Mafia 3 – A Review to Kill For
It’s time to reload the Tommy Guns and spruce up the cement shoes, because Mafia is back like Backstreet–except–more The Sopranos instead of frilly boy bands. Hanger 13 captures the true essence of organized crime in the darker third installment of the series, as well as an amazing portrayal and delivery of racial tension in ’60s era, New Orleans-influenced New Bordeaux.
The latest installment of the Mafia series sees a new protagonist, Lincoln Clay–a Vietnam vet–coming home to find his family double-crossed and killed by a man with whom he once worked. A man with whom the star of the previous Mafia title–Vito Scaletta–even has beef with: Sal Marcano. Sal is every bit the Italian Mafia stereotype and does not hesitate to display his alpha complex to everyone and anyone. He is the man we are after and with the help of Vito’s mafia connections, Cassandra’s Haitian mob, and Burke’s Irish gang, Lincoln has all the makings of his own crime syndicate.
While the initial set up isn’t quite inventive (revenge plots rarely are), its character development and intertwining mission ladder make you want to see this thing play out; mission structure was clearly well-planned and something with which Hanger 13 focused greatly, because if one segment fell out of place, the whole narrative would crash down around it. Each mission comes from one of Lincoln’s associates. Whether it be Vito, Burke, Donovan (Lincoln’s CIA contact), or Cassandra–all rackets and open world activities–as well as side-missions play into the main narrative. Through these missions, we learn about each of Lincoln’s lieutenants and while each of them benefit Lincoln in some way, I still found myself playing favorites. Yes, Vito, and no, not because I am also Italian.
All kidding aside, their personalities and modus operandi are their own. If you push Lincoln to favor one and not the other, they WILL act accordingly. This IS about the mafia after all, and double-crossing is the name of the game. However, if you play it safe and assign each lieutenant an even district, you should not have much issue. This is where their development comes into play. Like I said, I found myself favoring Vito. Not because he was Italian, not because I knew him from the earlier installment, but because I felt his character understood the true meaning of adopted family more than the others. That’s not to say Cassandra and Burke have a skewed vision, but again, their motives are their own. It’s up to the player to choose with whom they relate most.
I have trouble deciding where this game shines the most. The narrative and its dialogue/interaction between characters, or its setting; New Bordeaux, a re-imagined New Orleans (creative license is more forgiving with a fictional city than a real-world counterpart), is as alive as any of Clay’s associates. Much like InFamous 2’s New Marais, Mafia 3 takes influence from New Orleans and its Bourbon Street French Ward. Complete with an alligator-infested bayou (which is huge, by the way), Hanger 13 did an absolute amazing job with its world building. From the impoverished Delray Hollow and the Cabin-in-the-Woods-esque Bayou Fantom, each district has its own, distinct feel and mood.
This is aided by an ever-present, almost too realistic, not-necessarily-under-undertone of racism. In this world of parallels, it seems not much has really changed:
Video games have a unique propensity to draw parallels from reality. So much so that while playing–most of us–cross-examine our lives with each of the shoes we fill. Video games prompt us to interact. We MUST be a part of the protagonist’s experiences, and Mafia 3 does this better than most any game I’ve ever played.
This is perhaps due to what is currently happening in my country of residence. It is such a parallel, in fact, that I feel relief when I–as Lincoln, an oppressed black man in the South–shoot an NPC in the face for calling me a n****r. Which, by the way, a word in which the game is most certainly NOT in short supply. (This is of course, not to say that I feel these impulses in reality, but it certainly makes me feel REAL emotion regarding the situation). Let us also not forget, Lincoln is a man who fought for the very people persecuting him as such. Mafia 3 is nothing if not a cross-examination of the current state of affairs in North America and in my eyes, this is one of the best eras of this country Hanger 13 could have focused on due to this. It sincerely and heavily plays on this racial division and does it with extreme competence.
Despite the racial tension and overall darkness of the plot, Mafia 3 is still a GORGEOUS game and an absolute blast to play. Sunsets are beautiful, the lighting effects during a nighttime rainstorm are on the money, and reflections are close (but still no cigar) to Witcher quality.
Now that I’ve blubbered on about the good things, let me talk about the negatives; there aren’t very many and didn’t personally hamper my experience, but some may view them large enough to forgo playing the game at all. A Cerberus of graphical slip-ups, Mafia suffers from the basically-standard glitches: screen tearing, incorrect texture mapping, and pop-in. Let it be noted that all of these only occurred when driving at high speeds during rainstorms. It seems the engine just can’t handle the plethora of textures for which Hanger 13 coded. The frame rate is locked at 30fps, which for PC players is obviously a downfall, but for console, it does the job just fine, with those three exceptions.
The combat–as I stated previously–isn’t anything new: enter stealth mode with R3, take out as many guys as possible with circle (but BY GOD, takedowns are brutal. In fact, all the violence is properly brutal. I’ll talk more about that in the next paragraph) and when/if you blow your cover, start shooting until none are left standing. Of course, the game gives you the option to go in guns ablaze from the get-go, or completely stealth. I’ve done it in a manner of ways: stealth with knife, or silenced pistol kills. Sometimes I’ll do one, or the other to change it up. Alternatively I’ll simply go straight to the objective (in this case, it would be interrogating a racket boss), surpassing as many enemies as possible, and forcing the boss to join my cause. All enemies then become docile little bunnies and I can go about my business.
Typical, sure. But man, is it fun. The game does not hold back it’s mature vibes; It is fluid and smooth and with the addition of screaming zemies (little voodoo doll noise-makers that distract multiple enemies) one can find many ways to brutally dispatch an enemy. While not innovative by any means, my clip to Facebook (any of our readers, feel free to friend me! I’ll be happy to discuss games all day) perfectly displays the previously mentioned mercilessness. This is of course a tiny snippet of the overall gore factor, but I can assure it’s just as amazing. Blood spurts, charred corpses, the works. What adds to this, is weapon feel. Each firearm has its own weight and sound, and just hearing the 1911 POP, watching an enemy’s face do the same is gratifying.
All-in-all, Mafia 3 is a standard-fare, open-world game that tackles mature and relevant issues, all the while inviting players to enjoy a sort of criminal vigilantism as you dispatch the Italian mafia with your own illicit organization. While its core may not be innovative, or revolutionary, Mafia’s focus is clearly something meaningful and its release window comes at an opportune moment where discussions of the narrative’s underlying themes are extremely prevalent. Where the game falls, its narrative picks it up and carries it to the finish line.
I give Mafia 3 a