Mafia III: Definitive Edition

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Hangar 13
Release Date: Oct. 7, 2016

About Tony "OUberLord" Mitera

I've been entrenched in the world of game reviews for almost a decade, and I've been playing them for even longer. I'm primarily a PC gamer, though I own and play pretty much all modern platforms. When I'm not shooting up the place in the online arena, I can be found working in the IT field, which has just as many computers but far less shooting. Usually.


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PS4 Review - 'Mafia III'

by Tony "OUberLord" Mitera on Oct. 25, 2016 @ 1:30 a.m. PDT

Mafia III will immerse players into a world of organized crime through rich narrative storytelling and a beautifully crafted game world featuring period-accurate cars, music and fashion.

Buy Mafia III

The Mafia series almost always seems to have things going against it. The first game was well written and designed, but it had its share of rough edges. The second game featured a more open world, but in doing so, the game felt less full of life. Similarly, Mafia III maintains the series' tradition of ups and downs. It's well written and interesting, but unfortunately, it gets bogged down with basic gameplay far too early.

Rather than play it safe and have a game called "Mafia" feature yet another Italian-American protagonist, developer Hangar 13 is mixing things up. Mafia III features an African-American protagonist and is set in New Bordeaux, a fictionalized version of New Orleans. It feels as though the setting changes and the game design work together as a cohesive whole.

Lincoln Clay is a Vietnam veteran who served in the Special Forces before returning home. The game's portrayal of the racism of the period is as blunt as it is honest, and it does well to paint why a character such as Lincoln would find friendship and family among the city's Black Mob before the war and upon returning home. This then explains the extreme measures that Lincoln takes after that family is taken from him, and his Vietnam experience makes it believable when Lincoln alternates between silently taking out enemies with his knife and operating a belt-fed machine gun.

The result is a well-orchestrated mix of character design and setting that seem to feed into one another. It manages to make the tired trope of "man seeks vengeance for slain family" more believable, and the path that vengeance takes is populated with understandable characters and a coherent plot. Even the bad guys get an appreciable level of development. Much of the story is told in a documentary style from the point of view of some of the characters who lived through it, solidifying the storytelling as one of the better examples to be found in recent memory.

When it comes to the other areas where the game does well, Mafia III hits a lot of important points. For a series that has featured the Italian Mob, the deviations are a welcome change. The setting of New Bordeaux and the surrounding bayou provides each district with distinct qualities, and it's easy to be immersed in the time period when you're flying down the street in a Pontiac knock-off while "Bad Moon Rising" plays on the stereo.

The problems come when, for all the great world-building and storytelling, the gameplay falls flat. On the one hand, you have fun driving mechanics (assuming you've turned on "simulation" in the settings), and the gun combat keeps you on your toes. Enemies can lose track of you if you move around, but they will absolutely rush and flank you. On the other hand, the stealth aspects are lukewarm at best.

The game emphasizes maintaining your network of wiretaps. Lying around the world are collectible fuses that can be used to install wiretaps in districts. You'll need to do so in the current district before you have the option to recruit enemy figures into your organization (netting you more money) rather than kill them because video game logic. As such, you'll want to wiretap all districts as you begin to operate in them, unless you want to be forced to kill an enemy that you could otherwise recruit.

This leads to issues with the stealth gameplay because the same wiretaps also let you see all enemy positions on your minimap for the entire district. This not only takes away the tension from the stealthy approach, but it also makes enemies predictable and woefully unintelligent. Throw one of your limitless attention-getting objects (bullet casings), and it will only attract the closest enemy. Any others who heard it will face in the same direction as the sound — even if that direction is a brick wall as his buddy investigates what's on the other side.

Repeat that tactic until all enemies within earshot are dead, and that's 90% of the stealth gameplay. You'd think that perhaps the third or fourth guy would wise up after watching his buddies investigate the same noise and noiselessly disappear. Even though you have the option to pick up and hide bodies, doing so is rarely needed. Enemies can spot Lincoln from a decent distance, but they can't see a dead body until they're within a relatively short distance. There are a few areas where stealth is interesting, but that's usually in the set piece areas, where more care was taken. When lacking that substance, the gameplay becomes painfully basic.

As you progress, you continue to claim districts by wrestling control from their current ownership. This is done by destabilizing the usually seedy economy that the current boss operates, which forces them out into the open, where they can be tracked down and taken out. The objectives that you pursue are varied. In some, you might simply go to a location to wreak havoc, while in another, you might tail an enemy vehicle to get to their drop-off point and steal their cash. This lets you take out the boss, which is often done in a satisfactory, if not purposefully over-the-top, fashion. Want to make a statement? Use a Ferris wheel to hang a guy.

Once you have a district, you can assign it to one of your underbosses, each of whom has a series of upgrades for Lincoln as their earnings increase. It's possible to upset these underbosses by ignoring them when divvying up the territory. You need to set an order in the beginning of who gets what and then stick to it. This means that it'll take longer to get everything unlocked, but it happens eventually, and with the lack of any other factors involved, there's no reason to take any other approach.

It's unfortunate that the Mafia III gameplay isn't anywhere near as compelling as the storytelling. An ingenious mix of setting and characters has been established to generate a believable spin on organized crime, but the game mechanics are nowhere near as impressive in either design or execution. You'll want to see it through to the end, and there are obviously some elements that are entertaining, but the gameplay becomes a tired loop far too early on. It's perhaps one of the biggest disappointments of all that the gameplay fails to complement such believable worldbuilding.

Score: 7.1/10

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