I’ve always had a thing for games set in rich, open world environments, where there’s lots to see and do. Grand Theft Auto is an obvious leader in this category, as are games like Fallout 3 and Skyrim, but those aren’t the only such titles that have hooked me. Other notable releases — like Just Cause 2, Bully, Saints Row: The Third, Saints Row IV and Mafia II — have as well, with the latter being a game that I’ve tried to champion since launch. Why? It’s always felt under-appreciated, and that’s bugged me.
This summer will mark six years since Mafia II hit store shelves, and it’s only fitting that we’ll soon receive a sequel. It’s a follow-up that I cannot wait to get my hands on, and one that is easily at the top of my most anticipated list. Hell, just the idea of Mafia III existing had me excited. Seeing it in action at E3 was the icing on the cake, and helped prove the reasons as to why I’m more excited about this game than almost anything else.
We’ve already talked about how Mafia III had one of the best booths at E3 2016, what with its New Orleans saloon-inspired design, real-life fortune tellers and hired blues band, but now it’s time to focus on the game itself. At least, the theatrical demo that 2K brought to this year’s Expo.
Mafia III is the story of Lincoln Clay, a former orphan and Vietnam War vet who has returned to the city of New Bordeaux and resumed his affiliation with the black mob. Not all is well, though, because Lincoln’s crew ends up being slaughtered by its Italian nemeses and he barely escapes with his life. Thus begins a tale of wanton revenge throughout a world that is designed to look and feel like 1968 New Orleans.
New Bordeaux is a thriving place, where everything you do has an effect on the story. From dealing with rival gang members, to honing in on gun, moonshine and sex trafficking rings, there’s a lot to dive into outside of your main quest line. And, once you become the leader of your own crew, you’ll even be able to form ties with three unique allies, including Cassandra (who leads the local Haitian gang) and Vito, who was marginalized by the Italian mob and seeks payback. These morally troubled souls will act as your underbosses, and can be assigned parts of the city that take over, gifting you with unique bonuses along the way. Be careful, though, because giving too much to one ally may piss the others off and cause them to betray you.
We actually got to see a betrayal during our demo, and it led to a badass engagement. The only sad thing about it is that not everyone will get to experience it, or something similar, as how things play out in Mafia III will depend on each player’s own choices and actions.
Everything we witnessed behind closed doors gave us a good look at, and insight into, the game’s beautiful-looking city and the scum that lays beneath its pretty surface. We saw dramatically different boroughs, including the iconic Bayou, where riverboat gambling is a popular attraction overtop water that makes for a great place to hide bodies. In fact, the main story mission they demoed took place aboard one such vessel, and was jaw-droppingly badass.
This particular quest had Lincoln trying to put a dent into our enemy’s crime operations, by going after a pivotal member of its family who just so happened to be holding a political fundraiser onboard a bayou riverboat. Clay — who’s not afraid to show his face and get his hands dirty — saw that as an opportunity, and made his way onto the boat without being noticed, thanks to some pretty vicious stealth kills. Then, when the timing was right, he unleashed Hell upon his target.
In the midst of a firefight befitting a classic revenge movie, the boat crashed into a nearby structure, sending ferocious explosions throughout its cabin. That didn’t phase our two enemies, though, and made for a wild and memorable confrontation that eventually spilled out into the bayou. All throughout, a cinematic feel persisted, as Lincoln mixed guns-a-blazing gameplay with good use of available cover. And, while I don’t want to say much more out of fear of spoiling a great mission, I must say that its ending was well worth all of the lead-up.
One thing that I also noticed about this game was how rich its soundtrack seemed to be. This one demo, alone, had two fantastic songs in it. The first was “Bad Moon Rising,” and the second was “Mississippi Queen,” which played at a perfectly fitting moment during the aforementioned mission.
Needless to say, Mafia III is a sequel worth getting excited for. It’s full of atmosphere and great details, and looks to be an epic romp through late 60s New Orleans. Now, if only it would come out earlier than October 7th…