As I’m between MMOs at present, I decided to purchase a single player game to keep me occupied, until Middle-earth: Shadow of War is released. I settled on Mafia 3 as I had played the previous instalment of the franchise and enjoyed it. As this title came out last October it can now be picked up at a substantial discount if you’re prepared to shop around. There is no game of the year edition at present but I did manage to buy the digital deluxe version for £22, which is a good price. This includes a season pass so I have all the currently released DLC. There is sufficient content available to keep me busy for a month or so. So far, I’ve clocked up 40 hours in-game according to Steam.
The most striking aspect of Mafia 3 is the story. The game has a very strong narrative that is well written and researched. Set in New Bordeaux, a fictitious version of New Orleans, in 1968 the plot plays out against a background of unrest, civil rights activism and entrenched racism. The writers haven’t shied away from exploring the big socio-political issues of the time. Lincoln Clay is a great protagonist and the supporting characters such as Father James and John Donovan are far from two dimensional. It’s also nice to see the return of Vito Scaletta from Mafia 2. Overall the performances from all the voice actors are good. Although the revenge story is formulaic, the gold is in the depth of characters and the credible reflection of the era, politics and mood of the time.
Mafia 3 offers a very diverse open world environment. There are modern business and civil districts, along with rich and poor residential areas. The game sports a sense of contemporary sixties architecture, as well as colonial elegance. However, if you journey into the bayou you’ll find an abandoned amusement park and decaying shanty towns. As with most games of this genre, there’s a well-defined network of roads and players are encouraged to travel by a wide range of vehicles. The game radio stations are an interesting mixture of music, talk shows, news and faux adverts. The developers have paid top dollar to get the licenses for numerous high profile sixties hits. The game features songs by Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, Sam and Dave, James Brown and Jefferson Airplane.
However, where the game setting, environment and narrative are all top drawer, the nuts and bolts of Mafia 3 are somewhat formulaic. The third person, cover based combat system is nothing unusual. It’s functional but not sufficiently different or innovative. Once you’ve completed the first act of the story, the game settles down into a series of repetitive quests. To secure each district you have to do the same things, namely destroy or disrupt existing operations, take out key intermediate figures then dispose of the zone boss. Takedown animations also lack variations. The AI is somewhat wonky. Mobs will openly hunt you down which can be a little taxing at the beginning but once you have the right weapons and perks, it becomes a turkey shoot. There are other minor niggles such as no fast travel and a limitation on the number of weapons you carry.
However, the failings of some of the game mechanics are offset by the collectables system and mini games such as racing. These offer a sense of variety. Collectables include albums, Playboy magazines, various types of posters and even religious literature. The Playboy magazines are actually reproductions of genuine issues from the time. I was surprised to find that the old cliché about them featuring “good articles” was actually true. There was an extensive four-page discussion with Stanley Kubrick which was very informative. However, collecting offers no tangible benefit other than the fun of acquiring items. It doesn’t impact upon the game in any way.
From what I’ve seen so far after a week of playing the Mafia 3, the game has pretty much all the same pros and cons as it predecessor Mafia 2. The story and characters are by far the best aspect of the game and if that was lacking, you’d be left with a somewhat average and undistinguished game. But because I favour games with strong story based narratives, I am happy to play through some of the more grindy content to access the major set pieces that punctuate the proceedings. As gamers, I think there is often an unrealistic expectation for ever new game to be a unique experience. For me Mafia 3 is flawed with good and bad points but overall the good outweighs the bad. I enjoy the RPG elements of the game the best. Trying to secure the outcome I want is certainly an amusing challenge. And because of the price I paid, the fun to cost ratio is satisfactory.