Ambitious to a fault
The Mafia series has always been lauded for its strong writing, engaging characters, and periodappropriate elements to go with their faux-historical setting. Six years have passed since the release of Mafia II, and much has changed in the video game landscape in depicting the intricacies of storytelling and gameplay mechanics. After all, the past two installments didn’t quite scratch that open-world, organized crime itch due to their linear story progression (and yes, the first’s Freeride Extreme mode and second’s expansion packs don’t count). Like Hollywood gangster movies, the earlier Mafia games have a penchant for romanticizing the mob lifestyle to a certain degree, which is why it was refreshing to hear that the third and latest installment is shifting its focus to 1968 New Bordeaux (read: ctional New Orleans) that sees biracial Vietnam vet Lincoln Clay building his very own empire to exact revenge on the Italian mob responsible for the death of the only family he knew.
Mafia III represents Hangar 13’s debut title, and it’s clear that the team isn’t afraid to shake up the established formula. As revealed in early promotional materials, the player will recruit three underbosses – Burke, Cassandra, and Mafia II’s Vito Scaletta – by tackling story missions that typically revolve around intimidation, coercion, and cold-blooded execution. There are 10 districts in total – Bayou Fantom, Delray Hollow, Barclay Mills, Frisco Fields, Pointe Verdun, Tickfaw Harbor, Southdowns, River Row, Downton, and the French Ward – each of which can be assigned to one of the three crime bosses for kickbacks and perks, such as health upgrades, backup assistance, and more.
Bugs and glitches aside, tells an ambitious tale, ut falls short with its uninspiring missions.
Driving and gunplay continue to gure prominently in Mafia III. The former includes a Simulation mode that lends more weight to the vehicles you drive, which makes the act of accelerating, turning and colliding less arcadelike. Unfortunately, speed limit and fuel management from the previous entries are nowhere to be found. The latter, on the other hand, limits you to two weapon slots (one handgun, one larger gun), with the remainder slots reserved for the aforementioned perks.
Interestingly, Hangar 13 opted for a proprietary engine to bring the world of Mafia III to life. There’s a nice mix of exterior and interior set pieces, and the PS4 version generally kept to the 30 fps mark in most instances, barring some occasional frame rate hitch during the more frantic gameplay moments. Compared to the PC release, the PS4 version felt a little janky, with obvious pop-ins, lighting anomalities, and technical glitches even with the latest patch installed.
The attention to detail occasionally impresses: automatic weapons continue to re briefly after the enemy fell down a stair, but the lackluster AI requires more suspension of disbelief than we thought possible. There were times when we jimmied doors and went on a shooting spree without raising the suspicions of nearby NPCs. The ease on which enemies can be disposed of with a simple cover-and-whistle strategy felt almost broken. We do have to praise
for not shying away from the uglier side of U.S. history – institutionalized racism was rampant in the South, and the level of hostility shown directed at Lincoln differs from one district to another. Major story beats are presented in a documentary-style narrative, juxtaposing reallife photos with war-time footage and in-engine cutscenes. It’s a shame that smaller scenes are relegated to static camera and canned animations, as the excellent voice work ended up feeling at.
With that said, its open-world design is beautifully complemented by an astounding amount of licensed tracks, whereas collectibles are expanded to include Vargas paintings, Hot Rod magazines, propaganda posters, and of course, Playboy magazines. If only the side missions are not so repetitive.