Mafia III has so much going for it. The game’s great characters, and setting, makes for an experience you want to keep playing, but the gameplay is on the opposite end of the spectrum. For everything Mafia III does right, there is much left feeling uninspired, and boring.
Platforms: Xbox One, Windows 10, PC
Reviewed On: PS4
Developer: Hanger 13
Publisher: 2K Games
Distributor: Prima Interactive
Release Date: 7 October 2016
Mafia III follows the story of Lincoln Clay, who is on a mission to take revenge on the death of his loved ones, after being betrayed by Sal Marcano, famed crime lord, and main antagonist in Mafia III. Lincoln now makes it his primary objective to weaken Sal’s grip on the city of New Bordeaux, a fictionalized take on New Orleans in 1968, drawing him out to kill him. Along the way Lincoln meets some rather interesting people to help him, like Cassandra, who is a leader of the Haitian Mob, and John Donovan, a CIA agent who sees an opportunity to help Lincoln.
We had this love-hate relationship with Lincoln, as his drive for revenge gets a bit overwhelming at times, and comes across forced. We know he lost the only people he loved, but his character development is non-existent. He is angry, and stays angry until the end of Mafia III.
There is much more going on than Lincoln’s plot, as the city of New Bordeaux is alive thanks to its diverse locations and interesting people. You go from alligator-infested swamps to thick-smogged industrial areas. Mafia III also looks fantastic when it wants to, with a great weather system and a beautiful lighting system. This does not always work as well as we wanted it to, as the visuals sometimes look terrible, with draw distances rendering like a PS One game, and reflections not appearing as they should be until we stared at them for a few seconds. Other than that, the frame rate was solid, so the gameplay experience was not affected by the engine at all.
With Mafia III’s fantastic world and lovable characters, the gameplay, however, suffers from a tedious sandbox feel. As you work to bring down the power struggle in each district in New Bordeaux, you will come to see that what you started out doing in Mafia III, is basically the entire experience. Each district is being controlled by a crime boss, doing something or the other. Be it farming weed, sex trade, making moonshine, or even slavery. You now head into their work locations, to cause hassles for them. Killing enemies, burning documents, or just stealing a truck, will bring down the assets they have in an area. Once you have taken this down to $0, it will draw out the leader, and you will then try to kill him. This is all rinse and repeat the entire game as you slowly take over each district, and assign someone new to control the trade which you now stole from the Marcono family.
New Bordeaux is big, so this tedious gameplay takes a while to complete too. There is no fast travel, so driving from one point to another just to talk to someone to get your next hit, is terribly boring. Most of the time, they will just tell you to return to the factory that you just came from, as the leader has now appeared there. You will then head there, fight through some enemies, perform some lethal kills, and move onto the next area to do the same thing. There is fun to be had during this all though, as gun fights are pretty intense. Using what you have around you, you will aim for the head, and pull the trigger. Diving in and out of cover during these standoffs, will keep you alive, and tossing a Molotov at a group of enemies after drawing them to one spot using a noise distraction called the Screamer, is fun. We just hoped for more, and although the gameplay is somewhat enjoyable, you will not find any interesting GTA-inspired missions where you plan a heist, or do anything remotely exciting at all. It is sandbox at its core, and throughout Mafia III, that is what you will get.
It is shame, as Mafia II had some great set pieces, and the original game still stands as one of the best open world action games to date. Mafia III just fails to give us anything worth looking forward to. We missed doing missions, which actually felt like a story mission. All the objectives in Mafia III, come across as side missions, with no real payoff. As you progress in Mafia III, you will unlock new skills like increased ammunition capacity, and a call-in skill that lets you call in for a car to drive, or a mob to help you clear out the area, but nothing really feels like you are growing. There are interesting collectibles in Mafia III like 1960’s Playboy magazines, records, and art, but these just act as a filler, with no real reason to go collect them.
The whole police presence in the game is also a bit weak. During our game time, there was only once where we actually found ourselves fighting a full police force. We stole cars to drive around, and got away with it by running over the witness who was running towards the pay phone to call them. Getting away from the cops is very easy, as most of them drive, and you can walk between buildings and just sneak away from them. The one thing we did like, was that they always remained around a crime scene you might have been involved with previously. This was a nice touch to see they were investigating something that happened.
Mafia III has a list of great things, but the core gameplay it all relies on falls flat. Sure it is fun to just pass some time by doing the mundane activities, and the characters are really great to get to know, but it is uninspiring. Its copy and paste missions are a terrible injustice to such a gorgeous imagining of New Orleans, with so much potential.