Much like Mafia II before it, Mafia III is an interesting and a beautiful period piece about the Mafia and it’s set in 1968, a time of great challenges and turbulence in America: From the Tet Offensive, to the assassinations of two great iconic leaders that shaped the later half of the 20th century, 1968 is a year that we will never forget in American Politics or American History. Many of these events can be seen in Mafia III and is the backdrop for the game, even though it takes place in New Bordeaux which is a fictional version of New Orleans, and it doesn’t shy away from the era’s mishaps that has shaped American History.
It doesn’t romanticize racism, it’s an ugly look at it and it’s an intimate look at the Deep South where Jim Crow was still the rule of law, and it’s a feeling that is tense and stirs something in your body that is ultimately hard to listen to as you progress through the game, the feeling of being tense and hatred is ever present in the game and it’s a place where videogames have never gone before.
There is no way to romanticize racism, it’s loaded and it’s loaded in Mafia III as well. You feel the full effect of it and you see it as well despite playing as a mixed man who we meet when he returns from Vietnam after serving 4 years there, Lincoln Clay isn’t viewed as a war hero and he isn’t viewed as a person that deserves respect from everybody, he is instead viewed with suspicion as women clutch their purses, police eye him suspiciously, store owners threaten him as well as the local mafiso who often spew words of hate at him. The game certainly makes you think about it and they are constant variables as you progress through the game, it’s heavy. The backdrop is interesting and what comes out is one of the most beautiful revenge stories that I played in recent memory.
Mafia III has a special story with really good gameplay, although the game suffers but more on that later. Mafia III’s story is really good and it shows 2 hours in, a linear experience that has teeth and it isn’t afraid to get a bite out of you. The events are told in the Present Day ( The 21st century.) with interviews with several characters as we experience Lincoln’s story in 1968 with a documentary style. The journey may be predictable but the story overall is beautiful and just really good, the writing and the characters are top notch and are well performed, the cutscenes shine and the dialog is great.
In order to get revenge, Clay needs to do what he did in Vietnam. Have a plan to end the Italian Mafia in New Bordeaux once and for all, this plan is predictable as the story goes along although it makes sense but it’s predictable. This is where Mafia III falls apart in terms of gameplay, but the narrative is still strong. We go into this open world and tackle anything we want, from side missions to the main plot and this open world really doesn’t have much to do other then missions. The open world is empty and dull and nothing much to do, the good thing that runs for Mafia III’s open world is that it’s extremely detailed. From the Bayou to Mardi Gras, it’s detailed and realized which is a good thing because you can feel like you’re there.
No matter what thing you do, they all have the same outcomes and it becomes super repetitive and they all fall quickly which makes me question why did Hanger 13 wanted to go open world? This game would have worked better without an open world but that’s a different topic for another day, and with that process, the game becomes quite dull when you have to keep doing the same things again and again.
Mafia I and Mafia II were criticized because of the open world, and Mafia III’s activities seem to be answer to that but still it’s extremely dull and flat. Everything else from the story shines but not the open world or the side missions that come with it, and that’s a shame because Mafia III could’ve been much more without the open world aspect or it could’ve done the open world stuff a little bit better and a take a page from GTA where you have these things to do while you’re in the open world, anyways if there is Mafia IV then I suggest Hanger 13 try a little bit harder with the open world things.
After the open world is wasted potential, driving around is the normal thing since Mafia III doesn’t have a fast travel option but the driving is really good, the driving is great in this game. It feels tight and it feels good although I’m a bit confused to why they didn’t add a Fast Travel option. The best diversion is the collectibles and that’s my favorite part of the entire game. The issues of Playboy are actual magazines from the 1960’s, you have to find all of them and that means 8 years of Playboy Magazines that are scattered across the game, from 196o to 1968 and feature snippets from the magazine itself, and also includes nude photos but you get articles along with it, one of the articles is an interview with Eldridge Cleaver who was the leader of the Black Panther Party. These collectibles are great as they give you a glimpse of the late 20th century in America and you’re reading history from 1968 and that’s pretty cool.
Overall, in total, Mafia III is a “great” game although it suffers alot from some gameplay mechanics and cheap deaths, it’s still a “great” game although it’s no masterpiece but it’s great and it’s good. The gunplay in Mafia III is phenomenal and it’s on par with the driving mechanics of the game, it’s tight and it’s fluid. If you can overcome it’s shortcomings, Mafia III has alot of potential and although this isn’t the game that brought Mafia out of the dark, it’s still very fine though. Let’s hope Hanger 13 can see it’s shortcomings and improve on it if there is a Mafia IV.