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Family is important. Family is the driving force that pushes people forward and encourages them to succeed. It’s the glue that holds some together, the heart and soul to many. Whether it’s your parents, foster home, friends, pack of wolves, everyone has a family. For Mafia III’s protagonist Lincoln Clay, family is everything.
A classic story of revenge unravels in the form of a documentary, as the various characters of Mafia III recount the story of Lincoln Clay. The game takes place in 1968 in New Bordeaux (a fictional recreation of New Orleans) shortly after Lincoln Clay returns home from the Vietnam War. Not too long after his arrival, Clay starts helping out with the mafia family business. Ultimately, Clay’s surrogate family is killed by the Italian Mob, leading to Clay’s need for revenge and power. Simple concept, but its setting, characters, and racial theming makes the experience feel unique.
New Bordeaux is filled with beautiful architecture and nature. From the lovely Mardi Gras parades to the gator filled bayous, the setting screams with diversity and visual splendor. Shadowy slums and bright affluent areas gives players a good depiction of America during the fallout of the Vietnam War. One of the most important parts of an open-world game is making a world feel alive to the player and Mafia III nails it.
Not only are the environments beautifully crafted, the characters are just as stunning. The character design, facial animations, lighting, and textures are on another level. Players can see realistic character complexions making each individual come to life unlike anything seen in a game before. Whenever a cutscene would play, I felt impressed on how well each character looked and how they were animated. The visuals and script will make players forget they’re playing a video game.
All of this is accompanied by a fantastic soundtrack that does a good job at capturing the time and place.
Players will drive around New Bordeaux getting missions from various characters, reap their rewards, find collectibles, and get sidetracked here and there. Each mission both, story and side, all take place on unique and well-designed areas. Players will find themselves infiltrating an abandoned amusement park one mission and find themselves sneaking into a drug ring in the bayou, providing memorable.
Driving is always a big part of an open-world game and Mafia III is no exception. Driving feels smooth and sturdy, giving players a good sense of control over their vehicle. There are plenty of cars to choose from so everyone will find a car they’re comfortable with.
When players aren’t driving, they’re participating in missions for their mafia associates. While the scenes and areas all feel unique and fresh, the variety in missions didn’t receive the same treatment. Outside of the major cinematic story missions, the smaller objectives aren’t nearly as exciting.
Clay’s takeover of the city involves repeating the same series of tasks such as murdering bosses, interrogations (with the option of having them work for you or killing them), blowing up cargo, or stealing items. This is where Mafia III enters the realm of repetition. First time doing each activity is solid. The 5th or 6th time, not so much. These activities aren’t bad, but after players do it so often in such quick successions, it gets dull. Especially in a game about being a member of the mafia. It’s disappointing to see when Mafia III has the potential to do so much with the concept.
Though the mission structure is repetitive, it isn’t without its rewards. Capturing new turf allows for added benefits such as an on-call arms dealer and a car delivery service. All blend well into gameplay especially after you launched your nice muscle car into the nearest river.
Mafia III’s major issue is its combat system. Yes, gameplay in Mafia III is fun, but it isn’t without its flaws, which can be a struggle at times. The cover system works at times, but as too many issues to stay reliable, leading to many frustrating deaths. Hopping between nearby walls only works if the player looks directly at where they want to, meaning if there is a wall directly next to you, you have to turn the camera until the arrow says “ok you can pass”. This is frustrating when there are games available now that just makes this simple task so much easier.
Another small issue players will encounter is the lack of hit detection. What does that mean? Basically, if players fire volleys of bullets towards an enemy, there is no indication saying that you’re actually hitting the enemy or doing damage. I often found myself firing my pistol towards someone not being aware if my shots are making contact or not. After a while, I decided using the stealth approach by whistling and quietly offing enemies worked much easier.
Other minor issues include bad A.I. and random spawning enemies. Enemies will just start walking up to your position mindlessly firing bullets. I also often found myself blinking at times where a group of two enemies became four, not because of reinforcements arriving, oh no, but just new enemies hopping out of cover. These minor issues just makes the experience feel less immersive.
Bottom line, Mafia III was a solid experience that I thoroughly enjoyed. Though it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, the story and visuals carry Mafia III, even though gameplay doesn’t. It has it’s issues, but that shouldn’t shy players away from giving it a shot.