The long awaited third entry into the famed Mafia series will finally be upon us this October, bringing with it a new time period, a new map, new characters and a truly open world. With all new developers and a budget that the previous games didn’t have, Mafia III has truly achieved AAA status. The footage that has been released so far and the impressions of it from several people have really shown that Mafia III has a true shot to be the open-world blockbuster of 2016.
One of the most important parts of any Mafia game is the area that the game takes place in and the characters that inhabit the world. This entry is the most interesting of all, taking place in the 1960’s and starring Lincoln Clay, a bi-racial Vietnam veteran. Lincoln himself is a very interesting character with believable motives and skills and the twist that the game has you against the Mafia rather than with them makes this entry stand out from the rest in a big way. Lincoln’s plight is made even more interesting considering the racial problems that plagued America in the 1960’s and how it actually affects him throughout the game, in both story and gameplay. Lincoln doesn’t angrily shout at every passer by, he simply takes the abuse; a horrible but true perception of what happened back then. The other characters in the game are just as interesting, with each of the underbosses having their own backgrounds and motives, as well as their own ties to Lincoln himself. Obviously the stand out character is the returning Vito Scaletta, the main character of Mafia II. His presence makes the game that much more interesting and might serve to finally tell us what happened to Joe. The characters and story already have their hooks in and we don’t even know what’s to come.
The real star of the show is, of course, New Bordeaux. The world that Lincoln inhabits is varied, interesting and, despite the grim time period, colourful. New Bordeaux looks to be huge, containing plenty of districts and landmarks. The world also ties into the gameplay in a big way as each different district needs to be captured for Lincoln to be able to take down Sal Marcano and the Mafia. New Bordeaux is also home to some of the most accurate racists in gaming; the Southern Union. An obvious parallel to the KKK, this group of racists are a constant threat to Lincoln and several ingame objectives involve taking them down. Little details like this and the speed limit returning from older games go a long way to making the game world seem alive and vibrant- if a little dangerous.
As you would expect with a new entry into an established series, Mafia III brings several important gameplay tweaks that allow it to play better than the previous titles. The gun play (an integral part of every Mafia game) looks like it has been tightened to be more responsive and deadly, with each gun in the game packing more weight than before and sending enemies flying. Considering how much you will be using guns in the game, it is especially important that this part of the game has been improved. Another big part of the game has been improved significantly- stealth. Lincoln can sneak around like the Grim Reaper, being able to take down an entire group of enemies without being seen with no trouble. This type of gameplay wasn’t supported in previous games in the series, perhaps because of the linear nature of the games. This isn’t an issue anymore either as Mafia III finally takes the series into proper open-world territory, rather than just set dressing. The open world of Mafia III is an integral part of the experience, almost being the most important feature to the game. The several activities that need to be accomplished in the open world are also important for progressing the story, connecting the narrative and the gameplay in a way that Mafia I and Mafia II could never really nail.
With 2K at the publishing helm, high production values are to be expected. The sound and graphics both go to show this. Running on current generation hardware, the graphics of Mafia III are amazing. The detail on characters and the sprawling vistas of New Bordeaux all pop, making the worst time period in America one of the prettiest. To complement this, the sound design is just as stellar. Some of the guns that Lincoln uses actually sound like the real deal, with the shotgun in particular making an impact- literally. One of the highlights of the sound design is the soundtrack, containing classics from the time period and really immersing the player in a world that seems truly realised. These two factors combined make Mafia III one of the most technically impressive games so far in the year.
All of these reasons combined cannot even begin to scratch the surface of the potential that Mafia III has. The gameplay has been improved to be better than it ever has been, the world is bigger and more detailed than ever before, the story more engaging and the graphics more beautiful. No other open-world game this generation has combined all of these elements as successfully as Mafia III looks set to do. I’ve not been as excited for a AAA open-world game in some time but I’m glad to be reintroduced into it in such a fascinating way.