Mafia III is clearly an ambitious project. The developers sought to combine an open world, GTA style action game with a protagonist who must face the volatile racial and social issues emerging in the post-Vietnam America. The games’ story, which is brilliantly delivered through documentary style flash backs, focuses on an Africa American Vietnam veteran who has returned to his home to New Bordeaux (a fictionalized New Orleans) and become immersed in the ‘black mob’ – an African American crime family which handles the Mafia’s business in the ‘coloured’ parts of town.
The central plot is pretty typical of these types of games; you (Lincoln) do a heist with a supposed friend who ultimately betrays you and attempts to kill you, setting off your quest for revenge. What sets Mafia III apart is the games commentary on race relations that underpins all aspects of the game. From news articles, radio stations, dialogue and even how you are treated by NPC’s of the opposite colour, the game doesn’t pull any punches in facing these issues. In particular, I was impressed by the dialogue that makes use of a lot of words that I would have expected risk adverse triple ‘A’ developers to shy away from. The authenticity of the setting, the story and characters are definitely the highlight of Mafia III. I found myself having a genuine interest in the outcome for Lincoln as well as the other characters in the game.
Unfortunately, the execution and game play definitely did not meet the standards set by the quality of the story and narrative. The game was let down by poor pacing, technical issues and an overall lack of polish. This is a problem right from the start, with first 45 mins of this game being incredibly slow not at all representative of the wider game. Rather than unleashing you on the open world of New Bordeaux, initially you spend your time (literally) driving between cut scenes with an occasional shoot out in a small closed environment.
The missions are also quite repetitive and despite having a large city to explore, within each region they repeat at the same locations. You will end up clearing out the same warehouse or club multiple times. Compounding this is enemy AI, that is best described as ‘questionable’, and a number of glitches and bugs (the most annoying being cars that simply appear if you drive too fast). On the whole, the game lacks the finish you would ordinarily expect from a major title and a big name developer.
While it is a little disappointing that the depth of story is not matched by the game play, I still found Mafia III to be an entertaining overall experience despite the flaws. This is not a must have game, but it will definitely keep you interested.