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Mafia III PC Review

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  • Mafia III PC Review

    Repetitive, bland, broken, and disappointing.
    It has become increasingly difficult to find many good things to say about Mafia III. In the time I have spent with the game, I have seen an abundance of glitches, poor A.I., uninspired open-world gameplay, and story missions so repetitive that even the first Assassin’s Creed is jealous.

    It’s a very interesting situation I found myself in while playing through the repetitive gameplay slog for hours on end, because I am someone who quite enjoyed what Mafia II brought to the table six years ago. I enjoyed the world that actually felt alive. I enjoyed that the police in Mafia II cared if you broke the speed limit or blew through intersections. I liked that I could go fill my car up at gas stations. I enjoyed the fact that I could customize my car. Hell, you could even customize your character’s appearance by purchasing a number of different clothing options. All of that is completely and totally absent in Mafia III. The fact that some of those features are promised to return as DLC down the road doesn't really help matters. In fact, it does nothing but tell me that this game should not have been released in this state.

    You play as Lincoln Clay, a soldier returning home to New Bordeaux after serving in the Vietnam War. During your time in New Bordeaux, a tale of revenge unfolds against members of the mafia after you are attacked and your family murdered. The game’s story beats, while strong, are usually few and far between over the multiple hours of gameplay. The writing is one of the game’s few highlights, complimented nicely by some fantastic voice acting and performances. The variety of characters you meet throughout the game are all memorable in their own ways. Though for what it’s worth, the performance of character John Donovan, a former CIA agent, tends to steal the show any time he’s in a scene.

    I wanted to do a lengthy write up about what this game does right, but there is simply so little that it actually does right. I appreciate the way the game tackles racism and xenophobia. Though my thoughts on how that subject was tackled may not be the same as someone who is African American, or Irish, or even Haitian. The game takes place in the late 60s in the fictionalized southern city of New Bordeaux, a time and place where there was rampant and very blatant racism in our country. Hell, there is still very rampant racism to be found right now but that’s a discussion that goes beyond the scope of this review.

    The major story segments of the game are stellar. They are presented in beautiful in-game cut scenes made great thanks to visuals that surpass gameplay segments, incredible acting, and equally incredible writing. It falls apart in the shorter, minor segments that serve as simple stopgaps during gameplay. These smaller scenes are usually presented with little movement between the characters as a bit of dialogue is exchanged, where the next steps in a mission are typically explained.

    Sadly, it just takes so damn long to actually get to the major story cutscenes. The gameplay segments between each major story element are nothing but a terrible, boring slog through repetitive missions. Main missions in this game would barely pass for side-mission objectives in almost any other game. They usually boil down to you driving to meet a new associate, then driving a block away to meet the associate’s lackeys. As you take this drive, you may lament the lack of an in-car view, something that seems like a curious omission in 2016. As you arrive, they tell you about some mob boss or subordinate that needs to be taken out for whatever arbitrary reason. You then drive to some building or warehouse another block away, doing enough property damage, and driving back to the lackey to give your report. You are then told that the boss that you need to kill has come out of hiding! Now go back to one of the very buildings you already cleared out when doing the property damage. Despite clearing it out just minutes before, this building is now full of enemies again including the boss that you now need to deal with. Deal with that, then drive back, and then assign the area to your associate.

    Sometimes you will have to break open a door, which necessitates the use of a very easy but time consuming mini-game that also gets old after the 30th time. Sometimes it gets the slightest bit exciting by throwing in a car chase, which usually ends up shortly after it begins because shooting out the tires or even the engine block is super easy to do with the game’s auto-lock system. After about the mid-way point, you do those very same things, only this time you aren’t doing them to try to recruit a new associate. You are, instead, simply assigning new territories to those existing associates. You do this over and over and over again. There is little to no variation here. There is also little to no fun here after the first couple of go-arounds.

    Outside of the beginning of the game, you never really get the sense that you belong in this city. There’s no real opportunity to get to know the city because you simply move from one area to another doing those story missions. You have a couple of places you can call your base of operations or home, but you visit there so infrequently that there simply isn’t a sense of actually belonging in this city. Other open-world titles at least give you a home or some place that you have reason to visit on a fairly regular basis. This allows you to become familiar with that immediate area. One of the homes in this game allows you to store your cash so that it isn’t taken when you die. However, the instance you unlock an ability to have someone pick up that money and deposit it for you, the need to visit your home goes down to absolutely nothing. Unsurprisingly, this ability is unlocked very early on in the game, meaning outside of the first couple of hours you may never voluntarily go back to that home again.

    Quality Mafia III reflections.

    The NPCs are largely brainless. I have seen enemies funnel through one doorway allowing me to silently take them down without issue. At least the combat and shooting in this game feels decent. The weapons actually seem to pack a good punch to them, which greatly enhances the experience once you need to go loud. Actually, I urge you to forego the stealth when possible because at least then you can have fun in the repetitive encounters. Melee takedowns are extremely brutal, almost to excess. The problem I have with these melee takedowns is the fact that the only way you can choose between a lethal takedown or a non-lethal takedown is to pause the game, go into the game options and flip from lethal to non-lethal. How in the world is this not something you can actually control through the context of the game? Games like Deus Ex handle this lethal vs. non-lethal choice elegantly with a tap or a hold of a single button. It’s honestly baffling.

    To continue on with respect to the game's broken nature, I have seen civilians not react to crimes happening right next to them. Chain link fences may as well be solid walls because you cannot shoot through them. The police offer you no chance to surrender or bribe them, instead opening fire upon you immediately. The police don’t even bother to interfere with other crimes happening right next to them. They will instead yell at you to move along while ignoring very obvious crimes happening right next to them.

    I have seen pedestrians begin to cross the street only to stop in the middle of the road and look around. At what? I have no idea as there was literally nobody near them. Cars will sometimes honk at you and try to drive around you if you decide to obey the rules of the roads. Not that you need to anyway since the police really don’t care about that in this game as they did in Mafia II. This is a massive step backwards from the options presented to you in Mafia II. Sure, you could say that it’s just how things were/are with authorities and minorities. You could, or you could just call it a lazy attempt at A.I. for the game.

    The physics are also quite questionable. I have run into NPCs that are seated in wooden chairs. The chairs will slide away with ease, leaving the NPCs seated on a nice cushion of… air? There is no way to manually jump in the game. You are instead restricted to a simple climb mechanic leaving you in situations where you fail to climb ledges that you believe you should have absolutely no trouble climbing, especially for a strong veteran such as Lincoln. Reflections are horrendously broken in the game. It would have been far better for them to totally remove mirrors from the game rather than be presented with the half-assed implementation we see in the game. The “reflections” are delayed by upwards of 30 seconds and even then the quality is just so abysmal. Lincoln clipping through objects such as the ground or cars is also a fairly common occurrence. I have seen NPCs hold both a beer and a gun in the same hand resulting in broken animations. I have seen seams in the world where geometry is misaligned. I have seen seen the wake from my boat appear briefly a distance in front of me simply by looking behind me and then back forward while speeding along.

    I already mentioned how the city lacks things like fueling up at gas stations, car customization, and clothing options, but there’s much more that is absent. There are little things like the ability to purchase food and drink or get your car washed. You walk into a bar or shop and the only option presented to you is to rob them. I find that it’s next to impossible now to tell when I have shot through glass on a car since bullet decals seem invisible until the glass actually shatters. Even after it shatters the glass disappears in a matter of moments instead of sticking around. Gone are the neat little PhysX particles and debris from the second game. It’s as if they took all of the little details that made the world of Mafia II feel somewhat alive and just stripped them completely.

    While the lack of PhysX or PhysX-like debris isn’t a huge deal, the rest of the game’s visuals still have their own set of problems. The lighting system is broken in more ways than one. I have seen immense shadows speed across the landscape in what is otherwise a mostly sunny day. Clouds casting shadows over the land is one thing but these clouds would have to be booking it. Some interior sections resulted in lighting that seemed to sap the shadows and color out of the environment and Lincoln. I have seen things like bottles floating in the air. I have experienced clipping issues of all sorts. Both Lincoln and the enemy will clip through each other or the environment during takedown animations, or Lincoln will “force grab” the enemy to taken him down without ever actually touching him. At the very least, Hangar 13 managed to patch out the 30FPS limit on PC along with the overly soft look that plagued the game.

    Uh, officer? Are you going to do anything about that assault? No? Oh...

    Speaking of “strip,” there are indeed still Playboy magazines to collect. At least this time you can say you’re looking at them for the articles as you try to justify why these continue to be a collectible in a game. There are also some erotic drawings you can collect around the city. Articles aren’t included with these. You can also find various album covers around. These can all be found a lot easier if you decide to wiretap all of the 89 different junction boxes around the city. In order to wiretap them, you need to find at least three “fuses” to make one wiretap. Once you have enough parts, you need to once again do the easy yet time consuming mini-game of breaking into the junction box and then sit through the same animation of Lincoln opening up the door, attaching the wiretap, and then shutting the door again. Again, there are 89 of these that you can do throughout the map. Yeah, it’s kind of annoying and unless you really need to know where every collectible is without the use of a guide, you’ll quickly stop caring about the junction boxes. Sure, wiretapping a junction box does help you spot enemies on your mini-map, but with the game being as easy as it is already, there's really no need to make it even easier on yourself.

    Bottom Line
    It’s so difficult to recommend this game to anybody, even to fans of the previous games. The A.I. sucks and the story missions are laughably bland. The game feels more like a poor attempt at the first entry in a new open-world series rather than the third main entry in a series that has now been around for 14 years. It’s not all a total waste though. The musical selection is fantastic, featuring location and era-appropriate music. The combat, when going loud, feels satisfying thanks to the punch of the weapons. The story segments and cutscenes are also a major highlight. However, it’s a shame that the gameplay tends to get in the way of those cutscenes.


    Mafia III (Developed by Hangar 13, Published by 2K)
    Starting at $59.99 (USD) for (PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One; Reviewed on PC)