Review: Mafia III

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Mafia III delivers an absorbing experience in a vivid world shaped by the social atmosphere of the United States in 1968, with all of its sights and sounds in place.

By Stuart Marsden

Publisher: 2K Games

Developer: Hangar 13

Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One (R), PC & Mac

Release: 7th October 2016

“Family ain’t who you’re born with, it’s who you die for”. The tagline for Mafia III sums up the core of the game: family is the main motivation behind protagonist Lincoln Clay and his tale of revenge.

Mafia III takes place in 1968, a few years after the events in Empire Bay in Mafia II, and quite a lot has changed since then. In 1968, the United States was in a difficult place both domestically and internationally. These difficulties are showcased in Mafia III very smartly. U.S. investment in Vietnam was at its peak by 1968 and characters in the game show the mood of those left in the states. Lincoln Clay, who had fought during the Vietnam War, is one of them. Developer Hangar 13 also tackles the issue of race very well. It is central to a number of missions and to some of the storytelling, especially as the protagonist is African-American. The game actually opens with a message declaring that the game won’t be shying away from history and that it will demonstrate the racism that occurred at this time. Good examples of this are shops that don’t allow ‘coloured’ people in and how the police react to crimes committed.

Mafia III

In terms of its strengths, the story of Mafia III is powerful and mature. It’s the type of story you want to progress in to find out how the story unfolds. The story is told from the future after the events involving Lincoln have concluded. It is told in a documentary style with interviews from those involved and the investigators. It also tells the story from a hearing of the events where they try to get the full story. This style of storytelling is fresh and interesting in comparison with other open-world games of the same genre.

The story is basically a tale of revenge and you play through as Lincoln, building your own criminal empire up until the conclusion of the story. The structure of the story is that you go to the target district and start causing damage to one of the local rackets (by killing mob enforcers, for example), then you continue until you have drawn out the head of the district’s lieutenant. You can either kill or recruit the lieutenant as the racket falls under your control. After dealing with all the lieutenants, you set up a mission to take down the head of that district. These are great story driven missions. A brilliant example of one of these missions is in a flooded amusement park, which is a lot of fun to go through and shows how strong the game can be.

The set up to the big showcase missions gets a bit tedious and repetitive and is a weak point to the game as a whole. It’s a shame, as when the story gets fleshed out, it’s great to experience and it’s an excellent story. For every district, the structure is the same damage the rackets and business, draw out the lieutenants, deal with them and then kill the boss of that district. The game does make dealing with the rackets and districts a bit more interesting, though, as Lincoln is the head of his family and he recruits assets and assigns the rackets and districts to his assets. This can lead to some very interesting power dynamics and potential missions if you show certain assets favouritism. This structure with the assets leads to some good nostalgia as well, with Mafia II protagonist Vito Scaletta making a return.

Mafia III

Along with the story, the most important part of a video game is the gameplay. Mafia III is quite successful here. The gameplay is very similar to GTA V with a third-person perspective and almost identical, but still satisfying, shooting mechanic. There are a few bugs within the gameplay that may be encountered, but the game plays smoothly for the most part. Mafia III also has a simple stealth system in play. It fits well into the game and creates some good scenarios, but it is perhaps too simple. The problem with the stealth is you can just sit in cover and whistle nearby enemies over to you. They stroll over to their death and this can be repeated over and over without the enemy AI realising.

Mafia III also has a very solid driving system, similar to that of GTA V’. The difference is the cars feel heavier and more weighted, so it actually feels as though you’re driving unlike most games of the same genre. Turning in the game also has a nice movie-esque feel to it in the way the camera moves.

The one notable issue with the game is the graphics. Although releasing a long while after GTA V, Mafia III pales in comparison graphically, which is a shame since they will generally be compared with each other. The weak graphics, coupled with the graphical bugs that occasionally occur, can remove you from the experience. Now, this isn’t a problem for everyone, as a lot of gamers mainly care about the story and gameplay. The graphics don’t look bad, but the textures, for the most part, are lacking. The colour and lighting in the game are of a very good standard, though. The city of New Bordeaux does look fantastic and it feels and looks authentic despite its graphics.

Mafia III delivers an absorbing experience in a vivid world shaped by the social atmosphere of the United States in 1968, with all of its sights and sounds in place. The story is excellent and the characters, specifically Lincoln, are fantastic. Despite the low-res textures and somewhat repetitive way of progressing through the story, the game excels in nearly all departments. Like its predecessors, Mafia III is a valuable entry into the series and New Bordeaux is well worth exploring.

Stuart Marsden currently studies an M.A. in Multimedia Journalism at Manchester Metropolitan University. Away from studying, Stuart’s either gaming or playing/watching football.

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