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The original Mafia and its remake showed us what life as a gangster was like in the 1930s. Mafia II showed us what the life was like in the 1940s and 1950s. These games are simply doors to a criminal fantasy but for the protagonists, that fantasy is a life full of fear, bloodshed and often betrayal. The next game in the series shows us what it’s like to be a gangster in the 1960s. Developed by Hangar 13 and published by 2K Games, Mafia III was released for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One in October, 2016. A version containing all of the DLC titled Mafia III: Definitive Edition was released for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC in May, 2020.
Set in late 1960’s Louisiana, in the fictional city of New Bordeaux, the player is put in the shoes of Lincoln Clay, a Vietnam veteran who returns home and reunites with his surrogate father and Black Mob leader. Lincoln intends to leave for California but stays to help his father cover his debt to mob boss Sal Marcano. After Lincoln and his friends rob the Federal Reserve, Sal arrives to collect his cut and then him and his crew proceed to kill Lincoln’s family and friends. Lincoln is shot in the head but manages to survive and when he recovers, he seeks revenge against Marcano. Mafia III is a little different than its predecessors. Rather than showing players what it’s like to be a recruit and/or soldier in a Mafia family, it shows players what it’s like to essentially run their own criminal organization. Lincoln plans to get to Sal by taking over his rackets and eliminating his underbosses.
I really enjoyed the story and the way it was presented. The voice performances are phenomenal and the plot is conveyed through both interactions and cut scenes including documentary-style cut scenes detailing how Lincoln became one of the biggest crime bosses in New Bordeaux. The story does touch on multiple subjects including loyalty, betrayal and racism which is extremely rampant. The DLC storylines aren’t as gripping as the main story but they are somewhat interesting. Lincoln will assist civil rights activists, chase down a former CIA agent who stole a nuclear bomb, and engage an insane religious cult.
Unlike the previous games, Mafia III does a lot with the world. New Bordeaux serves more of a purpose than being a backdrop with little to do. Mafia III includes what I’ll call a racket system. You’ll have to take over rackets, assign them to your underbosses, and even assign districts. Mafia III is also your typical open world third-person shooter. Lincoln can walk, run, swim, sneak, snap to cover, perform melee attacks and takedowns. You can engage enemies quietly or go in all guns blazing. Sneaking around grants you the opportunity to perform the awesome takedowns. Lincoln will shove a knife into his enemies and brutal takedowns often result in bullets to the head or Lincoln stabbing the guy in the face. They’re quite satisfying to pull off. The, shooting, on the other hand, is your typical cover-based gunplay. I do like the blood puffs that appear when enemies are shot and when Lincoln takes damage, you can see blood on his body which is a nice detail. You do have health bars that can regenerate over time and can be fully replenished from Adrenaline Shots that can be found in Medicine Cabinets throughout the world. You can also find Tac-Vests and equip them for more protection.
Mafia III is game that lets you and/or the protagonist perform special functions or abilities, all of which can be helpful. During gameplay, you can activate Intel View which allows you to track enemies you’ve already seen and reveals nearby weapon lockers, medicine cabinets, and objects. You can also enter slow-mo shooting and slow-mo driving once their meters are full. Slow-mo driving in particular will allow you to perform maneuvers that would not be possible when driving normally and can be a big help when you’re trying to evade pursuers. One feature I like is that you can fire your weapons while driving and the game will let you cycle through targets at the press of a button.
One of my complaints with the previous games was the lack of Mafia-related side content. I can let it go in the original Mafia but I felt the lack of side content in the Definitive Edition and Mafia II was a big problem. Mafia III does not really have this problem. As the saying goes – be careful what you wish for. Well I wished for more side content and I got it. Not only did I get it but it’s exactly what I wanted in a game focused on organized crime. The racket system is one of Mafia III’s biggest highlights and it’s excellent. It’s also the game’s biggest problem.
First, let’s look at the positives. Taking over a racket means infiltrating areas, destroying things, and eliminating enemies. It can be a very action-packed process. Once you’ve done enough damage to a racket, you eliminate or recruit the racket boss and assign it to one of your underbosses. As a result, your organization earns more money and you unlock favors which means upgrades and services. Different underbosses offer different favors. More rackets means your underbosses earn more money which means they kick up more money to you. Once you’ve taken over all the rackets in a district, you can go after the lieutenant and then assign the district to one of your underbosses. Your underbosses do provide you with different associates which more-or-less make things more convenient. You can have vehicles, weapons, equipment and supplies delivered to your location, you can request a hit squad come to assist you in battle, and you can even have the police called off if they’re after you. Calling on an associate will require a Marker or enough cash. Markers are earned by assigning rackets and let you request services for free otherwise you have to spend money. Underbosses come with their own side missions and completing them is a great way to earn cash, increase their income from rackets and improve their loyalty. It should be noted that an underboss’ kickback is affected by their loyalty.
The racket system is awesome and it can become addictive, mainly because the more rackets you take over, the more stuff you unlock. But it does have its problems so now let’s look at the negatives. You have to take over rackets to advance the story which really exposes the biggest problem with the racket system – it’s repetitive. I wouldn’t mind it so much if you weren’t forced to take over rackets but you are. It doesn’t matter if you have to interrogate someone, eliminate an enforcer, rob a location, or destroy things – it all ends up feeling the same. To complete these, I would typically end up killing a lot of baddies on the way to my objectives. Almost every single time. You can sneak around and take out enemies silently or go in all guns blazing. Those are your options. I found sneaking around to be the easiest way to reach/complete my objectives but it’s also the most time consuming method. Lincoln can whistle to lure enemies to him, making it easy to isolate foes and take them out. Plus, enemy patrol patterns are easy to identify and even if you don’t lure them, most enemies end up isolating themselves. Shooting your way to your objectives can be quicker but also more challenging because you’re always outnumbered and if you’re not behind cover, enemies can take you out pretty quickly. You do have to be mindful of Sentries because they can call for reinforcements. Once you’re spotted, all enemies in the area are alerted to your presence. They’ll run around and shoot at you, take cover, and lob grenades and molotovs to flush you out.
The whole racket system, while repetitive, is somewhat involved. To take over a racket, you have to hurt its ability to make money. Each racket comes with it’s own objectives. They appear on the map and you’re free to complete whichever ones you want, in any order you want, and however you want and you don’t have to complete all of them. Just enough to lure out the racket boss. Sometimes it’s best to complete specific objectives like eliminating enforcers for example because doing so will make getting to the boss easier. If you leave any enforcers alive, they will be waiting with the boss. Once the racket boss is eliminated or recruited, the racket is yours. Yes, you can recruit bosses, and even informants, which results in more income. At a certain point, you’ll have to start watching out for Marcano’s retaliation squads. They will randomly arrive to take you out.
Another gripe I have with the racket system is that Lincoln doesn’t really get involved with most of the rackets. He just does most of the work to take them over and collects his cut of the profits. It’s a little disappointing because it would have given you more things to do. Possibly more varied things to do. Another problem I have is with the Wiretapping. Throughout the world are Junction Boxes and you need fuses to wiretap them. Wiretapping a Junction Box will mark targets of opportunity and collectibles on your map. It also lets you see enemies through walls in Intel View and recruit racket bosses and because of that, naturally I wanted to wiretap all the areas which meant I needed fuses and collecting the fuses is just tedious. They’re scattered all over the city.
Unfortunately, there’s nothing exceptional about the gameplay. It’s not terrible but it’s not breaking any new ground, either. Other than the racket system, there’s nothing here we haven’t seen before in terms of combat, stealth, and driving. On the plus side, missions are usually action-packed and unlike the previous games, the action picks up quickly and remains consistent throughout the entire experience. It’s not often you have to complete mundane tasks. Overall, I like the action-oriented gameplay and even enjoyed taking over the rackets despite the repetition. But I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a problem mainly because it makes up most of gameplay in the main story. If it was simply optional side content, I feel it would be less of an issue. Many story missions center on killing Marcano’s lieutenants and just like any racket objective, you can often sneak or shoot your way through areas. However, these missions are usually more involved and include multiple objectives and as a result, are more interesting than anything having to do with reducing a racket’s ability to earn money. The DLC story missions also boil down to a lot of stealth and/or shooting but they will take you to some new locations and like the main story missions, they, too, are layered to keep things interesting.
The Mafia games have always been known for their realistic aspects and Mafia III is no exception. For one thing, Lincoln can’t just walk into any place of business and expect to be treated nicely or with respect. Many people are racist and will harass or attack Lincoln because he’s black. Civilians that witness Lincoln commit a crime will run to phone the police. You can take them out or call the Switchboard Operator to disable the phones. Police will take longer to respond to crimes in poor, black, and underpopulated neighborhoods. When you die, a good chunk of cash is removed from your wallet as a penalty. You can stash your money at a safehouse and once unlocked, you can call the Consigliere to come collect it from you.
New Bordeaux is a well designed city. You’re free to go anywhere you want and do whatever you want. You can drive a ton of different vehicles, pilot boats, and enter numerous buildings. Each district is distinct and includes different types of people. There’s a lot to do and the DLC added more content like weapons, vehicles, and features. Outside of rackets and story missions, you can earn additional cash by rounding up bail jumpers, participating in races, and grow and sell weed. Collectibles are scattered throughout the world and include album covers, commie posters and different types of magazines, including Playboy. Got to love that vintage porn. Lincoln will get his hands on numerous weapons and equipment and once unlocked, he can call for sniper support which is really cool. He can steal almost any vehicle he comes across and pick up and use any weapon found in the world. When you call the Arms Dealer, he arrives in a van and sells weapons, ammo, and different types of upgrades including character and vehicle upgrades. You can improve weapon accuracy and stability and increase ammo capacity. You can purchase vehicle upgrades to improve their performance which is most beneficial for races. Lincoln has his own fleet of vehicles and these vehicles are unlocked by progressing through the story as are outfits. You can change your clothes at safehouses and take your vehicles to Big Rick’s Custom Auto shops to be customized and more customization options are unlocked by winning races and meeting certain requirements.
Mafia III is beautiful game featuring detailed character models and phenomenal facial animations. The models of the main characters are much more detailed than anyone you interact with out in the world. The world itself is beautifully crafted and atmospheric. From the lighting to the texture work, everything looks gorgeous. Blood will fly through the air and splatter during firefights which does help make the gunplay feel satisfying. I did notice some pop-in, the animations of characters interacting during gameplay appeared stiff, and some visual eyesores during cut scenes like flickering and noticeable texture loading. Vehicle engines roar and tires screech as you drive around the world. Weapons fire sounds good and enemies will shout to each other during combat and scream, grunt, and groan when they get shot. Mafia III has an incredible licensed soundtrack featuring music from the time period. Music not only plays on the in-game radio stations but also during certain cut scenes and gameplay sequences. You’ll get to listen to songs by Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, Cream, The Temptations, James Brown, Steppenwolf, and so many more. Unfortunately, there’s no Doors tunes. Nothing from The Beatles or The Who, either.
On the technical side, the game ran pretty smooth throughout my entire experience. I noticed the frame rate dip on a few occasions but it wasn’t often. I do want to point out a couple of issues I encountered. At one point, I was unable to interact with a character to complete an objective. To resolve it, I had to exit the game and re-launch it. I did play through the game with an Xbox Series X controller and on the default settings, the sensitivity of the right stick, which allows you to aim and look around, was extremely sensitive. You would think lowering the stick sensitivity in-game would resolve that problem but, no. For some reason, it was tied to the mouse sensitivity.
I do think Mafia III is the best game in the series up to this point despite its problems. And it’s because the game not only tells a good story but also gives you a world with plenty to do. This is the first Mafia game that offers more than just a good narrative. It attempts to give you the whole organized crime package. Unfortunately, the way the game is designed, the gameplay quickly becomes repetitive, but the racket system is one of the coolest things I’ve seen in this genre. This is the kind of side content I’ve been waiting for. As it stands right now, it’s repetitive and I can think of a bunch of ways to improve it or flesh it out even further but this is a good start. Many of the complaints about Mafia III are certainly valid and while the gameplay isn’t anything above and beyond, it’s not awful and is currently the best in the series. At least as far as I’m concerned. As a third-person-shooter there’s no real surprises here but the gunplay is and takedowns are satisfying, and the racket system can be addictive. Repetitive but addictive and that’s because of the unlock/upgrade system. The more rackets you take over, the more stuff you unlock and there’s an addictive quality to that.
I would recommend Mafia III: Definitive Edition to fans of the previous games and to those that enjoy the genre. But I would suggest waiting for a sale. It has problems but I found the core gameplay to be enjoyable and if you can get a copy for around twenty bucks or less, that’s not a bad deal for what you’re getting. A great story, good gameplay, beautiful world, and a fun but repetitive racket system. Definitely check out Mafia III.