Review: Mafia 3 (Xbox One)
The Mafia series has a rich heritage to live up to. The series never stood out as a AAA game when compared to the classic greats of our time, but it’s received a cult following that adores everything about the mob underworld. Mafia 3 plays with your emotions from beginning to end, but it does so in a very mob-like fashion – it’s in it for itself.
Mafia 3 unfolds in 1968, just a year ahead of when Woodstock would take place. America is split in two. On one hand we have hippies fighting for peace and freedom, and on the other we have the American war heroes literally fighting for “peace” in Vietnam. Lincoln Clay is one such war veteran who returns home to New Bordeaux (a fictional New Orleans). Lincoln has had a tough life up to now. He’s a black orphan who struggled through life to get to where he is today and lives for his friends and surrogate father, Sammy Robinson. On his return he, along with his buddies, set up a heist in their efforts to make enough money to leave his old world behind, and to pay back a Don, San Marcano. This is where it all goes wrong.
The heist, which is easily one of the best moments in the game, turns out to be successful and Lincoln, along with his friends and Mafia associates celebrate their score… when Marcano and his son turns on them and kills Lincoln’s friends and father right in front of him. Lincoln gets a shot to the head that goes wayward and comes out of it with only a scar to show for his troubles. Yes, this is a revenge story, and with Lincoln’s abilities revenge is violently sweet.
Be aware, this game ticks all the boxes that the FPB would like to warn you about. It’s quite literally drugs, sex and rock ‘n roll. Mafia 3 also touches on very sensitive topics. When you’re not being called a ‘Nigger’ for wandering around in a white suburb, or into a bar, you’ll be on the hunt for Playboy magazines with nude images in them – if it happened in the late 60s then you’ll likely find it in this game. The music drives home the era like nothing else though. One moment you’re jamming to The Rolling Stones, followed by Jimmi Hendrix, then Creedence Clearwater Revival and then The Beach Boys. Mafia 3 is the late 60s personified. As much as the developers got it right you can’t help but notice the obvious shotgun holes.
Mafia 3 follows a very simple, yet repetitive, recipe – seek revenge on San Marcano by killing all his lieutenants and bosses by taking over their various rackets. Gambling, prostitution, trafficking, drugs and any racket you can think of will require you to dominate it using either a stealth approach (which is very ‘Assassin’s Creed with the whole ‘eagle vision-like’ see through walls thing) or run in guns blazing. The choice is yours. Both the stealth and action approaches work well and are actually fun to play. Whistling to lure in one of the (very stupid) AI enemies and pressing B to stab him in the head with your huge knife feels great. So do the gun fights. Popping a bullet into the head of some mob soldier is a good feeling, and switching guns on the fly is easy as you simply tab LB to swap between your hand gun and machine or shotgun. RB handles any grenades or the planting of some form of explosive. The action is frantic and lots of fun… at first. The problem is that you’ll repeat this over and over and over and over and over and over, and perhaps just one more time. There’s just no variety, and while the story missions are really not too bad, and the story itself is actually quite interesting, these moments of interest just don’t happen often enough to keep your attention.
So why do you have so many rackets to destroy? You have associates to look after. You’ll get to meet three main associates who come with their lower tier associates who’ll provide you with boring side missions. These side missions include ‘Drive this Truck with cargo here to help the racket grow’ or ‘Drive this boat there to deliver the drugs required by another racket’. It’s just so boring. Cassandra, Vito and Burke will however provide you with a bit more than just some extra cash, they’ll grant you with new abilities and upgrades that become vital if you plan to topple the Marcano family.
By pressing and holding the LB shoulder button you’ll get access to various perks. Cassandra provides you with the mobile arms dealer where you can spend your money you’ve earned on guns and ammunition, though I’d mostly pick up guns and ammo from foes I downed. Vito allows you to bank your money earned via a courier, instead of having to travel back to your hideout to transfer your wallet money to the safe. It’s a good thing as whenever you die you’ll lose 50% of what you earned, which hurts if you have $50 000 or so split in half. Burke gets a car delivered to you, which means you won’t have witnesses phoning the cops every time you try to steal a car. It all really helps and these services are free. There are more perks that’ll have you making important decisions.
I fought the law and… I won
Whenever you overpower a district you can hand it over to one of your associates – which ends up being a laughable round-table meeting of them convincing you why they’re the best candidate for the job. It’s important to try keep them all happy, because should you not they’ll turn against you. They’ll also grant you new beneficial perks. Cassandra brings the ability for you to cut phones so witnesses can’t call cops, Burke will help you remove the cops searching for you by removing the police zones and Vito can send out a hit squad to assist you in battle. To use these perks you’ll be spending markers (earned by doing jobs for associates) or hard-earned cash. Your associates have many other perks which you can read about here. I did find it bizarre that Lincoln would call any of his associates while on-foot or in a car… considering there’s no mobile phone in 1968. He does have an ear piece, but it’s still a bit far-fetched for 1968, but there are other bigger problems.
Graphically Mafia 3 is riddled with bugs. There are times when the game looks absolutely beautiful and other times that it looks like a dog’s breakfast. Head to the swamps and walk through the thick grass and it looks spectacular. Drive on the highway and everything looks bland and as if it’s an Xbox 360 game. The draw distance has serious pop-up issues, to such a degree that I could not see the white line separating left and right on the road five meters ahead of the car. To top it I had the game crash on me at least 20 times in the 30 hours I played it. It was very annoying for the game to cut midway in a mission and having to redo it all again. If you’re looking for something that’ll last you a long time then you’ll get that here. If you can deal with the repetition you’ll have lots of extras to search for.
By collecting TL-49 fuses you’ll be able to install wiretaps into junction boxes scattered all over New Bordeaux. This unlocks the whereabouts of the above-mentioned Playboy magazines, Vargas paintings, album art covers, hot rod magazine, propaganda posters and Repent magazines. There are many collectibles to be found. It’ll also reveal the location of enemies along with intel. The cars all handle in a unique fashion, though there are only a limited number of cars to drive. Shooting at other vehicles while in a car allows you to aim at specific parts of a car before shooting, so you’re not just aimlessly shooting at thin air. Perhaps that’s something GTA can learn from this game, but there’s not much else to learn here.
Mafia 3 has good intentions, and a patch should be able to fix the graphical issues, but the boring missions needs a whole new direction. It’s a sin that a game with decent mechanics finds itself knee-deep in the mud of a mediocre structure. Perhaps you should just paint it black.