To say I was excited for the release of Mafia 3 is an understatement. The previous instalment in this series was, and still is, one of my favourite games of the last generation of consoles. Mafia 2 gave players the chance to rise through the ranks of the Italian mafia as you took control of Vito Scaletta, in the fictional city of Empire Bay. It was an enticing prospect, and it included everything you associate with the Italian mob: fast cars, expensive suits and plenty of blood and bullets. This time around, you play as Lincoln Clay, a mixed race Vietnam War veteran in New Bordeaux, the game’s fictional counterpart to New Orleans.
In the opening few hours of the game, it is clear to see that Mafia 3 doesn’t pull any punches with its themes. There is a strong focus on racism, prostitution, violence and drug trafficking. These sensitive subjects lend a sense of realism and weight to the setting in which Lincoln Clay finds himself. The game opens with a statement from Mafia 3’s developer, Hangar 13, which reads: “We find the racist beliefs, language, and behaviours of some characters in the game abhorrent, but believe it is vital to include these depictions in order to tell Lincoln Clay’s story.”
However abhorrent these actions are, it gives the player an idea what it was like to be a black person in the American South during the 60s, and kudos to the developers for not shying away from the task.
The game strives to differentiate itself from other action games by placing a large focus on world and character development. As the player, you feel a sense of investment in the story of Lincoln Clay as he fights back after being betrayed by the Italian mob. The game is filled with fleshed out, three-dimensional characters which lend weight and consequence to the story. The settings vary from parades on the streets of New Bordeaux during Mardi Gras, to the alligator infested swamplands of the Bayou.
The atmosphere of the game is enhanced immeasurably by the wonderful soundtrack. The Rolling Stones, Johnny Cash and Creedence Clearwater Revival are but some of the artists that the game uses to transport the player back to the 1960’s. On many occasions during my time with the game the soundtrack has enhanced my experience. For example, as I finished one of the missions, where I had to rob a warehouse, I was spotted and a witness alerted the police. As I hopped in my car Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower,” came on the radio. The ensuing chase was filled with explosions, drifts around corners and ramps which made me feel as if I was part of a Quentin Tarantino movie. It is a small touch by the developers to include so many famous songs from the era, yet it is one the best things about the game.
One of the ways Mafia 3 differs from its predecessor is that you now have 3 associates who all have their own motives in helping you take over the city. There is Cassandra; leader of the Haitian mob, Vito; who is also betrayed by the Italian mob in New Bordeaux, and Burke; leader of the Irish mob. As you progress through the story you take control of districts throughout the city and assign them to one of the three underbosses. This element adds a nice tension as if you continuously ignore one of the three and do not assign any districts to them, they become frustrated and can even betray you. They then become a mini-boss in the game and you are forced to take them out. I have yet to discover whether it is possible to finish the game and keep all three alive and loyal to you, but it is something I look forward to discovering.
I wish I could say my experience with the game has been perfect so far, unfortunately however, it has not been. I’ve noticed several technical glitches in the opening few hours, such as textures popping in suddenly, the enemy AI getting stuck behind crates and barrels and the sky looking almost like lava inside a volcano. I have not encountered any crashes or game breaking bugs and so I hope that the developers are able to patch the minor issues I have experienced to make it a more fluid experience.
The gameplay itself is mostly unremarkable. It will be very familiar to those that have played other third person shooters, like those in the Grand Theft Auto series. It mainly consists of running to cover, killing every enemy in sight, shooting the occasional red barrel and speeding off in your car. As you progress through the story, however, you unlock new upgrades for your crime family, such as the ability to call in a hit squad, disable enemy communications and even summon your own personal arms dealer. These upgrades set the game apart from the inevitable comparisons with other games in same genre, *cough* GTA V *cough.*
Overall, the game is not without its faults but Hangar 13 have delivered a very enjoyable experience, and I look forward to exacting vengeance on the enemies of Lincoln Clay. “Family isn’t who you’re born with, it’s who you die for.”