The Mafia series of games are ones that I have come to really like over the years. When I first played Mafia 1 on the PlayStation 2 back when it was released, I had rented it from the video shop for three days and didn’t really know what I was in for with it. Little did I know at the time that for the next three days, I would be playing one of the best games I had ever rented from that video store and I continued to borrow it many a time after that, I thought it was the best!
With Mafia II, I just couldn’t wait to get into it, it was so long since the first game and I enjoyed every moment of the Vito story, even though the gameplay wasn’t my favourite thing about it, but I still loved it. So when Mafia III was announced, you can bet I was super excited for that game as well!
For me Mafia III was a bit of a mixed experience, there are certain aspects about the game that I loved about it and a lot of others that I don’t. The game starts off strongly, we are quickly introduced to Lincoln Clay who’s the character we will play as for the entire game. He’s a man who’s recently returned from the Vietnam war, he’s highly trained in combat and knows how to hit things hard and strong. He’s also an African-American man, in a time when there was significant change and struggles for that segment of the American people and it’s a topic the game makes a large effort to cover as part of the historical setting in 1968.
Lincoln’s story starts off strong, he’s back from the war and ends up in a gang. He takes part in a bank robbery and succeeds, only to be betrayed by Sal Marcano. Lincoln and his friends all get shot or killed, Lincoln too, they’re all left for dead. Lincoln survives and swears that he will seek vengeance. The story from this point all becomes a massive revenge story, you as Lincoln will take down different areas of the city and different bosses and work your way up to Sal Marcano.
This is an okay way to tell a story, but in contrast to Mafia II, I don’t think it’s a superior story. In Mafia II we got to go through the life of Vito, we got to know him, his journey and his struggles and it was a nice thing in the end. But with Mafia III, it’s more about revenge and getting even after being wronged by the mob. I don’t feel I know much about Lincoln himself. By the end of the game, having killed so many people and going from suburb to suburb doing so, I felt more like a mass murderer than I did a Mafia member and that’s not what I want from a Mafia series game.
Does that mean that what you get in Mafia III isn’t a good story though? I don’t think so. It’s just a different type of story than I was expecting and feels different in this series. As a revenge story, it’s not bad and does keep you interested throughout the game enough to want to see it to the end. While it does have a great start, it’s got a very average middle section, but does end strong once it’s all over though, which I think makes up for it.
The gameplay in Mafia III will see you mostly driving around in all types of different vehicles from the time period and the game will also see you doing a lot of shooting and a tiny bit of punching too. There are guns that you can unlock over time once you have enough cash and you can use them in any mission you like after you have unlocked them, you can call a van to you at any point in the game, it will park in the street and you can stock up on ammunition. There’s also 6 cars you can unlock as you progress through the game, you can also call them at any moment and one of Lincoln’s buddies will come deliver it to you to drive around. In the gun heavy sections of the game, you can also call on some mobster buddies to help you out, a couple will show up and help you take down your enemies, this is probably my favourite feature and what I spent most of my money on. It helps a lot in areas where it’s narrow and you can get pinned down easy, the guys you call can help to draw enemy fire away from you so you can get through sections easier.
The reason I think that the game suffers in terms of its story in the middle section is because of the gameplay. You see in the first section of the game you do story missions, it’s about robbing the bank, it’s about getting to know Lincoln and exploring the city and getting to know how things are. But once the revenge story starts, it’s all about taking territory, taking down bosses and killing people.
There’s a problem with this section of the game because in my view, it felt very repetitive. It seems to give you very similar (I mean the same) missions over and over and over. You will start off in one district, talk to a man or a woman who knows something about the area. Then you will travel to a location, there’ll be some bad guys to kill and one guy to interrogate. The guy will tell you were some of their gangs operations are and then you go there. You then kill the gang members at this location, then you’ll smash-up some of their merchandise. Once you smash-up enough merchandise, which is measured in a dollar value. You’ll then go back and chat to the person you did at the start. They will tell you to revisit one of the locations where the gang members you just killed were, at this location there will be more gang members and also a boss. Take them down, kill the boss and the district is yours to keep.
What you really need to know before you buy Mafia III is that this scenario, is the majority of the games gameplay missions. Sure some missions are hard and some locations and areas are well thought out, but it’s essentially the same tasks over and over again.
I’m not sure why the developers chose to present their game in this way, but I do think it was possibly to stretch things out. A player will spend hours and hours taking territory and you can’t finish the game until you’ve taken all of them. It takes some time to do, it’s a lot of grinding to be honest. I think Mafia III will cause some frustration to those who like to game in long sit-throughs, say 4 hours or more at a time. But if you’re more casual and spend maybe an hour with the game a few times a week, it probably won’t bother you all that much. Depends how much time you have really.
After about 10 hours with the game, I felt I had enough of taking territories to be honest. But then something strange happened, I started to enjoy it and not just a little bit, I started to enjoy it a lot. Something set for me in the mood of the game. The music I was listening to sounded great, I started to feel like I was untouchable in the city and I had murdered so many mobsters I had started to enjoy doing it. There were moments where I was being ambushed in the streets by mobsters taking revenge and I would blow them all away with a couple of grenades in just a couple of seconds. Had I gone mad with the murdering spree or had the game gotten to me? I don’t know, but I powered on until the end.
The final few story missions are some of the strongest parts of the game. In the big moments, you’ll be on large ships fighting a whole heap of mobsters, you’ll be inside a massive casino and there’s also a lot of big buildings you need to get through at times in order to take some of the territories. There is some greatness to Mafia III in there that I loved, it’s just a shame it was buried in amongst a lot of repetitiveness.
The music in this game is a really big plus. There are some songs in there that are just so great, you could listen to them over and over again and you will because you’ll be doing a lot of things over and over again. But the music really does help to set the atmosphere and there are a lot of songs from this game that I now want to add to my music library at home.
The atmosphere and look of the city is well done. At times I did feel at night it was a bit too dark and I couldn’t see very well, but it’s only a minor complaint. At times in this game, the world looks beautiful and at times it can look better than any game out there. Other times however and I’m not sure why, but Mafia III looks great in some light but in other moments it just doesn’t look right at all, it’s really very strange. Character models are very nice, everyone from Lincoln Clay and his friends Cassandra, Thomas Burke, Vito Scaletta, Father James, Donavon and all Marcano’s all look excellent. It was a joy to watch them in many of the cutscenes.
Mafia III also provides a solid challenge, some areas can be very difficult to beat and I found myself being killed many times. AI enemies can be tough, I played on the medium setting and found it good for me, but I am curious how it is on the harder difficulty. At other times though the AI can be very stupid, there are times when I felt the AI seemed lost and couldn’t see me approaching them at all, so it’s a bit of a mixed experience. Also the police are very aggressive, if you ever get cornered by them they will just kill you straight away, they can be very annoying, especially as when you die you lose half your cash.
Mafia III is worth getting if you love open world games, are a fan of the Mafia franchise or are interested in the story or the time period. While some of it is repetitive at times and the game isn’t perfect and does have a few flaws, I found myself really enjoying my time in its world and became strangely addicted to what it offered. It’s got a strange charm to it, it’s not perfect at all and I know that, I really do, but I like it that way.