When news of a Mafia Trilogy collection leaked earlier this month it was a surprising announcement. Despite a decent critical reception, an aggregate 62 Metacritic score on PC with similar scores on the two consoles, Mafia III reportedly did not meet 2K Games’ expectations and rumours were rife that developer Hangar 13 could be shut down. Instead, Hangar 13 were tasked with not only creating DLC for the third game, but with also remastering Mafia II and completely remaking Mafia in the Mafia III engine. Since Mafia III is a game that is only three and a half years old, this release is less a remaster and more a rerelease of the base game and the three story DLC packs.
Lincoln Clay – A Protagonist for the Time
Let us get this out the way, the entire narrative is structured around the overt and covert racism that existed in the American South in the 1960s. Whether by design or accident the game hit at just the time when the spectre of this division in American society was rearing its head once again in 2016. While the game is a clichéd revenge story, Lincoln watches as he is betrayed and his adopted family is murdered, the circumstances he finds himself in generally is an immersive recreation of the attitudes, policies and language of that era and place.
Stores you can visit will have “No Coloureds Allowed” signs in the windows and if you walk into them you will be met with hostility and eventually calls to the police. The police themselves will automatically suspect you of wrongdoing on sight and NPCs on the street will react to your presence with white women moving out of your way and holding their handbags closer to them when they see you.
Included in the above atmosphere is the language used. Fair warning you will hear liberal use of racial epithets throughout the game most notably the N-word, but the casual use of racial slurs aimed at Hispanics and Italians is thrown around by various characters. It can be jarring, but it is no worse than you would hear in a Tarantino film and this is a game set in what is a thinly disguised New Orleans in the late 1960s.
However, the scene setting does not stop at the obvious use of language and well-known attitudes of Southern America. Your CIA ally from Vietnam, Donovan is a true-blue patriot with an almost irrational hatred of communism and the Haitian gang members are given more depth in conversations about fleeing the notorious Haitian Secret Police called the Tonton Macoute created by the notorious dictator Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier. These narratives make these NPCs more than just mission givers, but rounded characters with a motivation for their roles.
The story and the setting are by far the strongest aspect of the game, giving you a protagonist and NPCs that have more personality and are more interesting than is typical in a game. Even the other white characters you interact tend to be more than stereotypical. Vito Scalleta from Mafia II is a man pushed aside and into a role he does not like by The Commission. Thomas Burke is your stereotypical Irish gangster, a foul-mouthed drunkard, but his relationship with his daughter Nicki and the reason for their strained relationship is more complex than what you think.
Overall, the backstory and atmosphere elevate what could be a simple revenge story pushing you to continue playing.
Hey Good Looking
A good story does not necessarily require the most realistic and fanciest of graphics, look at the explosion of 8-bit art style games over the past few years. However, in a game like this immersion is important and part of that immersion is based on the graphical fidelity. The main character models, particularly in cutscenes, are some of the best I’ve seen in recent years. You can see the acne scars and bumps on Lincoln’s face and the models range of emotion is impressive when the script calls for it. The character models and details are reduced in fidelity during gameplay, but generally for the enemies and NPCs that you encounter and not for Lincoln. At times the models look flat and mannequin like which of course breaks immersion. It is understandable given the power requirements for an open world game.
The world detail though is impressive. Each distinct district looks lived in and used even when you are on the opposite side of the map. Downtown New Bordeaux is impressively first world and modern, while the Hollow and various informal bayou settlements are suitably old and rundown. The game will reuse building designs and maps, but never so egregiously as to be annoying or give the impression of the developers being cheap or rushed.
For all the attention paid to the graphical fidelity the world itself feels empty at times, particularly when driving. The streets are not devoid of life, it is just that there is a uniformity in foot and vehicle traffic so you know that if you are going to steal a car there will be three NPCs on the street one of whom will call the cops. Or that there will be cars on the road to ensure that you must manoeuvre around, but not enough to bring you to a screeching halt when coming to intersections for fear of piling into cross traffic.
Sounds of the ‘60s
As with any 20th century set open world game, Mafia III boasts a soundtrack that will have you, initially bobbing your head to, but that becomes repetitive. The radio stations give you a decent selection of ‘60s rock, Motown and some older swing music and these songs make the long drives between waypoints much more pleasant. Where Mafia III improves on GTA’s radio stations is with their use of news broadcasts and talking head moments. While GTA V and the Watch_Dogs games use this mechanic, they remain fairly static. Mafia III, while repeating the soundbites, does advance the narrative as you progress., One that particularly stood out was the shooting of two men and the subsequent trial and the politics around that event.
General sound design itself is good, but not exceptional. Cars tend to sound similar in that performance vehicles will all have that exhaust “pop” as you accelerate and ease off the petrol and guns tend to sound fairly generic with my favoured silenced pistol sounding not too different from the silenced sub-machine gun.
The VO work though shines, with Lincoln and his allies and enemies all sounding authentic and importantly realistic. The actors have done an amazing job bringing these personalities to life. Even the minor NPCs on the street are well acted and sound authentically terrified when the shooting starts or just unpleasant when reacting to your mere presence.
Mechanics – Gladwell’s 10 000 Hours Put to the Test
Open world-itis, Mafia III certainly suffers from it. From the boasts of a larger than ever before map to a map littered with collectables to a repetitive gameplay loop, Mafia III hits all the notes. As alluded to, driving between waypoints is going to be most of your time in the game. Things are so far apart that you will spend time either stealing cars or ordering them.
Collectables are, at least, interesting far more than in any other open world game. From album covers of the classics, to the risqué in Playboy issues, complete with tasteful nudes and “articles”, these are items I want to search for. But making your life easier is the wiretap system allowing you to reveal all in a district by simply opening a box and placing a fuse in it. The fuse itself is a joke, something you have to explore to find just lying around the streets and homes, but an item that Donovan says he can’t get for you because it is on the “Agency Watchlist”. It is silly but it reveals the location of all those Playb… Hot Rod Magazines for you.
Unfortunately, the collectables are the spice in this particular gumbo. The base dish, to further torture this metaphor, is one long single note gameplay loop. You receive a briefing from Donovan, who then sends you to informants, who then reveal that the boss of the district is in hiding, but if you destroy his income producing rackets you will draw him out for a final confrontation. Basically, every fiction writer saw the tactics used by the Americans and Columbians to take Pablo Escobar down as the blueprint for their crime stories and have applied that ever since. You will spend at least an hour running around taking down petty criminals to force the boss from hiding and then take him down to assign a district to one of your capos.
Doing that dismantles the main bad guy’s whole organisation while building your own and by doing that you increase your income to buy newer vehicles and weapons and minor upgrades while earing “favours” from your capos. The most useful of which is Vito’s Consigliere who will meet you anywhere to collect excess cash as well as money paid to you by your capos, “tribute”, so you can keep running around in this gameplay loop.
This is an attempt to add a bit of variety to the loop, by having you decide what is more important in terms of perks and how you are going to assign districts captured to your Capos. However, the choices are so simple and the mechanic so shallow, that you simply prioritise your character build based on your preferred playstyle and what you consider optimal for that style.
Mafia III’s loop would be better served by a smaller game, only the strong narrative pushes you onward to complete the game just to see how the story ends.
Mafia III is certainly not a broken game and any open world game is going to be buggy, there is no way that a developer can squash every single bug in something this ambitious. Having said that, being the Definitive Edition I would’ve expected some obvious issues to be addressed. First off, the recommended specs versus Review system (laptop) for this game, via Steam, is:
|GPU||GeForce 780 or 1060 (this is an odd recommendation in my opinion as these cards are three generations apart).||GeForce 1070|
Even though my laptop exceeded all the system specs, getting the game to run at a consistent 60FPS on max settings proved a challenge. At first boot the launcher identified my system as below minimum spec so would not allow me to change any setting. This was solved by launching directly from the executable and not the launcher. Even after that the game would drop to sub-20 FPS when I specifically told the game to target 60FPS. Weirdly this was solved by removing the FPS limit and after that I would get a consistent average of about 55FPS.
Another weird issue relates to controller support. A couple of times on launch the analogue sticks on my Xbox One controller would not work. Checking the Xbox Accessories app all inputs worked perfectly fine. Advice online seemed to be to uninstall and reinstall the drivers, which seemed to work for that play session. Purely by accident I realised that if you simply plug the controller in to the system with a cable and do not press the Xbox button to switch it on, the game, not Windows, doesn’t recognise all the inputs as the controller is not “on”. It’s an odd setting/bug that really should not exist.
On a bug note, I did have to reload checkpoints a few times as conversations to advance missions or the story would not trigger. Annoying but with checkpointing done fairly often not a trains smash. Some weird bugs that are still prevalent though are whole conversations triggering in the wrong place. I once loaded a checkpoint where Lincoln was all by himself in abuilding but a conversation from earlier in the game between Lincoln and one of his Capos played for no reason. Other than that, there are the usual graphical glitches such as floating boxes in warehouses and cars and NPCs that pop in and out of the game. Luckily the game breaking bugs that existed on initial launch in 2016 and plagued the game for months after release have been squashed.
Mafia III Definitive Edition is good game, it does not reach the heights of its stablemate in GTAV, but certainly scratches that modern open world itch started by Watch_Dogs. The collectables are far more interesting and compelling than any other game in the genre, but the gameplay loop’s repetition lets it down.
What makes the game a compelling value proposition is twofold. During this lockdown period we have time for repetitive almost mindless gameplay. But more so than that 2K have been exceedingly generous to PC gamers as if you own any of the Mafia games you get the definitive editions for free. I know this as I bought Mafia II in June 2016 and not Mafia III, but when they released this game the other week, Mafia III Definitive Edition appeared in my Steam Library. If you don’t own any of the games, the Definitive Editions are reasonably priced either individually or as a whole in the Trilogy collection.
If you are looking for a compelling narrative and a decent game to wile away these lockdown hours, Mafia III is definitely a game to consider adding to your backlog.
A quick update on general bugginess and performance. I tested the game, same version, on my desktop gaming PC as I reviewed the game on my gaming laptop. For comparison, the specs of the systems are:
|Review System||Comparison System|
|GPU||GeForce 1070||GeForce 1080|
|Soundcard||Onboard sound||Asus Xonar Phoebus|
Spec wise, the systems are much of muchness and I wouldn’t expect insanely different performance. This is a lesson is not making assumptions. From an FPS perspective the desktop kills the laptop with average framerate hovering around 100FPS. As expected, system temps are much cooler given that there is simply better and more cooling on the tower than in a laptop chassis. RAM usage though was oddly halved on the desktop system, and I am not sure why that would be.
However, stability on the laptop was the clear winner. As mentioned, there were some annoying bugs but nothing game breaking. On the desktop I experienced freezes as well as my car when driving falling through the game world forcing a restart. On the sound side, hence the disclosure of a discrete sound card, the desktop experienced sound cut out and even looping dialogue and whole cutscenes. Clearly my desktop experience was worse than my laptop one and I cannot figure out the causes.
As always, given that PCs are not standardised systems your experience may vary, but given the time Hangar 13 had to QC and bug squash the game between the 2016 release and this Definitive Edition release same issues are not ones I would not expect to encounter.
You can purchase this verison here on steam for £24.99.
Mafia 3 Definitive Edition is avialable on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
This Review of Mafia 3 is based on the PC version of the game
Freelance Author: Lynley James
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Mafia 3 Definitive Edition
Mafia III: Definitive Edition includes the main game, all Story DLC (Faster, Baby!, Stones Unturned, Sign of the Times) and Bonus Packs (Family Kick-Back Pack and Judge, Jury & Executioner Weapons Pack) bundled in one place for the first time.
Product Currency: GBP
Product Price: 24.99
Product In Stock: Not Available