Those gamers buying Mafia III on the strength of the second game in the series might be a little disappointed. This is not a continuation of either the themes or gameplay from 2K Games last Mafia. Give it a chance, though, and you’ll find a solid story and some interesting ideas in this new Mafia game.
Developer Hangar 13 have pretty much started from scratch with Mafia III and this new game is set in the late 60’s with returning Vietnam veteran Lincoln Clay coming home to New Bordeaux, a riff on the real New Orleans, and getting involved with the various mob groups, leading to a revenge plot where he finds himself taking them all on.
The interplay between the various factions and Clay’s revenge make for a great plot and it’s fortunately very well scripted and acted by the voice cast. Close ups and cut scenes are all polished, so much so that it makes the rest of the game look a little rushed. Once you get to the in-game graphics they seem a little rough around the edges, with draw distance taking a hit. However, that’s offset by the excellent settings, especially those in the main story-driven missions. The voodoo theme park is one of the most memorable sections of the game, providing a tense atmosphere-filled area and a great ending.
These story missions are always rewarding but you do feel that this reward comes at the cost of repetitive busy work which the game forces you to undertake to unlock them. Clear out a gang’s hideout by sneaking up on them or shooting them, then get another mission to set fire to trailers which involves more sneaking around and taking out gangs before coming face to face with the leader and taking them out, too, in exactly the same way.
Throughout the game you’ll meet other people who can become potential allies and once an area is cleared of enemies you can get them to take over for you, sending money rolling in. You’ll need to keep them on your side, though. Money can also be picked up from desks, fallen enemies or even just dotted around the map, then used to buy guns, ammo and other weapons. Initially, money is lost when you die and weapons can only be found at certain locations. Pretty quickly, the game gives you a way to call for more weapons, then for somewhere to safely ditch your money or call for a new car. These quick call-ins are pretty important because of one missing feature that Hanger 13 failed to add to the game; Fast Travel.
Yep, Mafia III gives you this huge map and asks you to make multiple visits to your rackets or back to certain characters half way across the map but doesn’t give you a method to get there beyond driving all the way. In its defence, cars can get from one side of the map to the other fairly fast and the driving, although pretty arcade-based, is fun. There are numerous times I’ve been driving at top speed and take several hard corners while the back of the car skids out and back, making me feel like I’m in a 60s action movie. Alongside the excellent soundtrack that manages to successfully capture the feeling of the time period, it often feels like the forced driving sections are set up deliberately to make you experience this movie-like approach to driving, even more so when being chased by the police.
While most cars are available to drive, many have to be broken in to and this can lead to the police being alerted. In fact, doing anything illegal can alert the police, which can be annoying if you step outside of a hostile area for a minute while in a firefight and watch as a witness goes to the nearest phone for help (sometimes ignoring the danger and running right through the firefight in the process). If you don’t outrun the police cordon then they’ll join in with the fight, on the side of the enemy, which tends to lead to death. Thankfully the daft AI means you often just have to hide round the corner behind a wall for them to eventually give up and go home, even going as far as ignoring you completely when you walk past them, still holding a gun and in the enemy’s camp.
Boats are also there for the taking, though most of the waterways are too narrow to have much fun on. They are, however, essential for crossing areas where gators roam, waiting for their next meal. On the plus side, you can also pick up and feed enemies to the snappy reptiles in order to remove any evidence.
On balance, the repetitive mid-level missions where you find yourself taking on the same groups of bad guys with the same ultimate goal are tempered by the excellent story lead missions, the driving and the environments. You might find yourself tiring of the repetition by the end, but the game’s story will be enough to push most players past this in order to find out what happens next.