Mafia II is a game met with much criticism upon its release in 2010 for a world without much life. While I agree with the criticism, I still enjoyed the game and very much looked forward to the sequel when it was announced. Now having played Mafia III a couple of years after release, I found a game with new life, but falling to the troupes of modern open world games.
Mafia III, developed by Hangar 13, follows protagonist Lincoln Clay upon his return to New Bordeaux after fighting in Vietnam as a CIA special asset. Lincoln returns to a life of crime, but is soon double crossed by his partner and left for dead. This begins the rather straight forward revenge story that carries through the rest of the game. Lincoln must track down the mob boss who wanted him dead, taking out his lieutenants and taking on his rackets along the journey.
Lincoln and his plight are immediately engaging. After the scenes of his near demise, the participation in his subsequent revenge is compelling. I wanted to help Lincoln get his life back and take down those who tried to off him. Setting out into the city of New Bordeaux, the mission mechanic is quickly introduced. Within a region, missions must be accomplished that cause damage to the assets of the local boss, which then draws out the boss for a fight. After a few local bosses, the lieutenant presents him/herself and another fight ensues. Rinse and repeat through the full game, some ten districts and four lieutenants. This presents the game’s biggest failing, repetitive mission structure. Each mission takes place in new and varied locations, but each has the same flow. Approach the location, sneak or shoot your way in, steal things, blow up assets, and interrogate mob members. After a couple of districts, I was done with the repetition. I tried altering how I was playing the game, going in guns blazing rather than stealth killing my way through missions, but that only carried me through a couple more districts. Eventually I had to put the game aside for a few weeks before picking it back up to finish.
There are two drivers that made me continue with the game through the missions. The first is the story, wanting to see it through to the end, to see what Lincoln does with his own new mob and how the old mob boss gets his. The second is the city. New Bordeaux, a faux New Orleans, is a fantastically diverse and fun to explore landscape. Each district has its own personality and people. Driving into a new district opened up a whole new experience and made the game feel fresh. The city was also accentuated by the radio music, familiar songs from the era that made driving around even more enjoyable.
Overall, Mafia III is barely an average game. Story, gameplay, and setting are well presented, but the slog of mission structure lowers it to below the bar. It’s hard to recommend the game in full unless you are a big fan of the Mafia franchise. Otherwise, if you find the game in your library for some reason, it might be worth a drive around just to see what the developers were able to do with the open world.