an easy task for 2K’s newest studio, Hangar 13, led by Haden Blackman (worked on games like Star Wars: The Force Unleashed and more with Lucas Arts). After a series of various titles, and a long list of DLCs for Mafia II (my favorite game in the series), Hangar 13 aimed to combine what the Mafia licence and other 2K studios are great at (mostly Rockstar Games): an open world game with one great storyline. So now that I got to spend over 30-40 hours in the full game, the question is whether or not, Mafia 3 pays justice to its illustrious predecessors.
To begin with, Mafia III is far from the romanticism of the good ol’ Italian Mafia, so well depicted in the first two iteration of the license (from the 1930s to 1950s), this third opus puts you directly in the late 1960s, right after the Vietnam war, at the time of the civil right movement, racism and gruesome riots… An era in which Mafia III can use fertile ground for plant a solid story.
There is so much to say about the story of this game, which on this point of view, Mafia III will not disappoint you. If there is an outstanding quality in Hangar 13’s title, then it is in its narration. Quite simply, each cinematics and personalities are a real treat, from start to end the game. Lincoln, far from the brute that most pre-launch trailers have suggested, proves to be a committed character, whose quest for revenge is justified as it evolves throughout the story. The side-characters who revolve around his grand plan are not left out, and have a quality script and personalities, so close to the different “lesser” organized crime institutions like the Irish, Haitians, ets. The ground and core essence of the Mafia license is respected to the letter, and all of the staging is clearly not ashamed to honor the best films that inspired the game.
In addition to the writing quality, you will trully enjoy the mood that Mafia 3 manages to drown in the player with their great painted canvases. New Bordeaux will hit you as a revisited version of New Orleans, with a map design that is refreshing to see in the world of open world game. The city got all sort of variety, and while some areas like the French Quarter will be very charming, the Bayou is terribly menacing and deadly, with alligators that could hunt. Adding to that a soundtrack that is a mix-tape of the best of what the 1960s hit songs had to offer, you’ll be fully immersed in that era, with the great use of radio breaking news and NPC soundbites, giving you an image of the political context of that time.
And it’s a bit where the whole is paradoxical, because if we feel a lot of passion from Hangar 13, too many faults come taint the overall experience offered by Mafia III, in what seems to be caused by this focus on modernizing the license, and focus all efforts on making a large open-world experience.
The main story of Mafia III puts you in the shoes of Lincoln Clay, an orphan which following the brutal murder of his adopted family by the Italian Mob, goes on a quest for revenge to destroy their leader Sal Marcano. This will be done by making your way to kill his lieutenants (and higher ranked Captains) all around New Bordeaux, take over their districts and rackets (illegal businesses), to rack up enough funds to destroy Sal Marcano and his entire organization from the foundation. To achieve your goals, the method will be the same from one neighborhood to another, which is to go talk to an informant who knows where the lieutenants are, and the strategic locations where it will be good to hit and inflict maximum damage to the Italian Mafia source of income, ranging from drug trafficking to prostitution. Once the lieutenants out, you can assign your informant to these region, which will bring you in a large amount of steady money.
On paper, the idea is not bad: like the GTA franchise, Mafia III allowed, in theory, freedom of choice to players and how they plan their game in the open world. Unfortunately, if the district is a pretty nice and fun experience to go through early in the game, all turns awfully redundant and extremely repetitive, with this pointless “micro-management” aspect that doesn’t help. Throughout the story, you’ll be surrounded by your three lieutenants: Burke, Cassandra and Vito (Mafia II protagonist), and each district you win back can be assigned to one of them, which depending depending on your choices, will give you some perks. There’s the option to escape a police searches, call upon a car for a fast getaway, get some gun support during a mission… The thought of it is commendable, but for most of them, the impact in practice is much too anecdotal to be considered.
You would think that gameplay hopefully manages to make all these various activities more pleasant? Well the answer is yes and no. While I like the fact that we are given the freedom of of choice toward your approach in a mission (guns blazing or stealth), you’ll soon realized that the infiltration tactic works way betters. It’s not that the challenge isn’t tough, but you’ll soon realized that with a level design based on a cover and shoot combo, and an almost non-existant enemy AI, you’ll realized that there’s so much more gain for playing a mafioso Solid Snake, then Tony Montana in Scarface. You can so easily pass under the noses of guards without alerting anyone, kill chain opponents in the middle of a room without even be heard, and they are exploit most players will use. The AI is also no better when it comes to combat, with an unfortunate tendency to rush at you with no sort of fear, for you to easily headshot. But at least, i’ll give Hangar 13 a big thumbs up on their brutal stealth and melee assassinations, which are varied and conditioned by the surroundings, and give a real sense of power to the player.
If the AI is not great, it’s not the worst issue in Mafia III, and at the moment of writing (17th of October), my experience has been kind of full of bugs, some game-crashing, and to make it worse seems to visually look like something the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 could’ve easily achieve. While Mafia III has moments of grace, and manages to surprise the player who will enjoy beautiful light effects and a charming atmosphere, helped in particular by the unusual setting of Louisiana, the whole experience is a bit dull, feels empty, and event boring in comparison to current open world games. But for me personally, graphics is certainly not the most important criteria when it comes to assessing the quality of a game, but in the case of Mafia III, it could hurt the experience of a newcomer, and even veterans.
Despite its many flaws too, the potential of the series is there. The title frankly surprised me by proposing missions that are varied and in inspired environments, but these moments are too few to allow the game to really take off. The mood is great, the writing and story is amazing, but the technical element of the game do not follow the same pace. I’ll just end by saying that Mafia 3 might be a disappointment, but it’s not a complete failure, and It seems in fact that Hangar 13 took more than it can chew, and hopefully will not give up on making the next sequel better, with hopefully a little help from their friends over at Rockstar Games.
Mafia III was reviewed using an Xbox One downloadable code of the game provided by 2K Games. The game is also available on PlayStation 4 and PC via retail and online stores. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published
• A greatly depicted 1960s era setting
• Great acting and cinematics
• Flawless soundtrack,
• Some original quests
• A great story ending
• Terribly repetitive
• Very low technical quality
• Nonexistent IA
• Pointless micromanagement elements
• Lacks the final execution of a usual 2K Studio