General game information
Game name: Mafia III
Release date: October 7, 2016
Price: US$ 59.99 (Standard Edition) US$ 79.99 (Digital Deluxe Edition)
Genre: Open world action adventure
Developer: Hangar 13
Publisher: 2K Games
Mafia III is a story based open world action adventure game which acts as a sequel of sorts to 2010’s Mafia II. Set in the fictional city of New Bordeaux in 1968, it tells the story of Lincoln Clay, an African american Vietnam veteran who must engage in all sorts of criminal activities in order to take down a high-ranking Italian mobster.
The game begins with a truly memorable opening sequence, and the first hours serve as a stark contrast to Mafia II‘s slow opening. Developers Hangar 13 did a really good job with the game’s cutscenes and general storytelling, and the licensed soundtrack works wonders to punctuate key parts of the campaign.
Sadly, after the first few hours are over, Mafia III becomes quite repetitive and mundane. In order to go after the Mafioso who betrayed him at the beginning of the campaign, Lincoln must take over several rackets and murder key members of the Mafia’s criminal empire. This kind of approach works well for the first hour, but it quickly becomes boring and repetitive. The worst part is that the game’s excellent story missions are locked behind these side affairs, so the grind isn’t something that can be done at the player’s leisure.
The game’s combat is responsive and feels quite good, though the AI isn’t good and their tactics aren’t very effective. Shotgunners will try to rush the player, and other enemy combatants will pop out of cover sporadically, throwing grenades or Molotov cocktails from time to time. Our character has limited health (a shotgun blast can chip away half of Lincoln’s health in a second) which means that smart use of cover is a must. Lincoln Clay can access a varied arsenal, including handguns, shotguns, assault rifle, machineguns and even grenade launchers and Molotov cocktails. The gunplay is top notch, and most weapons feel powerful and enjoyable to use, with enemies playing different animations as they get hit. There is a hand to hand combat mechanic in the game but it’s not nearly as complex as Mafia II’s boxing minigame. Instead, Lincoln will throw a few punches at his opponent, a button prompt will appear, and our character will execute the enemy combatant.
Most story missions and racket takeover activities will let the player sneak around and avoid all out combat. Sadly, the stealth aspect serves as a showcase for Mafia III‘s brain-dead AI. Gamers may hide in a corner and whisper, and enemies will come one by one like lambs to the slaughter. Every engagement can be solved in the exact same way, something that takes away the fun of stealthily taking out enemies. It’s obvious that the developers wanted to emulate the feeling of the Predator segments in the Batman Arkham games, but the AI’s incompetence ruins the experience.
Driving segments feel a bit “off” thanks to floaty physics and a cinematic camera that kicks in when the player executes drifts and similar moves. Thankfully, Mafia III offers a Simulation Mode that can be enabled in the game’s settings, and the physics model feels a lot better once that setting is switched on. Players may also pilot small boats, and those never seem quite right, even with the Simulation Mode enabled. It’s not a major issue, but Mafia III‘s vessels control a lot worse than their GTA V equivalents, for instance.
The game’s open world is a major improvement over its predecessor’s mostly empty city. New Bordeaux is teeming with life, with gang members assaulting poor people on dark corners, pedestrians talking to each other in populated places, and police officers enjoying drinks at bars and cafes. Keeping in line with the game’s realistic depiction of racial tensions during the 1960s, the police may not act to defend African Americans, or may not even respond to calls on low income neighborhoods. There is a wealth of side missions to be completed, and performing simple tasks such as wiretapping specific places may offer invaluable help when taking down gang bosses or taking over rackets later down the line.
As Lincoln works his way up the food chain, he can recruit lieutenants who control the city’s different rackets. Sadly, their usefulness is quite limited, as they won’t take over the rackets themselves. Instead, it’s up to the player, who must slowly grind away in order to unlock new story missions and get more powerful weaponry from the different underbosses. This feels at odds with the narrative, since Lincoln Clay is the big boss who must, for some reason, conduct different activities that are obviously better suited for others, and not the leader of a criminal organization.
Graphically, Mafia III is a mixed bag. The cutscenes are well directed, and the main characters’ facial expressions are really good. Sadly, the game’s texture work and overall look don’t feel so good, and there is a blurry filter that doesn’t go away, even with the game’s graphics settings turned up. Mirrors don’t reflect the world as they should, showing a replica of things that were in front of them at some point, but not when the player is looking at them. This means that gamers may look at themselves in a mirror and see Lincoln’s back instead, and if they keep looking, then the image may update itself to show the player character’s face, for instance. The game also suffers from awful pop in, and driving at full speed through a populated street may cause unexpected issues, such as cars materializing right in front of the player, forcing them to crash.
Performance is also a big issue (the game launched with a 30 fps lock, which has been removed in a patch) and it’s obvious that the game wasn’t optimized for more than 30 frames per second. Even high end graphics cards will struggle to reach 60 fps at 1080p (we tested the game with a GTX 1070 and our average frame rate hovered in the mid 40s) This is strange, considering that the game doesn’t look better than other recent open world titles such as Grand Theft Auto V or The Witcher 3, and those games ran at 60 fps or more on our machines.
Mafia III‘s audio design is excellent for the most part. The voice actors perform an admirable job, and the licensed soundtrack feels perfect. The gunshot sounds are also quite good, but the same can’t be said about the cars, which sound mostly the same, even for wildly different vehicle types.
Ultimately, Mafia III is a competent open world action game with an excellent story. Sadly, repetitive side missions, technical issues and brain-dead AI drag down the overall package, turning what could have been a masterpiece into a more mundane affair.
6/10 – Fair.