It’s 1968, you’re a black man in a time of civil uncertainty and the city you live in is controlled by the mob. You’re a Vietnam veteran, returning home after putting your life on the line, but there’s no heroes welcome on your homecoming. Instead, the Italian Mafia has slain dozens of your peers in a racially motivated massacre, and you feel it is your duty to seek revenge.
This is the world Mafia III sets up for you, and at this year’s gamescom we got a hands off and behind closed doors look at a mission in the upcoming open world action game from 2K and developers Hangar 13.
The section we saw takes place on the outskirts of New Bordeaux, the fictional city the game takes place in. Lincoln, on board a small speedboat negotiates around the swampland and heads towards the docks as a 60s soundtrack blares out from the speakers, a combination of upbeat and toe-tapping Motown changes into a more sombre single string Blues melody as Lincoln scans for more radio stations. It’s crazy how music can evoke emotions, and somehow the soundtrack in Mafia III manages to reflect the diversity of not only the city, but the gameplay itself, somehow echoing what Lincoln is doing.
As already mentioned, Mafia III takes place in a fictional reimagining of New Orleans called New Bordeaux, and once Lincoln departed from his boat and headed into the city, we got a better glimpse at what to expect from a bustling 1960s city. Hangar 13 describe New Bordeaux as “a character of its own” in the game, by which they mean it changes and evolves as you progress through the story; you’ll see different citizens, gangs and businesses opening and closing depending on who has control. Described as “one of the most vibrant cities in the south, you will notice the strong southern values New Bordeaux has” we were told; a party atmosphere in the cities, while out in the swamplands there is a much more laid back mentality as you go from former plantations to huge southern mansions. These are two of what we are told will be 10 districts of the world map, all as diverse and beautifully created as the one before it.
It’s refreshing to see the Mafia franchise stick to it’s roots by remaining in iconic parts of history, basing its story around real people of the time. Sal Marcono for instance, the main antagonist of the game, bears a similar resemblance to Carlos Marcello, who was the leader of the New Orleans crime family in the 1960s; and the mission we saw in action involved Lincoln taking out his accountant, Tony Derazio, a man who uses intimidation and more often than not, murder, to get what he wants.
The cinematic delves into the dodgy dealings Derazio involves himself with, forcing an innocent shopkeeper to hand over protection money (classic mafia) while Derazio’s muscle, Dominick, watches on, before being given a task of his own, one that Lincoln will halt on his way to murder the dodgy accountant. With a gritty scene, we not only got to see the beauty of the facial animations, but also of the writing and acting itself; this isn’t your tongue-in cheek gangster story, this is a terrifying world where saying or doing the wrong thing has serious consequences. All the characters seemed truly fleshed out, with that psychotic twist you’d expect from any heavy hitting gangster, except for one omission. Lincoln was surprisingly absent from any lengthy cinematic, and like any classic videogame character seems to be a dull lump of muscle with a lust for blood, withholding any true emotion . Granted, this mission was isolated from the main story and we may discover he has internal issues following his war return, but it’ll be a shame to see a supporting cast, reflecting the city’s diversity, outshine the protagonist.
Nevertheless, Lincoln proves to be an agile chap who can handle himself. Opting to take the stealth route on our mission to kill Derazio he moves slowly from cover to cover in the underground carpark of his luxury hotel, Lincoln’s approach was accompanied by the sounds of slow jazz, emanating from the guard’s break room. Silenced headshot after silenced headshot creates a pile of cadavers, soon noticed by more cannon fodder, this is when stealth goes out of the window and we get up close and personal. Lincoln brutally disposes of more guards using finishing moves reminiscent of moments from The Last of Us in the sense of sheer violence and shock. Kneecapping one brute to the floor triggers a prompt to give him a shotgun blast to head, scattering brains and blood over the room, another, sees Lincoln crashing heads against walls. It’s all impressively violent and manages to keep the action fresh and different.
It all culminates in a dramatic shootout on the top floor of the beautifully dated hotel. As shots are exchanged from one side of the room to the other, slowly damaging priceless art and highbrow statues, piece by piece. What I was particularly impressed by was the diversity of the physics, grenades don’t just blow the enemies into smithereens, they sent them flying into walls, knocking paintings of centre or through them entirely. It was such a minute detail, but one that can add so much variety to a play through.
When confronted with Derazio, it’s a simple boss battle where the enemy becomes a bullet sponge before succumbing to his injuries. The still tightlipped Lincoln, then kicks Derazio out of the window and walks out, calmly as you like, before the press, gather around the bloodied corpse, 100 floors below reporting on the developing events. This seems like a something that will occur often throughout your Mafia III play through, a way of not only keeping on top of the events in New Bordeaux, but also, on how you approach each mission.
It’s all shaping up to be a refreshing approach to the open world genre, we’re several years away from another GTA and its tongue in cheek social commentary, Watch_Dogs 2 is a hipster look at overcomplicated technology, so if it’s violence, grit and freedom you’re after Mafia III is the perfect fit. Yes Lincoln may be another brute in this endless cycle of mindless killers, but with a supporting cast and rich city to explore, this might be the best Mafia inspired entertainment since The Godfather trilogy.
Mafia III will release on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC on 7th October.