Developer Hangar 13 Publisher 2K Format PC, PS4, Xbox One Release October 7
Mafia III publisher 2K jumped into EA’s grave at E3 this year, taking over its rival’s usual booth and building an entire house styled after the game’s host city of New Bordeaux. Outside, a live band played jazz standards during the day, with a free bar setting up later on; inside, bookcases slid aside to reveal meeting rooms while knackered staff took breathers on plush leather furniture. Among them were members of the development team at Hangar 13. Some, half-seriously, were plotting putting the sofas on the back of a van and driving them the 400 miles to their apparently sparsely furnished studio in Novato.
Hangar 13 was only set up in 2014 and immediately tasked with making the third Mafia game, but the team was quickly up and running – many Mafia II staff crossed the Atlantic from 2K Czech to work on the game. Sadly, despite the move to a new, more powerful generation of hardware, little of what we see suggests things have moved on from Mafia III’s flawed, if likeable, predecessor.
Enemies, for instance, are simply witless, first as protagonist Lincoln Clay crouch-walks his way into a motel room to kill a local pimp, then as he fights his way out, and again later on as he storms a casino boat to dispatch Uncle Lou, brother of the New Bordeaux mafia’s capo di tutti capi, Sal Marcano. Missions, meanwhile, seem to be genrestandard games of travel, kill and escape. It’s no looker, either – facial animation is particularly disappointing, though far from the only culprit.
It seems Hangar 13 has instead focused its attention on the game’s overall structure. New Bordeaux is split into ten districts, each run by a different mobster. Clay must first weaken them by cutting off their cashflow in order to undermine their standing with Marcano. Then he kills the local boss, assumes control of the area and decides, in an awkward negotiation, which of his three lieutenants will run it for him. Tempers fray and loyalties fracture; upset one of them too often and they’ll betray you.
Clay may be the protagonist, but the world looks set to be the star, much more varied and, crucially, populated than Mafia II’s Empire Bay. The game is set in 1968, a fractious time which, while surely requiring a delicate hand, is packed with narrative potential. And the soundtrack is certain to be one for the ages, the E3 demo calling on Sam And Dave, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Janis Joplin for a trio of stone-cold classics that are barely scratching the surface of what was one of the most exciting times in musical history. Hangar 13 may not have much in the way of furniture, but the office turntable must’ve had a heck of a workout.
The game is set in ’68, which, while requiring a delicate hand, is packed with narrative potential