Platforms: Xbox One (Reviewed) | PS4 | PC | Mac
Publisher: 2K Games
Mafia III’s a bit of a mixed bag, on the one hand I really like the main narrative and I love the soundtrack, in fact I’d go so far as to say it could even rival Grand Theft Auto’s assorted radio stations. On the other hand, there are numerous flaws tucked beneath its polished surface.
The story is a nice departure from the previous games, following a protagonist who isn’t part of the infamous crime syndicate but is fighting a war of revenge against them instead using their own tactics mixed with guerrilla warfare straight from the battlefields of Vietnam.
As you might have guessed by now, the timeline’s jumped forward again, this time to 1968, which we get to see through the eyes of Lincoln Clay, an African-American Vietnam war veteran trying to acclimatize to civilian life, who has ties to the black mob. If you’ve played Mafia II this may sound familiar as Lincoln’s story echoes Vito Scaletta’s, although it does move onto its own path fairly quickly. I don’t want to ruin the tale for you, so all I’m going to say is it’s hard not to lose yourself in it as it drives you forward to exact Lincoln’s terrible vengeance on his enemies.
New Bordeaux is the playground you’re thrown into and just as Empire Bay doubled up for New York in Mafia II, it stands in for New Orleans in Mafia III. The city is stunning to drive, or walk, through; there’s an astounding amount of variety such as the neon lights of the French Ward, the sprawling inner city suburbs complete with their diverse population, and the considerably less sophisticated open waters of the bayou. This is coupled with a recreation of the racial tensions from this part of America’s history, a theme the game doesn’t shy away from.
Taking a road trip from one side of the map to the other can be a blast thanks to phenomenal songs from the likes of Creedence Clearwater Revival, James Brown, The Rolling Stones, Sam & Dave, Little Richard, The Beach Boys, Johnny Cash, and the list goes on and on. Unfortunately, even the music can’t save you from the boredom caused by seemingly never ending driving or walking from one point to another during prolonged play, which could easily have been alleviated had a fast travel option been included.
This sense of repetition is an underlying theme in the gameplay; when you’re not travelling about, you’re either shooting things, stealthily creeping up on enemies, or hacking the plethora of junction boxes scattered throughout the city that can provide you with crucial intelligence on the game’s collectibles. I’ve spent a good chunk of time scrabbling around to find all of these hidden gems, the majority of which are fuses Lincoln needs to, yes that’s right you’ve guessed it, hack more junction boxes! Fortunately, the collecting aspect of the game almost hits the sweet spot of being challenging enough without being too frustrating, it’s just a shame it doesn’t quite reach the heights of titles like Rise of the Tomb Raider.
The only other thing you’ll really be doing in the game is micro-managing your three underbosses, one of whom happens to be Mafia II’s old protagonist Vito Scaletta. This part of the game’s essentially a balancing act as you build trust between your partners by handing over parts of the city for them to run in Lincoln’s name. As you strengthen these relationships you gain access to perks that give you tactical advantages. Be warned though, showing favouritism to one underboss or refusing to hand over territory to another can cause resentment to rise amongst your ranks, the consequences of which will catch up to you eventually.
The gameplay might be solid and perfectly enjoyable in small doses, it just lack the variety needed to hold your interest if you want to invest a bit of time in it.
I haven’t played a game in quite some time that’s been riddled with as many game breaking bugs as Mafia III. They include small glitches in texture rendering, momentary screen freezes, broken checkpoints in side missions, alongside the infuriating times you get booted back to the home screen and have to reload the game, which more often than not ends up in you having to retrace your steps to catch up to where you were before.
Mafia III’s saved from being forgettable thanks to its story and soundtrack, but unfortunately the pain points that are present in it are hard to ignore as they slowly but surely drain the enjoyment out of the experience.