Gabe Young ’20 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Mafia III is, well, the third in the Mafia series. Mafia II focused on the Italian mob during the late ’40s and early ’50s, after the end of the second World War. Mafia III goes in a slightly different direction. It tells the story not of a sleek gangster in New York, but of a troubled Vietnam veteran, Lincoln Clay, as he tries to rebuild his life and take his revenge.
The first thing that pops out is Lincoln’s character. He feels complex. He’s not always serious but he’s not always goofy. In short, he feels like a real human being and that means a whole lot when the plot of the game hinges on how much you care about Lincoln’s revenge. The plot itself is fairly mundane. Lincoln returns home from war to his criminal family only see them violently murdered by the big crime boss of the town, Sal Marcano. The music is another high point. The sheer number of licensed tracks on offer is incredible not to mention how good most of the music is. They blend perfectly with the story to create a stylish experience that gives the characters and setting of Mafia III a unique flavor.
All of this chaos is set to the backdrop of New Bordeaux, a fictionalized New Orleans in the greater state of Louisiana in the 1960s. In this kind of setting racial themes would be unavoidable and the game does not shy away from the issues of the time. It makes a point to depict the southern United States as realistically as possible, including blatant racism and hate speech. One of the main factions you vie against is an analogue for the KKK. The story isn’t necessarily about racism but it’s a terrible, unavoidable pillar of the world the characters live in. The horror of casual hatred and violence that permeated the south, and still does to some extent, is conveyed clearly and powerfully. Mafia III performs a good balancing act, one that most games don’t have the guts for.
But at the end of the day, a game is only as good as its gameplay. No matter how good the story and theming, if the game isn’t fun to play, then it simply isn’t fun to play. Luckily, the base level mechanics of Mafia III aren’t too shabby. The gunplay feels slick and responsive though it relies on basic cover based third person shooting. The driving mechanic is a little floaty, and the realistic nature of most of the cars simply makes driving a chore. Every single side quest is crime related but manages to feel like something Lincoln would actually do on his search for revenge. However, the
basic gameplay loop is simple: show up to a city district, ID the big bad of that district, complete a few repetitive side quests, defeat the underboss of said racket; repeat until the big bad finally has had enough, engage in epic set piece battle. Unfortunately these take hours to do and, depending on your propensity for side quests, it may reach a point where it’s not worth it. Eventually all the endless side quests begin to feel copy pasted rather than handcrafted experiences the longer you play. The final bit of gameplay that’s worth mentioning is the sit downs. After you’ve taken over a new section of the city you are able to assign it to an underboss for rewards however you need to ensure that all three are happy or you’ll have a rebellion on your hands. This adds a bit of planning and strategy to how you pursue the various benefits and upgrades each underboss grants you and as much fun as the idea sounds on paper its payoffs are too far reaching for them to matter in moment to moment gameplay.
Mafia III is fun to play, listen to, and experience. However, the overall enjoyment is marred by derivative side quests, graphical hiccups, and several other performance issues. The game is nothing near as fun to play as Mafia II and in the end is a lackluster experience. Mafia III seems to be bogged down by the modern day interpretation of an open world game where there have to be territories to capture and meaningless side quests to fulfill rather than fewer main missions of higher quality. However, if you think a good story and decently entertaining gameplay, all with a 1960s shine can keep you interested then it’s definitely worth your time.