Mafia 3 has landed at a perfect time. With a new GTA not even on the horizon and other open-world games not delivering, Mafia 3 is here to soak up the sales. The game itself is a good distraction from the buzz of PSVR and other distractions. It is a single-player, serious, authentic adventure that hooks you from minute one.
The first thing you will notice about the game are the excellent cutscenes and voice acting. Set in a faux New Orleans in 1968, You play Lincoln Clay. Just back from Nam and helping out with the adopted family business. Soon after this things take a turn for the worse leaving you at your lowest point and having to rebuild on a revenge mission. The graphics have a few quirks but immediately you are invested in the story and characters. The simple investment in the story fuels your progress when the missions become a bit cookie-cutter.
The basic premise of the game involves you taking out various criminal empires, each more complex than the last. It is done in a very sensible if methodical fashion. For example, taking out the local prostitution ring involves weakening their income, this is done by freeing girls that have been kept captured and ‘strung-out’ on heroin and by finding and killing local pimps. When you have weakened the ring enough the end-game mission is available and you go in to kill the local leader. Repeat this and you get an area control level, usually set somewhere interesting. The first is at an abandoned funfair. These levels can be tackled anyway you like but pleasingly they all involve the need to kill most of the rival gang. After experiences in other games that punish you for using all the weapons at your disposal, it is nice that Mafia 3 lets you loose to cause carnage.
Speaking of weapons, a special mention has to be made of the shotgun. Not since the Getaway series of games has the act of shooting someone felt so realistic. The only thing that comes to mind is the classic Steve McQueen film Bullitt (coincidentally also set in 1968). The scene in particular when the witness is ambushed in the safehouse. The weapon of choice there is a shotgun and the way it hits is so brutally realistic that it has stuck with me ever since. The gun doesn’t make an overpowering noise but the ragdoll reaction of the victim and the force they are blown onto the bed with is extremely harrowing. In Mafia 3, the result is exactly the same. You hide behind a piece of scenery and wait for an enemy. Then you unload the full shotgun blast into them. The results are horribly realistic without being overly gruesome. Body parts remain intact but blood stains and realistic rag-doll physics make the experience satisfying and also thought-provoking.
In the Getaway, I actually felt repulsed at shooting the police officers because of the realistic bloodstains on the clothes. Mafia 3’s story helps with this in some regard as the other criminals you are killing have already been portrayed as evil. There is also the option of sparing and recruiting some of them. A lesser version of Bioshock’s little sisters if you will. The instant reward of killing an enemy or the long-term gain of recruiting them. Luckily the fire in you as the player due to the storyline makes gaining revenge very satisfying.
There are other elements that need to be looked at when considering buying this game. The collectible Playboy magazines seem more graphic and more plentiful than before. They are definitely better than your usual collectible but the game won’t win any female fans because of them. There are also car magazines and adult paintings to discover. If the violence and subject matter weren’t enough then the collectables definitely make this an 18 certificate game.
Racism is also a fundamental aspect of the game. The character you play is black and the game wastes no opportunity in reminding you. The ‘n’ word is used liberally by AI characters and it really helps to put you in the time period of the game. Despite this the overt racism is quite hard to listen sometimes. One of your associates even apologises before going into an undercover scenario where he will be using the word frequently himself. By including this scene the game shows you it is wrong but how many people will pick up on this nuance when they are just expecting another GTA clone? For despite being in the same genre this is very different from GTA. Mafia 3 will have little or no replay value once the main story is finished. The story is the main fuel and driving force in this game and when it is over I cannot see me holding onto the game despite the other excellent extras it offers.
The soundtrack is of particular excellence. Classic songs from the time are literally pouring out of the radio stations every time you get into a car. Johnny Cash, The Rolling Stones, Creedance Clearwater Revival and many others have multiple songs on the playlist meaning that driving from one place to another is always a good musical experience. It is just as well as there are a few issues around the driving that grate a little. Maybe it comes from transitioning from Forza Horizon 3, but the driving engine in this game just feels unnatural. When you are driving and weaving through traffic all is well, however, try to take a sharp turn or come to an emergency stop and there is a noticeable delay. This is particularly noticeable when braking. The police in the game always seem extremely edgy and need no excuse to chase you meaning that when you are approaching stationary traffic and trying to brake you should leave extra space. Every time I try I squeeze the brakes and there is no reaction, then all of a sudden the brakes lock and you skid into the back of them alerting the psychopath police. Not great.
Luckily the braking engine is the only complaint I have with the game so far. I have no hesitation in recommending it to anyone looking for an adult orientated single player experience. The only caveats with the game revolve around the male orientated collectables and driving engine. If you can get over these then Mafia 3 will be a rich and rewarding story-driven experience. Where else can you feed enemies at will to gators? Only in New Bordeaux.