THE FAN FAVOURITE OPEN WORLD SERIES HEADS TO THE DEEP SOUTH
The era of long hype campaigns for triple A games seems to be coming to an end. Fallout 4, for instance, has been in development for nearly 5 years but was not anounced until E3 and will be in our hands in just a few months. Mafia 3 is following a similar strategy. Its existence was leaked roughly a week before Gamescom where the game was formally anounced, with a tentative release date set at April 2016.
It was at Gamescom that we had the oportunity to see the game in action behind closed doors guarded by a bouncer hired to keep everyone away who had not been explicitly invited for the demonstration. No recordings of any kind were allowed and we had to stow away our cellphones.
The demonstration was given by members of the new development team Hangar 13, a studio 2K opened a few years ago in Marin County just north of San Francisco, specificaly to work on Mafia 3 and the technology that drives the game. Previous games in the franchise were made by 2K CZECH, but most of the team working on the Mafia games was disbanded after release of Mafia 2. Key members of that team started their own studio and are now making Kingdom Come: Deliverance.
The action of Mafia has moved from the fictitious city of Empire Bay to New Orleans in 1968, and Mafia 2 protagonist Vito has also made the move, not as a playable character but as one of three lieutenants of new lead Lincoln Clay.
Lincoln Clay is a mixed race orphan who at adulthood was taken in by the Black Mob in New Orleans. They became the family for him that he never had. Lincoln gets drafted for the war in Vietnam and upon his return finds his gang brutally murdered by the Italian Mafia, and thus begins his quest for vengance.
The demonstration started partially into a mission in which Lincoln has received news about a Mafia safe house. He sets out to find a drug dealer with more information as to its location.
As Lincoln walked the virtual streets of sixties New Orleans the first thing we noticed was the incredible surround sound, background chatter and noise from the non player characters inhabiting the city came from all sides and was suitably muted depending on their distance to the protagonist. As he walked the streets Lincoln witnessed a mixed race couple getting harassed by a racist policeman and had the option to engage or leave. It was not unlike the so called Random Events in GTAV, and in this case the person demoing the game decided to leave and as he did so Lincoln with a gruff voice said, “You are lucky I have some place to go right now”.
The drug dealers base of operation as it turns out was a nearby cemetry overrun by couples making out, people smoking joints and drinking beer, so initially at least, Lincoln could just walk around unnoticed. As he came closer to the drug dealer and his bodyguards however, the player decided to use stealth by hiding behind gravestones and dodging from cover to cover as if he was Marcus Phenix from Gears of War. Once close enough a fight broke out and we were introduced to the games melee combat system. It was evident that Hangar 13 has put a lot of effort into the system. Lincoln is a Vietnam veteran, a big muscular and intimidating guy who shares Gabe Newells passion for knives, so the first bodyguard was quickly finished with a stab to the face. He was the lucky one. The second guy suffered far longer, punched and kicked repeatedly until finally his head was crushed against a gravestone.
Meanwhile the drug dealer was getting away, so Lincoln pursued him on foot, finally catching up with him as he reached his car. The car triggered a new interrogation system. There are several ways to interrogate people or extract information built around fear. Scare the subject so he gives the info you want. It’s similar to the missions in the Saints Row games where you transport a tiger and have to drive dangerously. Powerslide, drive towards incoming traffic and generally behave like a lunatic so the subject becomes co-operative. All the while the car stereo is playing Fortunate son by Creedence Clearwater Revival.
Once the drug dealer had become scared enough to disclose the location of the safe house the player was faced with a choice, death or mercy. Lincoln was obviously not in a forgiving mood so he shot the drug dealer point blank in the head and pushed him out of the car. This of course attracted police attention resulting in police cars chasing the Vietnam veteran. Once he managed to put a little distance between himself and the chasing cops, a stop was made at a phonebooth and Lincoln called one of his lieutenants to bribe the police, dropping his wanted level.
With the police dealt with and the location of the safe house known the quest continued. Entering the safe house could be done in several ways. The more intel gathered through interrogation and investigation the more options become available. In the demo stealth was again used, with Lincoln sneaking to a nearby house, hiding behind cover and then popping out to execute any guard unlucky enough to cross him. From that house and a series of underground tunnels he reached the safe house, where psychedelic lights and music were entertaining a crowd of hippies high on halucinogens.
Once Lincoln eliminated the leader of that safe house, all hell broke loose. The opportunity to remain stealthy lost, it was time to go all out. One of the first mobsters killed dropped a shotgun and Lincoln put it to good use. If one of the opponents came close enough Lincoln could perform a finishing move, these included, much like the melee finishing moves, cinematic up close take downs, like ramming the shotgun in a mobsters stomach and pulling the trigger or breaking their neck with the butt. It was all very visceral and extremely violent. While this firefight was going on, the hippies went in full panic mode, trying to hide or run away, sometimes getting in the line of fire. After about 10 minutes of fighting the safe house was cleared of the mobsters and Lincoln gained control of an extra section on the map of New Orleans, one step closer to owning the city.
Next on the agenda was assigning the new safe house to one of his three lieutenants. Each lieutenant comes with his or her own perks and can be used to aid your skill tree. However, favoring one over the others, as we were informed, might have consequences. The mobsters, after the fall of another one of their strongholds, sent reinforcements to eliminate Lincoln. This introduced car combat that felt similar to that in Sleeping Dogs, leaning out of the car to shoot the tires of mobster vehicles causing them to crash, or shooting the driver to achieve the same objective. All to the driving rhythms of Paint it Black. With that the demo came to an end.
From what we saw of the game at Gamescom, it is obvious that Hangar 13 is going all out on Mafia 3, having built a new engine from the ground up specifically for the game and having already worked on it for nearly four years. This was evident in everything shown, from the excellent sound to Lincoln’s fine animations, and the new physics based driving model.
One of the criticisms Mafia 2 received was that it was a sandbox game with very little to do within its sandbox outside the main story. Mafia 3 should remedy this. The developers told us that they will hold on to the strong narrative main game the fans have come to expect but there will be more things to do in New Orleans that have little or no bearing on the main narrative.
The introduction of choices and the relationship between your three lieutenants too can open up a lot of new possibilities. Casandra, Burke and Vito all come with their own boosting abilities for Lincoln, so managing them well should add an extra layer of strategy on top of the core gameplay.
Mafia 3 may be Hangar 13s first game as a studio, but the studio was formed with talent from several 2K/Rockstar studios as well as talent attracted from other companies, as the studio was built from the ground up to produce big Triple A titles. From what we have seen so far, if they can keep up the intensity of the game over its vast campaign and keep the story interesting it should make for an experience that pleases fans of the franchise as well as attract new players.
Its fully licensed 60s soundtrack is just icing on the cake. HASAN ALI ALMACI
DEVELOPER HANGAR 13 PUBLISHER 2K DUE APRIL 2016
Carry on my wayward son
That’s why you don’t take a Pinto into a race
The intro to every war veteran movie ever made