I love a good story. I like epics of revenge, murder, loss and despair; I like to immerse myself in rags-to-riches tales where the downtrodden rise from the ashes. And here is where we hit a slight snag for you see, as much as I like a thrilling narrative, I don’t enjoy having to go through a long and tedious slog to see how it all pans out. This is Mafia III’s problem; it’s a riveting account of how one man pulled the dying dregs of several gangs together to take out the top dog but the only way to find out how it happens is by crouching, whistling, stabbing, repeat or alternatively, shoot, get shot, repeat.
The first few hours of gameplay are sublime. From the second you see Lincoln Clay waiting for his pal Ellis to pick him up to the moment Lincoln walks out of Father James’ church to seek retribution, you dive into a wonderful mix of driving, fighting, stalking and shooting interspersed between beautiful cut scenes where you feel the true range of emotions from the characters. You care about the problems that father figure Sammy is facing, you side with Ellis wanting to put an end to the threats from other mobs and the more you play as Lincoln, the more you want everything to be okay because you can tell that the others care about you just as much as you care about them. Watching what happens to your family hurts more than you would expect all thanks to the exceptional way the first couple of hours play out.
Then we start the game for real and it hits you like a combat knife to the face how repetitive Mafia III is. This isn’t a problem as you take down your first district because the beginning of the game was full of action, chases, sneakiness and those fantastic cut scenes. It’s almost a relief to know you’re now slowly building your empire up instead of watching your world come crashing down. But then you take down the next district and then the next and you really start to wonder if it’s worthwhile.
I’m a huge fan of driving games and love cruising around open world maps checking out the scenery, listening to the soundtrack and occasionally crashing into everything because traffic lights and stop signs aren’t my cup of tea. Mafia III takes it too far though with a hefty chunk of the game being drive from point A to point B and then back to point A so an NPC can give you one line of dialogue to end the mission. Seriously, I know the streets of New Bordeaux better than I know the streets of my own hometown because of how much blasted driving there is to do; deliver this there, find that guy here, come back and tell me when you’re done. I know these guys have phones in their offices so why can’t I give my associates Burke and Scaletta a quick ring instead?
When we get to our destination, the guard layout is pretty much the same no matter if you’re breaking into a boathouse or a brothel hidden at the back of a flower shop. There will be one guy standing at a gate that you kill by whistling and stabbing followed by two guys talking, specifically about keeping their eyes open in case the nasty black man is knocking about, guess what, I’m right behind you with a knife and a merry tune on my lips. The rest of the place is half filled with guards milling about aimlessly, all easily killed even if you do alert them to your presence by accidentally pressing the shoot button (I’m guilty of doing this a lot because I obviously have an itchy trigger finger). The biggest disappointment for me came in the form of these guards as they were all the exact same.There should have been some variation in their skills; some should have been all about stick and move, others could have been wearing tac-vests so they could take more shots and I feel as though Lincoln is the only man in the game with access to a knife. Imagine if some guards could sneak up and hold a knife to your throat like you could to them or if others called for backup when they heard whistling.
The saving grace for Mafia III comes in the form of its ability to tell a hell of a story. You crave for the next cut scene, wanting to know what Lincoln and Donovan have up their sleeves and how main antagonist Sal Marcano is reacting to the struggle of losing territory and having his plans constantly ruined. The cutscenes with Father James are without a doubt some of the most poignant moments in video game history. His sorrow and grief over his involvement or lack of involvement in Lincoln’s plans cut him deeply to the point where you almost forget that the Father is a fictional character and you simply long for someone to tell him what Lincoln did in New Bordeaux is purely on Lincoln.
I don’t want to say that Mafia III is a bad game because it’s not. While it is repetitive, the driving and fighting mechanics are enjoyable as long as you remember to take a decent sized break every few missions. Ultimately, this is a game for those who care more about the story than anything else but at the current cost of Mafia III (I purchased it for £42) you’re probably best off having a look elsewhere.
Mafia III (Reviewed on PlayStation 4)
Game is enjoyable, outweighing the issues there may be.
While it is repetitive, the driving and fighting mechanics are enjoyable as long as you remember to take a decent sized break every few missions. Ultimately, this is a game for those who care more about the story than anything else.