With the influx of the open-world genre it’s becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate from others in the genre. After my twenty to twenty-five hours I put into Mafia 3 I came out with a conflicting view. The game is fun to view…but not to play.
Remember My Name
Mafia 3’s story of Vietnam veteran Lincoln Clay is one of the more compelling narrative’s I have played in a video game. Sure, taken as a whole its a simple revenge tale. But the way the core story is told makes the difference. Instead of simply telling a linear story, Mafia 3 changes it up by adding an added layer of depth rarely seen in games.
After working for New Bordeaux’s (Mafia 3’s version of New Orleans) crime lord Sal Marcano, Lincoln Clay and his closest family are betrayed; shot and left for dead. From there on out it becomes a revenge tale that’s fueled on the style of the sixties. Lincoln’s story is told from multiple angles through the eyes of the people who were either close, or worked with him. One character being John Donovan-an ex C.I.A. agent that gets called in by the senate to testify his participation with Lincoln. The other two characters being Father James-a spiritual uncle who helps Lincoln along the way and Jonathan Maguire-an FBI agent.
What makes Mafia 3’s story so interesting is the performances. The era in which Mafia 3 takes place is one of racial tension that the game clearly doesn’t shy away from. Lincoln’s relentless crusade to take down the Marcano family isn’t just personal. Three other characters have their own personal vendetta against the family. Cassandra-boss of the Haitian mob, Thomas Burke-boss of the Irish mob, and Vito Scaletta making his return from Mafia 2-boss of the Italian gang. It’s in teaming up with these characters that Lincoln gains strength; enough to take down Marcano. Each member has their own benefits. Cassandra has guns at the ready whenever needed, Vito has gang backup if things get hairy, and Burke will supply you with a sweet set of wheels that get upgraded the more districts are awarded. In fact, each member has added benefits based on how loyal Lincoln is toward them.
Style Over Substance
In many ways Mafia 3 has a lot going for it. The characters, setting and liscensed soundtrack are all top-notch; especially the soundtrack. However, as an open-world game Mafia 3 balances a fine line between tedious and fun. The gameplay and driving are sufficient to a fault, with cover-based shooting that feels good when pulled of correctly. Driving takes some getting used to though, as fast cars end up becoming loose and uncontrollable at higher speeds. This makes high-speed escapes from cops or rival gangs especially difficult.
It’s not too difficult to get out of these situations, as a.i. can range anywhere from sniper-accurate to bumbling fool. In most cases when sneaking around rival strongholds the a.i. will oddly respond to actions. In one instance during my play through I began choking-out a guard from behind cover. As I was quietly trying to put him to sleep I noticed a nearby guard looking right at me. Normally if I was caught in the act an alarm would be raised, but with Mafia 3 this comes naturally making stealth trouble-free through the duration of the game.
Shooting on the other hand can either be a gift or a curse. Lincoln’s array of weapons are enough to get the job done. It’s whenever a firefight commences that a.i. difficulty seems to spike. During my initial play-through I played on easy; once I initiated combat enemies would deal significant damage that felt almost unfair for that difficulty. It’s an odd difficulty spike that felt overlooked during development.
In high-speed car chases the relentless a.i. can make for a headache; police and gangs alike. Luckily there is a neat mechanic that make these encounters easier. When pursued, Lincoln can pull out a weapon and target different parts of an enemy car, from the people driving it to the wheels themselves. Once locked on, an inverted triangle will slowly get smaller and turn green. From there all that’s needed is the push of a button to take down the highlighted object. It’s one of the easiest methods of taking down enemy vehicles I have seen in a game.
For the players who love finding collectables, Mafia 3 has you covered. Playboy magazines make a return, this time with more than just photos. Magazines have real scans of previous magazines found throughout the sixties. These scans have neat interviews or advertisements of pop-culture or items of the time. One magazine had an interesting interview with legendary director Stanley Kubrick. There are also vinyls, Vargas paintings and communist propaganda to find as well.
By the time Mafia 3’s finished the sufficient controls shouldn’t be a problem. The core design of the mission structure and side activities fall in the same standard rhythm as previous open-world games. With Mafia 3 it hardly deviates in changing up the formula. To get to the next part of the story work is required. Since Marcano has various underboss’ and associates, it’s up to Lincoln to deal with those under his command. Each underboss/associate has different weaknesses, its in these weaknesses that the these targets come out. Interrogating informants, and either recruiting or killing them can aid you in your goal. If chosen to keep alive, informants will work for Lincoln and increase his income.
Once enough damage is done toward a district, the underboss who operates the district gets flushed out. This means taking over a district. It’s totally up to the player to decide who the district gets assigned to: Cassandra, Burke, or Vito. This requires a sit-down in which Lincoln will decide who to award the district to. This is a neat little addition because either one of the associates will react strongly to who you favor more.
The same process happens for the other districts found throughout New Bordeaux. To progress to the next part of the story, clearing districts are the only option. When compared to other open-world games; this is a hindrance. There really isn’t freedom of choice, except subliminally contributing toward a 100% play-through. When it comes to side-missions given by associates; it doesn’t get much better. Mafia 3 has no fast-travel system so driving is the only option. This means driving to a mission start location, then driving to the objective; driving back, rinse and repeat. It’s quite an unusual, and commonplace design element that is left out. At least the liscensed soundtrack keeps the long drives somewhat enjoyable.
Everything about Mafia 3’s narrative kept me hooked all the way until the very end. It’s in the gameplay where it starts to fall apart. And although there are slightly more activities to do compared to its predecessors, the lack of staple open-world mechanics hinder it.