I have loved the Mafia series since playing the first instalment. In many ways they have always failed to give a true open-world type of experience. Non-mission activities are few and far between, and those that exist are completed easily and quickly. However to counter-balance this, the worlds have been always superbly detailed, with lush environments that are a joy to explore. Also, the main story has always been well crafted and the characters are well written and voiced, giving you almost a movie-style experience. I feel that these are perhaps the most important traits of the Mafia games and the new game for me must get it right.
Firstly, the developers have outdone themselves. Mafia 3 is based in the city of New Bordeaux, a reimagined New Orleans in the 60’s. The new city is bigger than the two previous games maps combined, there is plenty of space to fill, and fill it the developers certainly have. As you drive through the city different areas have a distinct feel and style, some areas are clearly richer than others, some older than others and a nice big swamp, just to finish things off. The cars are a mixed bag of classic American excess, huge land yachts with fins and chrome, small imports, pick up trucks and classic muscle style cars, none of which are official licensed vehicles but the designers have made a fantastic job.
You play as Lincoln Clay, a special forces veteran who has just returned from the war. When he returns to his old neighbourhood, he finds that his old mentor is under siege and jumps back in to help him out. From there on it is a story of revenge, violence and strategic moves as you claim the city for yourself. The story is told through live action as you play as Lincoln, and in a series of scenes which take place at different times in the future. Some of these cut scenes are interviews of characters, as if there they are being interviewed by a journalist, whilst others take a different style. For instance, one is in the style of a televised broadcast with the Senate hearing where your CIA contact is being questioned about his actions. This style is one I haven’t encountered for a while, if ever, and the voice acting and character animations in these cut scenes is very good. All these different components go into creating an exciting and movie-like story arc. The soundtrack to go with the game is fantastic, with a number of radio stations featuring various music styles playing a smorgasbord of classic ‘60’s tracks from the likes of the Rolling Stones, The Band, The Beach Boys, Jimmy Hendrix…the list just keeps on going.
The first few hours of gameplay are really very good, introducing the major characters in the story and the various gameplay elements. With the new instalment, the developers have tried to give you an experience more in line with its compatriots and the current move to open world environments. The game has introduced more side quests which adjust your overall standing in the city amongst its population, affecting the main story quest. As you take control of the city, you recruit various bosses to run different districts of the city for you and make you money. This adds an increased level of strategic management which I think could be a little polarising. Some will love the added depth and realism to the game, whilst others might prefer a simpler action style of game.
However, not all is roses and sunshine with this game, there are some issues. Whilst there is plenty to do, I think the game missions are a little repetitive, something a lot of games with open world environments suffer with. Not a massive issue initially, but when you see the size of the area you have to take control of it can become a little laborious. I think the game feels a little disjointed in some way, I can’t put my finger on exactly how or why, but you get the sense that it has had a protracted development cycle and gone through a couple of different studios.
Finally, the graphics; Mafia 3 is not solely guilty of this and it is an issue within the industry but I do feel it was a bit of a lazy PC port, and would happily wait a few months longer for a proper PC release. It’s a great game that I would recommend you play, but it has some flaws which will hopefully be fixed with additional patches and DLC. I remain hopeful because I love the series.
Author: Jon P, Cardiff store