The Mafia series has always been praised for including interesting, period piece-style, narrative into a (since 2) Grand Theft Auto-lite style game. The series has always had solid writing and characters on top of fun gameplay, despite a few oddities here and there. Mafia III largely obeys this flow, but with a bit more disappointment in the end result than past entries in the series.
Mafia 3 is set in Louisiana in a make-believe city (New Bourdeaux), but showcasing not-so make believe issues. It follows the story of Lincoln Clay, as he arrives back home from fighting with special forces in Vietnam. He is an African American coming back to the United States in a time when race relations were at a historic low. Lincoln was orphaned and taken in by Sammy Robinson, who is seemingly always involved in the protection of his home turf.
Right out of the gate you realize how nice the cutscenes look and how solid the acting is. Lincoln is believable in the (long) intro sequence and the surrounding cast of characters really draws you in to the period and setting. As you play through the fantastic intro, Lincoln participates in a heist to help settle his family’s debts with the Marcano family and as one thing leads to another (trying not to spoil events) Lincoln, by the end of the intro, has one hell of a reason to take out Marcano and his entire family. The ending to the intro sequence got an audible gasp from me, something most games never get. Throughout the game you’ll see the story and writing address adult themes like race, and do it respectably well. This is something games don’t do often, so it is a breath of fresh air to see real-life issues addressed in game content. The story in Mafia 3 is solid and well-acted, and if you’re coming to the game just for that, you’ll love it. The soundtrack is also fantastic.
Unfortunately, Mafia 3 is a game. Meaning the rest of the package also has to live up to the acting and story. The bad news is, it doesn’t. Don’t get me wrong, the game isn’t terrible by any means, but poor graphical quality, repetitive missions, and boring side content once again make you question if everything needs to be an open world game in 2016. Think of what every open world game does, think of the missions and collectibles, then set it in New Orleans. You’ll have Mafia 3.
The gameplay itself is fine. Shooting and movement feel fluid and easy to handle, and driving is arcade-style and fun to get into. There are also options for auto aim (high, low, off) and switching between more arcade-style driving and realistic driving. Playing the game is not hard, it controls well and is fun in the gameplay regards. The issue is the content, a lot of the missions once you get past the 5-6 hour mark become typical, and boring. You work your way through the world in a game like Grand Theft Auto, but the visuals and missions look like a game that came out before GTAV, which in and of itself is a few years old at this point. The one bright spot is an interesting assignment system once you conquer areas of the city that let you put one of your friends in charge, which unlocks items and content for you. If you stop watching that neighborhood they could turn on you and force you to take out your own people. More of that kind of thing would have broken the mold a bit more.
My recommendation for the game is that if you loved Mafia 2, and liked the open world content, you should be satisfied with Mafia 3. If you’re coming in brand new you may be blown away by the story and acting, but you will eventually start to struggle with wanting to see more story versus wanting to grind through more missions. The story missions are decently fun, but it gets very long in the tooth. Overall Mafia 3 really disappointed me because of just how good the characters and story (and music) are, this game could have been something very special, but it ends up being just something to mainline if you want a good story.