Mafia III Review – Feet Of Clay

An ambitious premise buried under a thoroughly unambitious game.

03

Developer: Hangar 13
Publisher: 2K Games
Format: PC, PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One
Released: October 7, 2016
Copy purchased

Mafia III is unflinching with its narrative, one of the few games to examine racism without fantastical allegories to hide behind. Set in 1968 Louisiana, Hangar 13 does an impressive job of capturing the racial tension of the era, unafraid to present prejudice as it is – ugly, spiteful, and scarily casual.

In its setting and characterization, Mafia III is undoubtedly bold. In stark contrast, it’s about as safe as safe can get as an open world action game.

New Bordeaux is impressively realized but the formulaic and repetitive gameplay found within it smacks of a production with very few ideas outside of its story. Hell, even the story is a fairly general revenge tale at heart, as protagonist Lincoln Clay methodically destroys the empire of mob boss and family killer Sal Marcano.

To take down Marcano’s empire, Clay will seize the various criminal rackets that control each district of the city before killing the bosses who run them. This is done pretty much the same way for every district, and it’ll need to be done over and over again.

The structure runs as follows, and remains in place with little variation – Clay will get information about a Racket from a nearby NPC, causing a number of quests to spawn. These freshly sprung objectives typically include kidnapping snitches for further information, destroying assets, murdering enforcers, and stealing vehicles.

Each completed objective reduces the amount of money a racket’s earning, eventually whittling the business’ resources down to zero. Once the racket’s been completely drained, Clay is told where the boss can be found and either killed or recruited. With the racket now in Clay’s control, he’ll get to hand it to one of his three underbosses in exchange for favors, upgrades, and a cut of the profit.

This needs to be done twice in order to coax out the district’s overall boss – once two rackets are seized, a final mission occurs in which a prominent figure in Marcano’s organization is taken out. These missions are the only ones that typically feature some variation, though most of them still come down to infiltrating a building and sneaking or gunning one’s way to the chief mobster for a brief and underwhelming encounter.

02

It becomes almost laughable when Clay has a meeting with his accomplices and is told, yet again, that his next target is in hiding and needs to be drawn out by destroying their business. I expected Lincoln to at least roll his eyes after getting given the exact same setup for the fifth time in a row, but nobody ever seems to notice how every enemy is dealt with in the exact same way.

For a game that works so hard in its opening chapters to display a strong sense of style and creativity, the comfortable pattern into which it soon falls is remarkable.

Mafia III is a fun enough game to play. The various ways in which a racket can be destroyed are recycled often, but it remains enjoyable to watch that money tick down with every theft, kill, and explosion. I appreciate how more objectives than are needed spawn, so if there’s a particular mission you don’t care for, there are other options.

Players can choose a violent or a sneaky approach to almost any situation, and it’s well worth going in quietly for as long as possible since guns pack a very real punch – this is one of the few games where shotguns feel like shotguns, able to cause severe damage to friend or foe with just a single pull of the trigger.

Those who do opt for stealth will find their way through missions more efficiently, but will do nothing to salve that sense of repetition – Sal’s goons are incredibly stupid, and it’s not uncommon to be able to stay in a single place, whistling to attract enemies one by one and taking them out instantly from around a corner.

Where victims won’t be lured out so easily, tossing distractions like screaming voodoo dolls will draw everybody’s attention in a desired direction and make silent murder a doddle.

Unlike the game’s gangsters and cops, everything else in Mafia III is competent. The driving from place to place is adequate. Combat is about as gratifying as it needs to be. It’s full of the kind of nebulous content you’ve come to expect from an open world – collectibles and radio tower equivalents out the wazoo.

“Competent” is as far as Mafia III wants to go, however. It never strives to be anymore impressive than that, simply doing what needs to be done in order to meet the basic requirements for a standard big-budget action title.

04

For the most part, this is the modern open world game personified – a mass of recycled objectives and pointless stuff to pick up. This generation in particular has seen a codifying of the genre, and Hangar 13’s work serves as an exemplary blueprint of this slide toward the generic.

The few individual story missions on offer can be exciting, but what nuance they bring to the table fails to be particularly memorable. In fact, I’m hard pressed to remember much of note during my time with the game, and the more I play it the more everything starts to bleed into each other. Mafia III cruises on autopilot for hours at a time, providing very little that could actually stick with its audience.

It’s tragic that so much effort went toward making this game stylistically stand out when its so structurally trite. Little touches like ethereal road signs pointing players to their next destination, a constant warning marker when cops are looking, and a fantastic soundtrack help set a strong audiovisual tone.

The visual direction makes up for fairly dated graphics and a number of physics glitches that see corpses stuck in mid air and boats shudder through the sky. Most bugs encountered are more peculiar than offputting, though on one occasion I had the audio missing for an entire cutscene.

1960s southern culture is well researched and presented sincerely. Despite the fairly standard storyline, characters are wonderfully realized, fully rounded individuals. Cutscenes occurring after racket seizures are presented as documentary clips, with characters reflecting on what Lincoln did and hinting at a tragic end, helping to build up a highly anticipated culmination.

About the only character lacking much substance is Lincoln himself who, outside of nods toward traumatic experiences in Vietnam and a factory-standard vengeance motive, is pretty flat. He’s angry, he’s violent, and that’s about it. In comparison, more is done to humanize Sal – his racist, backstabbing, detestable arch enemy.

In an industry that tends to treat political themes with kid gloves, terrified of having an opinion or presenting an idea beyond heavily fictionalized substitutes, Mafia III deserves some recognition for its frank and honest portrayal of unsavory aspects of recent American history. If it wasn’t so unexceptional outside of that, it could have been a truly brilliant game.

Instead, it has a nucleus of bravery wrapped up in a thick shell of complacency.

01

The worst that can be said of Mafia III is that it’s tolerable. This is also the best that can be said. A perfectly sufficient game that does nothing unique with a unique setting, providing instead hours upon hours of predictable, uniform material. Likeable enough, but nowhere near as gripping as it should have been.

Also, I hate how you take health damage when cars crash even a tiny bit. What the hell is up with that?

6.5/10
Alright

TheLawOfficesofDindu&Nuffin
Guest
TheLawOfficesofDindu&Nuffin

Mafia 3 is like a sandbox crime game Greatest Hits, only the opposite. Literally every single thing it does, it takes from an earlier (often much earlier) game. Except instead of taking the best parts, it takes the worst. It’s the most incompetent big-budget open-world game I’ve played since Arkham Origins. I will not shed a single tear for Hangar 13 when they’re shut down some time next year.

Jack
Guest
Jack

DLC will likely be about hunting down the US senators who arranged JFK’s assassination, which is pretty cool. Especially considering how good this game’s stabby stuff is. Very good stabbing.

Banjo Colucius Smythe
Guest
Banjo Colucius Smythe

I haven’t played a lot of sandbox games (GTA 4 and about half of Just Cause 2 were the only outings I still recall) so this game’s heavy borrowing from the genre isn’t bothering me as much as it could.

Still a bit samey, one mission to the next, but the story is keeping me hooked enough. I’d say Jim’s pretty spot-on with this review.

Terriosaurus Hex
Guest
Terriosaurus Hex
Maybe I’m just a simpleton, but the setting, premise, soundtrack and story alongside the allegedly functional gameplay are more than enough to please me. I am not a critic who is obligated to play every current release to get burnt out by sandbox setups, and I dont understand quite how people who aren’t critics also get burnt out on them; how much free time do people even have?? Anyway, just like the amplitude and unravel reviews, I understand our differences and have applied that to the criticisms. Still is my favourite review personality…so far. 😉 Anywho….have you any plans on… Read more »
Samuel Jennings
Guest
Samuel Jennings

Couldn’t agree more with pretty much everything except the point about accurately representing the racism of the period. The only people I saw being very racist and throwing the N word around were the obvious bad guys, it didn’t feel like it was casual and common enough.

Local Content
Guest

The story progression in this game (with the 9 separate but functionally identical districts, completing the 2 mission types, then the boss and his goons appear for a fight afterwards in a place you’ve already been) sounds exactly like what you had to do to build your gang in Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. Exactly like it. And that was just the side missions in that game, it had actual storyline missions on top of it. Why would you draw that much inspiration from the most tedious part of a mediocre game and leave out the meaty bits??

Weasel Biggs
Guest
Weasel Biggs

The digital-distribution install time alone is a massive turn-off for me.

I’m reminded of Destiny and the way the installation menu more or less went “Welp, here’s our signature Space Fantasy concept art and some nice-sounding Gregorian choir vocalizing and pulling out Pig Latin nonsense. See you tomorrow evening!”

Max Whiteley
Guest
Max Whiteley

I don’t know……… I’m a sucker for a game with a kick ass sound track. And if it’s a 6.5 I know what I’m in for. I think I will buy it off my mate.

Aisha clanclan
Guest
Aisha clanclan

So Something to play later when the price drops but not at full price.

TrentReznov
Guest
TrentReznov

Who was this game targeted at? They gutted it of nearly everything Mafia fans enjoyed about the series. It’s a Ubisoft game with a slightly more interesting setting.

6.5/10 is a little too generous if you ask me. I’m guessing Jim gave it an extra point just because it didn’t shy away from portraying the era as it was.

SilentPony
Guest
SilentPony

Would have been better with a Sin City option. Black/white with bright reds, jazz, and everyone monologues.

Michael Prymula
Guest

I thought Lincoln was an interesting character and I thought this game had quite a few memorable moments, (I.E. when you blow up a coal dumper to disable a steamboat so you can then hunt down a Donald Trump look-a-alike) but my favorite part has to be when you crash a Southern Union rally(basically the KKK in all but name) and get to slaughter tons of racists.

keironsmith123
Guest
keironsmith123

Fair review and what i pretty much agree with, i’m still really enjoying it though would give it a 7/10 myself.

Colin
Guest
Colin

SPLAT

David Gordon
Guest
David Gordon

it’s a shame, i really enjoyed mafia 2 but i dont think i will pick this one up

Polishfury5000
Guest
Polishfury5000
Man, the whole “taking out lesser bosses to draw out main boss” mechanic is usually something I enjoy, but it seems so repetitive here. Remember the first Mercenaries game? I don’t think anyone has done an open world “hunt little bosses to draw out big bosses” better yet. Half of the deck of 52 had to be found by exploration, the other half by managing relationships with opposing military factions and gaining their intel on targets. The first Crackdown did this really well too. You could just go straight for the main bosses, but they’d be incredibly difficult affairs and… Read more »
Stormbringer
Guest

It’s disturbing images like that clown that I don’t dare touch these mainline western titles! I thank god I don’t play them every time the Feminist Frequency group would put out a video: Watching those things is like a litany of disgusting moments in mainline western video games that would’ve made me immediately regret having paid money for a thing. (Fortunately you can spot these tasteless titles from a million miles away.)

Anton
Guest
Anton

Good review, but….. screaming voodoo dolls? Dafuq?

Maxwell Tucker
Guest
Maxwell Tucker

A pretty fair review as always Jim. That being said I still enjoyed it a lot and will do one more play-through once they patch some of those glitches and add clothes.

A Roast Beef Sandwich
Guest
A Roast Beef Sandwich

Say it with me everyone: You! Won’t! Be! The! Next! Farcry! By! Being! Farcry!

Martijn Fiering
Guest
Martijn Fiering
Completely agree. It’s a decent game overall. It’s definitely got quality to it with those beautiful cutscenes, interesting story, with the charm of the 60’s. The biggest problem is of course the fact that it’s a one-trick pony. Take on district and you’ve seen it all. That said, *spoilers*, one district has you taking down a mob boss at the top of a skyscraper in which you can choose a stealthy or a loud approach. The loud approach has you gunning through entire floors of enemies, and it was fun. as. hell. It is also the only “boss” mission in… Read more »
Rohaq
Guest
Rohaq

That last screenshot looks like a grimdark current day version of Crazy Taxi.

Alexander Yordanov
Guest
Alexander Yordanov

This game shows the start contrast between American and Central/Eastern European game design 🙁

eincvajdraj
Guest
eincvajdraj

hey Jim, did you know United Front Games(sleeping dogs dev) got shut down and its early access game got pulled from steam

Wonko The Sane
Guest
Wonko The Sane

For the first couple of hours I thought it’d be a 7.5 or an 8…then the repetitive grindiness became obvious, to the point where I’m slightly surprised your score is so high. Such a shame – I love the Mafia series.