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

Dariush
Guest
Dariush

just played the demo(prologue)…was awesome.
too bad most agrees after that It gets boring af.
Technically the colour palette lack saturation and vibrancy, the environment is not “easy to read”(blurry)and vehicle pop in is ugly. The first mission in the bayou shows an AI that is really lacking and can be tricked with the same whistle call over and over. But the story is captivating and driving cars is really fun(though is no my all time fav gta4). Lincoln Clay is a hell of a main character too.

Narfilicious
Guest
Narfilicious

I’d love to discuss how the racial narrative was portrayed, but I’ve received word that another racket needs our help!

Alvinette
Guest
Alvinette

I actually like this game its really neat and I will RATE it 5 stars not only because its showing real things that went on in the past ,but whats happening now. Many white boys are saying it is bad because its mainly about a black man but if he was white it probably would be a different story. I love this game so much and Im a real gamer!! P.s I am a black female wassup

Maxine Caulfield
Guest
Maxine Caulfield

Eww…

Savletto Polvere
Guest
Savletto Polvere

Found 2k employee, guys

Burt Humperdink
Guest
Burt Humperdink

I wonder where Haden Blackman goes from here? His CV is actually quite awful not sure how he got this gig to be honest. His gameography is pretty much Star Wars Galaxies, Force unleashed 1 and 2 and this. In other words a bunch of 6-7 out of 10 games that sold kind of well.

Wellsy487
Guest
Wellsy487

That’s not dreadful. 7/10 isn’t dreadful, but you must wonder if there was a demand to make this game this big. Or was it rushed out, or they’ve didn’t have the money to do everything they wanted. From what I hear the game isn’t bad, just has problems

Kyle Pierce
Guest
Kyle Pierce

The sad part is, none of the metabombs are gonna matter because the game still sold enough copies. They don’t care anymore, they already have your money!

Michael Treiger
Guest
Michael Treiger

A repeated criticism I’ve heard of this game is that its far too easy on normal difficulty. I hate games like this. At least its got a difficulty setting unlike the AssCreed games with the broken AI since the very first game.

Michael Treiger
Guest
Michael Treiger

I loved Mafia 2 soo much. This one was one of my best hopes for this year, too bad they had to GTA the series with this one. I was really REALLY fine with the previous Mafia games being linear story focused games with little sidetracking, some ppl complained that there wasn’t much to do in NY.. MOFUCKER!!! THERE’S A GODDAMN STORY TO DO, WHATAREYOULOOKINGFOR? A BOWLING ALLEY???
Seriously, the padding was not needed, just write a goddamn half decent story and don’t force ppl to do side shit to progress.

Charlie Koszulinski
Guest
Charlie Koszulinski
How about instead of a bowling alley, we be able to get a group of mobsters together and take down some corrupt businesses or take control of territory as a team instead of a one man killing machine. You could add some tactical depth to the system and wallah, you got yourself a tactical shooter in your open world game. Or how about adding a trafficking system where you start a cartel of sorts and compete with the mafia’s. You decide what to sell, where to sell it, and consider the risks and rewards of selling in that territory. Every… Read more »
Austin_sj
Guest
Austin_sj

I don’t mind open world games but sometimes a scripted campaign with set pieces makes more sense. I guess it would’ve been hard to deal with the process of growing a gang to take over the city without an open world though.

Scout Dawson
Guest

I agree. Let’s say if for e.g. Uncharted was Open World. It would be a total mess of a game. It works with its linear set up. Mafia has always seemed like the kind of game that would benefit from this too.

saintalex
Guest
saintalex

I wonder if the developers felt they were taking such a risk with the themes that they played it too safe with the gameplay. It seems to me a Mass Effect type semi open structure would have helped them tell a compelling story.

MrSquifler
Guest
MrSquifler

To me Mafia III is more like a spiritual successor to The Godfather II than a sequel to Mafia II.

Wellsy487
Guest
Wellsy487

It seems this game sadly falls into the usual Open World problem. It’s a shame that so many games go Open World have an amazing story but then have the same bland crap that just gets annoying. Maybe when it’s £10

Scout Dawson
Guest

I honestly think GTA V was the only open world game I played where I loved the side missions as much as the main (Red Dead Redemption being a very close second).

Wellsy487
Guest
Wellsy487

I enjoyed the Witcher 3 even though there was a lot of repeating, but I loved the side quests and hunts all had a story, some good, some bad, but the effort was there

Scout Dawson
Guest

Oh yeah and that one. Forgot about W3. For some reason I just look at that as an RPG even though it’s open world (weird logic I know lol)

Scout Dawson
Guest

Oh crap yeah that was a good one. Like you say, some samey stuff, but alot of it was at least fun

Jules
Guest
Jules

I feel really sorry for Mafia III because I think it does some thing really, really well… but it was hamstrung by so many things going against it that kept it from greatness.

ATBro
Guest
ATBro

I can usually deal with mediocre gameplay if the story is good, and from what I’ve played the game handles petty well for this type of game. It certainly isn’t actively bad, so I should be able to hang with it.

George
Guest
George

I’m going to try to post an idea…People might be offended…But here it goes…

If the exploration of the theme racism is well done but gameplay wise, the game is mediocre at best does that cheapen the overall message?

Is this yet another case of a dev using fascinating (maybe even untouched) concepts as a hedge bet to try and fool the consumer into thinking the game is something smarter, higher quality and deeper than what it actually is?

In that way this Mafia III is similar to No Man’s Sky.

ATBro
Guest
ATBro

I don’t think so, though an argument could be made for that.

From what I played of it (about 3 hours), there isn’t a lot of crossover with story and gameplay in this game. By that I mean when you are watching the story you’re not playing, and when you are playing there isn’t really any important story happening (outside of some color dialogue and NPC animations). This separation of narrative and mechanics keeps the lackluster gameplay from cheapening the story work.

If the actual mechanics were more closely tied to the story, I could see that being an issue though.

Jules
Guest
Jules
I don’t agree. I think it ties themes of race into the gameplay well. Like one thing I thought they did that was really clever is that in the first area, the black neighborhood, when someone calls the cops on you for committing a crime the police dispatcher is like “hit and run in the hallow… if you’re in the area check it out maybe” which is an accurate portrayal of how some police forces, even to this day in some cities, respond to calls in poor/black neighborhoods. This also means that the first area of the game isn’t as… Read more »
Andy McAwesome
Guest
Andy McAwesome

What untouched concepts did No Man’s Sky explore? The concept of space? …wow. So original.

George
Guest
George

It was claimed to be this original experience using procedural generation to explore millions of planets. Something that has “never been done before.” It also looked like it fancied itself an exploration of an existential crisis.

…It was none of those things though.

Andy McAwesome
Guest
Andy McAwesome

Oh, it can CLAIM to be all sorts of things. As far as I know, Mafia III’s exploration of its era of race relations IS unique in videogames – No Man’s Sky can claim to be unique all it wants, but that doesn’t mean the claims aren’t provably untrue from the outset.

I didn’t ask what concepts No Man’s Sky CLAIMED to explore, I asked what it DID explore. And my answer was… not really anything? So, we agree, in that respect…

MJC
Guest
MJC

“If the exploration of the theme racism is well done but gameplay wise, the game is mediocre at best does that cheapen the overall message?”

Yes. If you stop playing because you’re so goddamn bored, that certainly cheapens the message. And even if you finish, the bad gameplay will stick in your mind more than the story.

Wellsy487
Guest
Wellsy487

I think it doesn’t cheapen the message, but wit’s a lower review score then less people will play it. Therefore the message doesn’t reach as many people.

ENAY
Guest
ENAY

Fallout 4 is better then.

Charlie Koszulinski
Guest
Charlie Koszulinski

Let’s talk about how Mafia 3 stole the idea for racism in a game from Fallout’s Synth discrimination.

YoDude
Guest
YoDude

Ugh.

gasmaskangel
Guest
gasmaskangel

Yeah… this was more or less my experience with it as well. I did really love the New Orleans type setting though.