The first two Mafia games were steeped in prototypical Sicilain mob culture ripped off from the likes of The Godfather, Casino and GoodFellas. With Mafia III, developer Hangar 13 takes a drastically different path, shifting the setting to a New Orleans-like city in 1968, with a black Vietnam vet as its protagonist. La Cosa Nostra is still pulling the puppet strings, but your task is to gather a loosely-knit band of criminal elements of various racial backgrounds to undermine and overthrow the reigning mob. In the sprawling, culturally rich open world of the game, organized crime is colorblind, and it’s your task to use the upheaval and mayhem of the era to your advantage.
Game: Mafia III
Consoles: Xbox One (reviewed), PS4, PC
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Hangar 13
Release Date: October 7
Fresh back from a tour in ‘Nam, antihero Lincoln Clay is the self-styled would-be king of the fictional New Bordeaux. Blaming Italian mobsters for oppressing his family and stature, he sets off on his own, Scarface style, to scrap his way to the top. You help Lincoln pull off the takedown by infiltrating and ripping away control of various rackets from con artists, thugs and bruisers. You convince many of them to work for you, appointing underbosses to do your dirty work and divide up the spoils, while paying you the tribute you demand. As you get the money flowing, your profile rises, making you the target of law enforcement and rival gangsters, many of whom can be bought off or fought off. You’re locked with rivals in a continuous arms race for territory, weaponry and allies in high and low places.
Well-acted cut scenes help sell the drama, which is crucial for a single-player focused game that demands your attention and care to the ongoing narrative in order to keep you coming back for the next mission. Creative, varied gameplay elements keep things unpredictable, allowing you to flex your muscles in firefights, heists, escort missions, driving and brutally explosive shows of force that rival blowout set pieces from the best mob flicks. As has always been the case with the series, there is more than a touch of influence from its 2K cousin, Grand Theft Auto. While the game can’t quite hang toe-to-toe with Grand Theft Auto V in any aspect, it’s more than an adequate time killer until the next chapter of that famed saga arrives. It’s easy to lose yourself in the rhythms of the mean streets of New Bordeaux.
The most memorable aspect of Mafia III is its obsessive attention to period detail. The clothing, dialogue, cars and especially the soundtrack — filled with 100 songs from the likes of the Beach Boys, the Rolling Stones and James Brown — make the game feel like a time machine voyage to 1968. The open-world feel plays into the sense of time and place, helping you share in the exuberant sense of growing power as Lincoln maneuvers his forces to seize control of the underworld, block by block. You also feel the stress of commanding a criminal empire, with bickering underlings scheming against one another, and you. Every choice you make comes with the lingering sting of second-guessing, with every opportunity taken haunted with one missed.
With its time and setting as its greatest advantage in carving out a place in the open world crime genre, Mafia III is sometimes such a large and dizzying experience that it’s intimidating. You have to commit to the intricacies of mobster middle management to find the feel of what it takes to succeed, and when you try to go too big too soon, outside forces have a way of putting you back in your place with frustrating decisiveness. Nothing is handed to you in New Bordeaux, and it takes every bit of moxie and measured calculation to move up in the world. The need to build up large reserves of cash makes the experience feel a little grind-heavy at times, but the thrill of pulling off a well-executed takedown after putting in the necessary work to build up to that point is a thrill that’s rarely matched in every game. There is no getting rich quick in Mafia III, but its joys come in the satisfaction of building your empire and hiding the bodies with style and a steady, unquenchable force of will.
Mafia III Reviews Around The Web:
“This narrative is framed like a documentary through high-end, convincing cutscenes.” –PC Gamer
“More than just a crime spree.” –IGN
“An open-world crime game meant to feel like stepping into the late ’60s, complete with a ridiculously expansive licensed soundtrack of period-appropriate music.” –Digital Trends
Mafia III Screenshots
The publisher provided a review copy.
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