Mafia III Review: A big, dumb game that I’m still playing

I got duped, man. I bought into the hype and bit the $60 bullet, buying Mafia III a few days after release.

But I didn’t get Mafia III. I didn’t get another addition into a great series. I got a calorie-free, watered down, piece of over-hyped trash.

I thought it was going to be good. The trailers looked sick, a bloody, racially charged tale of revenge, plus building a criminal empire with allies that could help me or betray me, set in a dynamic and unique open world with untold activities and secrets. The initial reviews were solid, commenters on Mafia’s social media posts were mostly positive. “This game is amazing” everyone seemed to be saying.

I don’t know what game they were playing, but it ain’t Mafia III.

The moment I popped it in, I had a bad feeling. It didn’t look good; cars would appear out of nowhere, controls were clunky, New Bordeaux looked bland and boring. But I stuck with it, riding the hype-wave and playing along, becoming more disappointed by the minute.

Open world? It is, but there isn’t really any reason to explore. There are some collectables and side missions, but they are repetitive and easy to find. Each racket takeover splits into side quests. Kill these guys, steal their truck, weed, money, whatever colored marker– or destroy their crates of weapons, booze, etc. Essentially, it’s the same three missions over and over, the game just tells you it’s something different and colors the objective pink or green. It’s dynamic as fuck.

You can’t customize your character, Lincoln Clay. Developers Hanger 13 released a patch fixing some of the graphics issues, and gave out some costumes, but they are static and unchangeable, and look to be costumes from the upcoming expansions. As far as I know, you can’t customize cars, which was a fan favorite from Mafia II. In fact, all the cool things people like about open world games; freedom, customization, exploration, are absent from Mafia III.

That brings me to my next point, and that is the storyline. It’s decent; it’s not groundbreaking or unique; it’s essentially a revenge tale. It makes good use of setting and shows racism in an unflinching way, but it’s not much more than that. I did like how it made characters morally grey; Lincoln is as much a bad guy as the bad guys he slaughters. Even the main villain, Sal Marcano, is a fairly sympathetic character. Poor dude just wants to open a casino and get out of the gangster business, but Lincoln decides to murder everyone he knows.

Another redeeming factor that’s trumpeted by game reviewers is the soundtrack. It’s decent and fits the time well, but despite claims of over 100 songs on the soundtrack (Gamespot, 2016) it felt like I was listening to the same six or so songs over and over as I drove around.

Speaking of driving, well it’s kind of a nightmare, but it’s a fun nightmare. Cars are big, clunky and dangerous, and they don’t take corners too well. You can do vehicle rams and make cars explode, and there’s a nifty targeting system for shooting engine blocks and tires on enemies. I would’ve liked to see a racing side mode, or taxi cab quests.

If Mafia III would’ve gone by another name and tried to be a linear, third person shooter, kind of in the style of Spec Ops: Line, it might’ve been great. But the Mafia moniker suggests that it brings something more to the table, and it doesn’t. It’s a flat, empty game with a story that’s only slightly redeeming.  And worst of all, it’s boring. I would get an objective marker halfway across the map, and turn the Playstation off because I didn’t feel like driving it. The city isn’t alive or unique. It might be cruel to compare an open world game to Grand Theft Auto V, but at the same time, GTA did set a standard of comparison. Mafia III doesn’t even approach that.

Gameplay wise, it’s okay. Gunfights are satisfying, heads make a squelching noise when you shoot them, and there are a variety of weapons to try out. I think that the goofiness of the cars and shooting things are the main reasons I keep playing this game.

My advice? Rent it, play the story, return it.

*Update 12/21/16
DLC was released, adding some car customization and racing quests. Here you go kiddies, have the rest of your game that you paid $89 dollars for. Oh, no, you can’t have it all now, it might spoil your FUCKING DINNER


–Alex, 12/4/2016

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