If you were to ask me to name some of the most underrated games from the last generation of consoles, Mafia II would be at, or near, the top of my list. As soon as I put the disc into my console and pressed start, I fell in love with it, and couldn’t get enough, even after all of its downloadable content had been released. It truly was a fun, immersive, interesting and wholly unappreciated game – at least, in my eyes.
Although it wasn’t always set in stone, a sequel to that very game was just released, and it’s got a lot of people talking on the Internet’s many gaming-related forums. Unfortunately for Mafia III, and its developers at Hangar 13 and 2K Czech, most of this talk is full of negativity, due to the game’s many issues. That’s a shame, because given how good the last game was, there’s no way that its follow-up should have ended up being this bland.
Mafia III is the story of one Lincoln Clay, an African-American twenty-something who’s just returned after serving his country in Vietnam. Ready to try to get back into the swing of things, he rejoins his adopted family, who took him in when nobody else would, and discovers that all is not well. In fact, a Haitian gang is looming over his father Sammy, who’s at risk of losing his bar – and perhaps his life – because of a large debt.
Being headstrong, family-oriented and without fear, Lincoln takes it upon himself to settle things with the player’s help, before getting himself involved in a large-scale heist that the local Italian mob is organizing. As luck would have it, though, the shit hits the fan both during and after, and the resulting backstabs take the lives of our protagonist’s family, and almost steal his as well. It’s only out of sheer luck that young Lincoln survives, and he only does so with the help of close friends who nurse him back to life in the back of an old church. All of that laying down marks the only rest he’ll get for quite some time, however, as once he rises, there’s only one thing on his mind: revenge.
Every moment of this blood-filled revenge story takes place in a fictional city called New Bordeaux, which borrows lots of inspiration from real-life New Orleans, including its love of music, glowing neon lights and alligator infested bayou. The year, though, is not 2016. Instead, everything is set back in 1968, during an era where racism and racially-motivated killings were at an unnecessary high.
As you walk or drive through the streets of New Bordeaux, you’ll often be reminded of the above, whether it’s through someone calling you the n-word, radio news stories about black men being killed for no reason at all, or racist shopkeepers who are quick to tell you that their stores are “white only.” This racism isn’t limited to the general public either, as main characters also express their vile, prejudiced ideas on a regular basis. As shocking as it can be, it’s fitting given the era that Mafia III depicts, and that’s something that the developers made sure to point out in their pre-game message.
Instead of going for the snake’s head from the get-go (because what fun would that be?), Lincoln decides to do exactly what was done to him, by taking out important Italian mobsters one-by-one. His kill list begins with racket bosses then progresses to underbosses, before it moves on to the heavy hitters, including boss Sal Marcano and his family members. It all makes sense, and sets up an interesting tale, albeit one that is unfortunately marred by incredibly repetitive mission structure and yawn-worthy progression systems.
So, what exactly do you do in this game?
Well, the general idea is that you want to take over and install yourself as the leader of each of New Bordeaux’s unique regions and the rackets that they all house. This means going to said area and looking for similar objectives that will allow you to cause trouble and stir the pot. Causing enough chaos – which is portrayed through a monetary counter that goes down with each major kill, contraband explosion or financial theft you perform – then leads to that racket’s leader coming out of hiding and readying himself for an encounter with Lincoln, himself. Then, once you kill said leader, you own his crime ring and can assign it to any associate you deem worthy.
If you’ve been watching the many trailers that have been released for this game, then you likely know about Lincoln’s three underbosses. If not, allow me to introduce them.
First, there’s Cassandra, a young, afro-bearing Haitian woman who Lincoln first meets before his betrayal. Originally depicted as a captive of the Haitian boss’, she turns out to be much more, and becomes your first lieutenant. However, while she’s vocal, she’s no match for the filthy loudmouth that is Thomas Burke – a drunken Irishman who lost his son in the same unfortunate event that took the lives of Lincoln’s most beloved.
Last, but certainly not least, is Vito Scaletta, who just so happened to be the main character in Mafia II. He’s older now, of course, and has run afoul of the Italian mob he once served, so he’s more than willing to aid your cause so long as there’s also something in it for him at the end of the day. Vito is also the most levelheaded of the group, which should make him the favourite of many.
Every time you take over a racket, be it car theft, prostitution, illegal weapons trading or garbage, you get to pick which one of these allied criminals gets to run it for you. Then, once an entire region has become yours, you have a sit down with the trio, wherein you assign one of them the whole territory. This, as you can imagine, becomes a strategic game in and of itself, because these strong personalities don’t take well to being slighted, and each one of them is filled to the brim with both greed and ego.
Now I know why 2K decided to hold review copies of Mafia III until launch. The game - which could've and should've been great, given the quality of those before it - is a buggy, repetitive and downright boring mess. It saddens me to say it, but it's true.
Mafia III Review