Image copyright 2K Games 2016
It’s that time of the week again, ladies and gentlenerds, where your Resident Nerd-in-the-Know gives you his latest gaming review. I’ve had this game for close on 12 months as of time of press, but I’ve still not completed it. In fact, I left the game alone for a decent 10 months. However, this week I cracked open the case, pushed eject on my Xbox One, and had another go.
The third entry into the multiple console-generation spanning Mafia series had a tall order to fulfil; not only was it the third game in this series, but, being an open-world sand-box game, was in direct competition with one of the biggest names in the business, Grand Theft Auto.
Yes, another GTA clone, and naturally the comparisons are to be made on everything to rendering to car handling to general gaming essence that Rockstar capture oh-so-often with their games. But Mafia isn’t made by any slouches in the gaming world looking to get a slice of that lucrative genre, 2K Games has some of the best simulation games available with their NBA 2K series being heralded as the best sports simulation game available, and their take on the WWE franchise improves exponentially year-on-year.
The gameplay is much like that of GTA or Saints Row games; you control a lead character (Lincoln Clay) who has to go around their locale (New Bordeaux, a fictionalised version of New Orleans) completing jobs for various people until you meet a set amount of objectives to take over a set area on your way to taking down the big bad boss man.
The setting for Mafia III is, again, in the fictional New Bordeaux in 1968. Clay is fresh out of the military having spent time in Vietnam, and spends a short while getting used to being back in civilian life. His family, including his surrogate father Sammy Robinson and adopted brother Ellis. Whilst attending a family party to welcome Clay back home, the local Mafia pay the family a visit, with disastrous consequences for Clay. This acts as the catalytic moment for the game and starts Clay off on his quest to build a new crime family to confront the Italian one currently running and ruining his town.
It all sounds much the same as you’d get in other sandbox type games, but this one has quite the party piece. Aside from the music of the ’60s, the classic cars on every street and the DLC Jimi Hendrix inspired costume, Mafia III has some awesome cutscenes that work almost as testimonies in a documentary on Clay’s life after he returns home. There’s never any piece of information revealed ahead of the in-game narrative to spoil the game for you, but it does add bonus elements of the story to you, usually through Father James, one of Lincoln’s oldest and dearest friends, or through retired FBI agent Jonathan Maguire.his help break up the game, which admittedly at times can be quite monotonous
These scenes help break up the game, which admittedly can be quite monotonous at times, without ever distracting you from play.
The story is, thus far, really enjoyable and piques your interest to want to carry on through, and there are enough distractions going on to help fill out the gameplay, but at times, the open-world setting seems quite empty. Yes, there are people along the streets, and an active radio that responds to events in the game, but nothing really happens between you and the civilians shy of them calling the cops if you commit a crime, or yell at you if you bump into them. In a game world as big as this, there should be a lot going on, like you’d find in GTA, but Mafia III just misses the mark on it.
The gunplay, of which you’ll spend just as much time doing as you do driving, is good. Sometimes, in this sort of game, you’ll have overly fidgety controls or the aiming reticle will be either too slow or too fast or too sensitive and gunfights can become a case of you aiming somewhere over there and hoping that a fatal bullet finds its mark (I’m looking at you, GTA IV!). I prefer a silenced pistol approach, going around and silently sniping thugs off one by one, but if you prefer a louder option, there’s a mass of assault rifles, submachine guns, and even heavy artillery like a rocket launcher to make your revenge that much more blood-soaked.
Whilst there is a chance to change Clay’s costume – from the default military fatigues to a full-piece suit to a “Black Power” vigilante inspired ensemble – there isn’t a lot of scope for doing anything else visually. You can’t change his hairstyle to suit your personal tastes shy of changing his costuming which include a set hairstyle and/or facial hair. The weapons can’t be edited in appearances (a la Saints Row IV) but they can at least be upgraded to encompass faster rate of fire or a larger ammo capacity.
The cars you unlock, however, can be customised to your liking. You’ll have to win a load of races or secure a bunch of locations to unlock all of the customisation options, but you can take most any car you own and pimp them up. Note; they have to be cars you own and can get delivered to you by your car guy, otherwise, the garage won’t accept them and you’ll be sat there looking like a fool. A darn fool!
All in all, this is a good game to play. There’s been plenty of updates and DLC packs released to help your time in New Bordeaux last a little longer, and the graphics are, at times, splendid to behold with the cityscape being a wonderful mix of neon and high-rise southern buildings. Further afield, there’s the bayou where the Haitians do their business which adds a nice depth to the game and makes it not just a city escape. The Irish sector even features something I never thought I’d witness in a video game (certainly an American one at least); the Ulster Flag of Northern Ireland. Admittedly, it does have the word “traitor” graffiti over it, and, being mostly of Northern Irish descent myself, I found this nod to the real world a little too real. But its still a nice touch. Okay, maybe “nice” isn’t the right word, but it does give some real world contextualization to the game that is relevant to me.
Nerd Rating; 6/10 – whilst it is a good game with a great story to follow and get behind, it seems to fall short in so many of the things that make its main competitors shine. If you’re making a GTA clone, and certainly a console one at that, you almost need to make sure you’re doing the same sort of things as Rockstar, and if not, at least subvert expectations and make the game feel “fun” like Saints Row does. Mafia III does make up for its shortcomings in the gunplay and dialogue and especially with the cinematic cutscenes, but they are a few elements in an otherwise much wider world that so often feels as dead and empty as the gangsters you’re taking out.
By all means, do play the game, but if you can, borrow it off someone or wait for it to be a lot cheaper before you buy.
If you like this, try; Grand Theft Auto V, Saints Row IV, Sleeping Dogs