Am­bi­tious to a fault

Mafia III

GAX (Malaysia) - - GAX / REVIEW -

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.

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