Mafia III (2016) – Game Review

Mafia 3, undoubtedly, has the potential to be something great, but it could well be one of the most frustrating games you’ll ever play. The endless bugs and glitches, at times bad enough to make the game look like it was released on a previous generation console, hinder everything that’s good about 2K’s third installment in the previously impressive series and make us wonder whether, despite the six year gap since the last game, they were somehow rushing to put it on shelves.

But let’s start with the good stuff.

For the most part, Mafia 3’s story is fantastic and told engagingly through news clippings and court hearings several years down the line. It doesn’t always feel like a Mafia game like the others (because you’re not part of a Mafia ring that uses Tommy Guns), but that doesn’t stop us from becoming invested in events. We play as Lincoln Clay, a Vietnam vet who is bitterly betrayed shortly after returning to the fictitious New Bordeaux (basically New Orleans), and spends the game fighting his way through crime rackets and building an empire to reach those directly responsible.

mafia-3-shootout

It’s clearly a well designed story (excluding the contrived multiple choice ending), and being that it’s set in a southern state in 60s America and we’re playing as an African American character, it doesn’t shy away from the rampant racism of the time – in fact, it embraces it in a way no game has before. We even open with a note from the developer which (to paraphrase) states that “We find such racism abhorrent, but to ignore it would be to insult those who were and are still afflicted by such abuse”. I actually found this really refreshing and added to the richness of the drama. Indeed, without any multiplayer function, a game desperately relies on having a good single player campaign – and I think Mafia 3 succeeds in terms of story.

Unfortunately, much of the gameplay falls short. The map itself is vast and enjoyable to drive around, particularly down in the bayou area where crocs will eat you if you spend too long in the water, but because there’s more to see than do, it does get old quick. In between the few interesting missions we spend most of the game doing exactly the same thing over and over and over; driving to locations, taking down rackets, assigning them to allies, driving to locations, taking down rackets, assigning them to allies (Mafia 2’s Vito makes a fun return as one of your friends). A lot of the time it doesn’t feel like we’re moving the story along but just playing out repetitive filler missions and completing fairly pointless side quests (like wire tapping). This perhaps wouldn’t feel like quite as much of a problem if there was more challenging AI and fewer of those aforementioned glitches – that’s where the game really falls down. It’s plagued with bugs.

I can’t recall playing for more than ten minutes without witnessing something odd. It could be innocuous things like strobing sunlight and characters melting into walls to far more damaging stuff like the HUD failing to update a route in real time or being unable to open a locked box which was key to completing a mission (that’s me playing in the video). Many of the little details which aren’t technically glitches hold the game back, too. Often enemies will die side by side with an identical animation, like a synchronized dance, and it’s perfectly possible to knife two enemies who are talking to one another without either of them raising the alarm (the AI is really dumb). I was also frustrated when I couldn’t seamlessly move along a wall in cover because there was a tiny rut, or swiftly dart from one cover to the next without giving away my position.

There’s a definite sense that the game has been purposefully stripped back in terms of features, but for no apparent reason. For example, the cops do nothing if they catch you speeding or walking down the street brandishing a weapon – not like in previous games. As if to drive it home, you can’t even set a speed limit anymore. It’s also odd that you can only carry two weapons at a time. It’s just about manageable once you get used to it, but it’s frustrating when you have to keep calling in the ammo van for refills or new weapons. Like having to constantly deposit your cash, it’s just another monotonous and frankly unnecessary part of the game.


Verdict:

I would say that overall I enjoyed playing through Mafia 3, but I was never able to love it like the previous games. For every fun mission, surprising plot turn and cool song (and boy what a soundtrack) there’s a whole load of repetitive gameplay and glitch after glitch. A good polish would help significantly – and we may well get that with updates – but I’m still surprised the game was shipped in this condition. It’s not like it was a noncompetitive month.

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆