Mafia III is set in the deep South of America during 1968, New Bordeaux is a city with a mixture of ethnicities with French, Irish, Haitian, African, and American cultures. Players take on the role of Lincoln Clay, just back from Vietnam and finds himself in a very hot situation. Is Mafia III worthy of ‘being Made’ or should it be fed to the Alligators? Read our review to find out..
There is nothing more satisfying in Mafia 3 than getting to one of the underbosses you have worked so hard to get on your quest for revenge, working through destroying and eventually taking over his Racket, using one of the many brutal takedown finishers to get that step closer to get to the main Mob Boss you are seeking revenge on. That is just one of the very few things that developers, Hangar 13 have got right with this game. The sheer brutality compliments the brilliant story of the main character Lincoln Clay, who you have a certain amount of sympathy for and genuinely care about as the story goes on but there are far more concerning things that hinder this highly anticipated game and its overall performance.
Mafia 3 is one of this year’s titles I was really looking forward to and after what I had seen at previous E3 shows and from all the trailers released, I had high hopes for a game that promised so much more than the highly enjoyable but hollow Mafia 2 from 6 years ago. There was a huge buzz around the game after a huge marketing campaign, but when it was revealed that no review copies were going to be sent to the media prior to release it started to create some very nervous and negative vibes as this kind of thing, when done in the past, has been done because there are known issues with the game prior to launch and the developer/publisher don’t want these aired before day of release.
That being said, I went in to the game with the same buzz and excitement that it had generated for me and I couldn’t wait to get immersed in the story that promised so much. The game is set in 1968 in a fictional city based on New Orleans called New Bordeaux and takes place in post Vietnam America where the streets were divided in opinion and the backlash of Vietnam was stretching out to the much divided communities where protests, riots, racism and criminal activity ruled the streets. This is a brutal tale of revenge, plain and simple and the main character, Lincoln Clay, who has just returned from serving in the war, has a lot of motivation for it when his actions become very brutal, but tactical as you move towards the main objective of taking over the city bit by bit, racket by racket to bring down a business empire and the Mob Boss who runs it.
There is a very familiar feel to the game as it has that generic open world to explore and at first there is nothing unlocked as you have to complete quite a long, but gripping prologue before you start to have objectives become available. The game is very story driven and it has to be said that the narrative from the cut scenes to the performances of the cast are simply brilliant and it really gets you engrossed in what is about to unfold. All of the characters in the game are impactful and you get a real sense of caring about what happens to them to the point that it gets you rooting for Lincoln the more the game goes on.
Upon completing the prologue of the game, objectives become available on the map by hacking junction boxes that are scattered around the city and various collectibles and enemy locations become available in the area that you hack and upon completion of certain story missions. Obviously with this being an open world game you would expect there to be a lot to do once all parts of the map are opened up but unfortunately there isn’t. Apart from the main story missions and the odd side mission associated with those there is little else to do except collect Playboy magazines or find scattered government posters in and around the city. None of these impact anything other than to quench the collectors thirst that you might have but gives very little incentive to do so.
Hangar 13 promised an open world full of things to do apart from the main campaign in an attempt to rectify the gripes that people had with Mafia 2 and unfortunately it isn’t the case which is a real shame considering the potential that is to be had with the great city that has been designed and created here. As good and as some of the main mission are, I found there to be a repetitive feel to some of it and the side missions particularly, made me feel like i was repeatedly going over the same task over and over again and it got quite tedious after the 3rd or 4th time.
It also has to be said that the City feels very empty in terms of population because there really isn’t many NPC’s walking around adding that bit of extra personality to the map, but instead there is the odd few pedestrians in and around the city just walking around giving off a walking dead kind of vibe and in fact there seems to be more enemy AI than actual members of the general public scattered around the map apart from one linear level section which takes place at the Mardi Gras festival, where it is a fairly busy environment that you have to get through undetected. It is a real shame that the map feels so empty because there is clearly a lot of potential there as the city itself is laid out really well and captures a sense of authenticity for the time the game is set in, and to be honest it all feels a little half-hearted.
Again, with Mafia 3 being an open world game, a lot of it can be spent behind the wheel of a car as you travel to and from different parts of the city going from one objective to another and while it isn’t so much of a problem early in the game, the lack of a fast travel option becomes quite a hindrance as time goes on and the further you get in the game because at times it will force you to travel huge distances to speak two lines of dialogue with someone for example and then makes you drive all the way back to where you were originally, which becomes a bit of a chore, but the car handling isn’t bad and it almost feels like you are driving a car from the 60’s as it feels heavy and limited as you manoeuvre certain cars around a corner.
The car handling in general is ok, not great but ok and it is clear that the mechanics have been overhauled completely since Mafia 2 as the driving in that game left a lot to be desired but the overall driving experience in Mafia 3 is arcade like and fun, in a cinematic style and the chase cam effect adds tension when taking part in a high speed chase with the police or a bunch of enemy AI trying to gun you down. While Mafia 3 does a brilliant job in storytelling with some of the cutscenes acting as a documentary style explanation of how the events unfolded using archived footage and some being involved with the story itself and it is rather clever how its done but Mafia 3 doesn’t get as adventurous with its gameplay as the shooting and cover system are very basic and at times will make you want to scream at the TV.
The reason for this is because you cannot move around a corner while still being in cover as you have to release from being in it to move around a fence or a building, so you get stuck at times in corners when you want to move around a low wall or quickly move around something as you reload to get out of the sight of an enemy that is fast approaching you. This can get very frustrating and can cause you to get spotted by enemies as you are coming in and out of cover and it defeats the whole object of having a stealthy option if you choose to play that way.
I believe that Hangar 13 have dropped the ball a little on this seeing as cover systems like this have evolved so much over time to allow smooth transitions around the cover you are on and giving solid combat options while doing it, but Mafia 3’s cover system feels about 15 years old and in a game that relies a lot on its combat, a solid model is needed and although it delivers on the basics, it’s also very restrictive. Another aspect to the basic combat and uninspiring cover system is that the AI is just so dumb and becomes a hindrance to the game overall, it is so bad at times that I can be taking down one enemy in plain sight of another enemy and they fail to see it and just stand there spinning around like some possessed demon. A member of the general public will call the police when they see me break in to a car, but seem to turn a blind eye when I shoot someone point blank in the face with a shotgun. Continuity doesn’t seem to be this games strong point.
The visuals in Mafia 3 are a bit of a mixed bag because at times the game looks good but at other times it looks pretty bad with some textures looking like they are from the PS2 era (that is no exaggeration by the way), it almost looks like they hadn’t fully rendered properly. One example of this was when I was covering up against a brick wall and one part of the wall looked fine and textured with some detail and the other part just looked very pixelated and flat looking like it hadn’t loaded in the full texture properly, it was pretty bad and something that became more noticeable as time went on in the game, one minute the visuals would be fine and the game looked good and then the next minute it just looks downright terrible with ugly muddy textured visuals.
I am not sure whether it is just bad programming, or it is just a glitch in the game engine that needs to be addressed with a future update. It is very hard to explain what it is like unless you have played the game, and only then you will know exactly what I am going on about but it is very unusual and is something that happens in some games from time to time when the rendering on certain parts hasn’t fully loaded and the engine is playing catch up, but in this game, the engine doesn’t catch up, it just stays like it and it’s very off putting when trying to get immersed in the world that has been created.
Another gripe I have with the visuals of the game is the over the top lighting effects that are used and the sun lighting when it is prominent, is a little too much and can get very distracting as it seems to shine a little too bright in some parts, especially when the sun is rising or setting. It almost becomes a hindrance when playing, because you feel distracted by the ugly orange gleam that covers your whole screen when playing an integral part of the story or you are trying to breach enemy territory, and combined with the dodgy cover system it can become a very infuriating experience. Whatever it is that is going on with the inconsistent visuals, there is no excuse for it, especially on current generation consoles where issues like this shouldn’t even exist, especially when you consider that GTA V on last gen machines completely trounces Mafia 3 for most parts in the visuals department, and I say ‘most part’ because this game looks completely different as soon as it turns to night time.
Mafia 3 at night looks great and It’s like a completely different game because it looks so much better than it does in the daytime which is really quite strange, but the lit up signs on bars and stores, headlights from cars, the hazy fogs in the woods and the puddles when it rains all look great at night and shows how this game can really look when it wants to.
The visuals in general are very frustrating as there are clear signs there that this game should and can look really good, but with awful technical issues going on it is hard to forgive the game or the developer for these shortfalls and I hope that they are aware enough to at least put a patch out to rectify the terrible rendering issues, but my biggest fear is that this is how the game is intended to look and they have sacrificed detail to try and maintain a steady frame rate, which is also very hit and miss.
Mafia 3 is supposed to be locked at 30fps but it struggles to maintain that as there are many instances where the frame rate drops below 30fps considerably but it either occurs mainly in scenes of an action packed nature when a lot is going on or, oddly enough it happens at times where there isn’t much going on around you at all. This could go hand in hand with the area trying to render, therefore slowing the game down. To have it struggle like this is disappointing considering it has been in development for a number of years and when you take in to consideration these problems amongst other bugs and glitches like sinking in to the floor, cars just disappearing, floating objects and stuttering characters, it’s hard to understand why the game is like this in the first place. Add in to it the times when the game has crashed for no apparent reason and you have got a pretty buggy game that has an unfinished feel to it.
Apart from the negatives, there are some other positives in Mafia 3 and apart from the great story, cut scenes and character performances there is also the brilliant soundtrack. The music in Mafia 3 is one of the best soundtracks you will find in any game and really captures the time that the game is set in, complimenting the atmosphere of the story with songs from Aretha Franklin, The Animals, Cream, Rolling Stones, Johnny Cash, Dusty Springfield and The Searchers to name but a few, I could go on and on about how good the music is and it really adds atmosphere to a relatively empty feeling open world game.
There is something very satisfying in driving along or having a gun fight to songs that makes it feel like you are in a Quinton Tarantino Movie and it is a real positive for the game to have such an accomplished soundtrack. There are also neat little perks that you unlock as time goes by, like the ability to call an arms dealer to deliver your weapons of choice to your location, someone delivering you a car to use there and then or calling some muscle in to help you with certain tasks. This all helps, especially with the lack of fast travel options being available in the game. In terms of customisation for your main character, there isn’t any really, as there are no clothes changes or hairstyle changes that you can apply to Lincoln, but developer Hangar 13 have promised future free DLC that will enable you to change to an outfit of your choice. Questions are being asked why this wasn’t part of the game from the get go and it seems like a fairly bizarre decision not to include it considering that one of Mafia 2’s gems was being able to kit out your main character with some fantastic authentic, stylish outfits to fit the bill of being a proper gangster.