The 1960s were a tough time especially for African Americans, with rampant racism, civil rights movements and the assassination of a prominent black civil rights leader. So when Hangar 13 announced that Mafia 3 is going to be set in 1968 and feature a black protagonist, not a few eyebrows were raised. The developers promised that they will be transparent and that the game will 100% portray the lifestyle and problems of 1960s America including its racial tension of that era.
From the start, you can see evidence of that transparency everywhere; shops that don’t allow colored people to enter, racial behavior shown by white AI folks when they are near the protagonist and the lackadaisical attitude shown by the police dispatcher whenever a crime is committed in a black neighborhood. That was indeed a bold move by Hangar 13, one in which hopes to set the tone for the rest of the game which is bold, but beautiful. Alas, it was not to be. The game is visually beautiful yes, but the gameplay was anything but bold.
Mafia 3 was set in the New Orleans-inspired city of New Bordeaux and it follows Lincoln Clay, an African American war veteran who have just returned home from Vietnam and is looking forward to settle down in a life of simplicity. Orphaned as a child, he was adopted by the leader of New Bordeaux’s black mob and because of that, he considers the mob as family. So when his family was mercilessly gunned down by the leader of the Italian mafia Sal Marcano, Clay embarked on a revenge mission to take down Marcano and destroy his organization once and for all.
To do that, he will need help, lots of help. And this comes in the form of his own capos, 3 distinctive characters in the form of Cassandra who leads the Haitian mob, head of the Irish mob Thomas Burke and finally, Mafia 2 protagonist Vito Scaletta who returned as the leader of the Italian Gang stationed in River Row, a district in New Bordeaux. Each one of them has his or her own perks that can go a long way in helping Lincoln in his revenge mission. Cassandra deals with weapons acquisition so this means that you can easily unlock various forms of firearms. Vito grants extra health and healing perks and he will also send out his goon squad as reinforcements in case you need it. Having Thomas at your side will grant you a fleet of nice vehicles and a range of explosives. You can also call on his associate to get the police to ignore any crime that you are going to commit.
To get better versions of the perks mentioned, you will need to keep your capos happy and loyal. To do that, you will need to assign controlled districts to them. Bear in mind though that if you neglect any of them, they will turn on you. Now this is where the game starts being boring and repetitive. Let me explain further. At the beginning of the game after Lincoln recovers from his near-fatal shooting, you will be given a series of missions by your war buddy and CIA agent John Donovan to recruit the said 3 underbosses to join your cause. In each mission, you will need to disrupt and destroy businesses owned by Marcano’s lieutenants in 3 districts and to do that, you will need to destroy operations, kill enforcers and interrogate informers. Once you made significant damage, the lieutenants will come out of hiding and you will have to kill them to take control of the district.
And that ladies and gentlemen is what you must basically do throughout the game. Destroy operations, kill enforcers, interrogate informers, kill Marcano’s lieutenants, assign district to your capos, rinse and repeat. There are nine districts in total and you must do the same things over and over again nine times to gain control of all. There is no excitement factor in doing these missions and after a couple of times it will start to feel like a grind. Once in a while, certain missions will take you to breathtaking places like the bayou or an abandoned amusement park but that is basically it. Once you take in the scenery, it will all become the same old routine. There are side missions assigned by your capos that you can do to get extra earnings but even those are boring and simple delivery jobs.
The game’s AI and difficulty certainly didn’t help its cause. The enemy AI especially are slow-witted and predictable. You don’t need to go in guns blazing and risk dying. All you have to do is to hide in a corner, whistle to get someone’s attention, wait for him to come near and press the takedown button at the prompt to knock out or kill him. You can even kill certain lieutenants using this method. I actually used this method a number of times to clear out heavily-fortified buildings. And because they are so slow-witted, there are times when I killed someone in close proximity of another person and he didn’t even react, not one bit. I can even steal trucks carrying precious cargo from right under their noses and they wouldn’t even bother to give chase. The NPCs are no different. I can knock out or kill a witness in front of another person and that person won’t even react.
The map of the city is big, very big. In the first few hours of the game I really was enjoying myself driving around taking in the scenery. The game’s soundtrack made those drives memorable. There nothing like driving around watching the sunset while listening to Credence Clearwater Revival or The Rolling Stones on the radio. Pretty soon, I ran into a problem. Mafia 3 does not have fast travel options. As much as I enjoy driving around, it soon became a bore when I have to drive from one end to another just to complete simple tasks. The 3 underbosses do offer perks to help alleviate the pain though. For example, I can call on Vito’s consigliere to help store away excess cash so that I won’t lose it or call on Thomas’ friend to help deliver cars for me to drive.
That been said, Mafia 3 does have some redeeming qualities. Chief of which is the game’s visuals and realism. I tell you this is probably one of the most beautiful games I have ever played. Take a drive around New Bordeaux and you will see why. Hangar 13 and 2K made sure that the city is designed to be as close as possible to New Orleans and they pulled it off and then some. The buildings in the city center are so real that you will feel that you are watching a movie. Not just the city though. The bayou is breathtaking as well with the water so crisp and clear that you can see detailed reflection off it. The city’s poor neighborhood is portrayed well in Mafia 3 with run-down wooden shacks lining up the streets and pedestrians with tattered clothes and rusty cars loitering around.
The makers went out of their way to make Mafia 3 as realistic as possible and it shows. The facial expressions and body movements of the game characters are so detailed that it feels natural and they don’t look fake and wooden. Even the dim-witted enemy AI has a touch of realism about them. When they are being shot at, the way they clutch at the part of their body being shot at is equal to that of a real person. The cars’ handling too were given the same treatment. Just like the real thing, the cars are all heavy powerful American muscles that packs power but no precision, great to drive when in a straight line but a problem when you want to make those high-speed turns.
This is one of the prime examples of all style but no substance, beautiful but not bold. Mafia 3 is visually stunning but with its linear storytelling and repetitive missions, it is not going to win fans anytime soon. Which is a shame though because it has so much potential. Lincoln Clay is an amazing protagonist but the game’s open-world bloated design didn’t do justice to his quest for vengeance. And with that we have come to the end of the review for Mafia 3. If you like this post please do share it and if you have any suggestions, please leave a comment. Thank you very much for reading and have a great day ahead!