by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
War changes people. And when Lincoln Clay, an African American, returns from a tour of the Vietnam War to his home town of New Bordeaux he seeks out some familiarity through his old friends. Unfortunately, his friends have him completing a bank heist for the Mob. But even worse, after coming away with a small fortune, he gets double-crossed and is left for dead. In Mafia III, after being nursed back to health, Clay sets out to avenge the death of his friends by destroying everything that Mob Boss Sal Marcano holds dear.
Although Clay has a personal vendetta against Marcano, he is not alone in wanting to break up his monopoly on criminal activities. Various other factions around the city want to take over parts of Marcano’s businesses and reduce his influence over them. And it is with these other parties that Clay can work with for information and income. CIA operative John Donovan, who Clay worked with in Vietnam is a major source of intelligence, whilst others such as Cassandra - the head of the Haitian Mob - and Mafia II's protagonist Vito Scaletta provide information and, if you choose to work with them in side missions, can provide much needed cash, equipment and even your own reinforcements.
Destroying Marcano’s drug and prostitution rackets and then allocating those income producing areas to the other factions allows you to improve your standing within that particular community. The more you take from Marcano and give to the factions, the more that they can provide for you. This could include better access to weapons and improved weapon efficiency from Cassandra’s Haitians, improved health and recovery from Vito’s Italians, or improved police detection from Burke and his Irish faction.
“I Fought the Law”
Combat is fairly straightforward for the most part and works in much the same way the previous instalment played out. A solid and effective cover system and stalking feature allows Clay to sneak up on unsuspecting thugs and then quietly and efficiently dispose of them. The game is actually a little easier if you decide to play this stealthy style game, as the AI is quite decent. Enemies will notice if a friend has gone missing from his post, and will call in reinforcements if they think that it is required. They will investigate sounds, and will attack in groups if they spot Clay stalking around where he shouldn’t be. This can of course be used to your advantage as you can lure them individually to their ultimate demise.
Shooting firearms (you can carry any two at a time) can make kills that much quicker and doesn't require Clay to be in close proximity to an enemy (especially with the sniper rifle), but it also alerts more guards and if you're not careful, a handful of enemies could be firing at Clay from various angles. I made this mistake a couple of times and had to restart from one of the numerous automatic saves. After defeating the first few of Marcano’s underlings, the combat does begin to feel a little repetitious, though. Improved weapons and being able to carry more ammunition does help later on, as you can take down lesser enemies a little easier without the need to sneak around as much.
“On the Road Again”
Clay will spend a lot of time within each of the city’s distinct areas, and can often get around by legging it. Travelling by foot does take longer, but you do get to see more of the city. It also makes it easier to find all the collectibles on offer which include paintings of pin-up girls from Peruvian artist Alberto Vargas, album covers from famous 1960’s musicians, communist propaganda posters and Playboy magazines. The latter can actually be flipped through like an actual copy of Hugh Hefner’s publication. I read them all thoroughly - strictly for the articles, of course.
But why waste energy walking or running from place to place if you can simply hop in a car and drive across town? There are plenty of vehicles to choose from (both legally and illegally) and driving feels varied from one vehicle to another. Vehicles range from souped-up muscle cars to two-door passengers cars along the lines of a VW Beetle, to lengthy cars with tail fins. There are times when Clay will even need to hop into a boat to get across stretches of water. Police chases are particularly fun, although in most cases, the fuzz aren’t really that good at keeping up.
“We Gotta Get out of this Place”
The city of New Bordeaux is reasonably vast and each of the nine or so areas has an individual feel, especially the French Quarter. The streets look largely the same throughout, but the Bayou has a murky ambience, whilst the French Quarter has a more outwardly colourful decor. People wander the streets, and will comment if you're holding a gun, or call the police if they see you commit a crime such as stealing a car. It all goes to make New Bordeaux feel alive. Disappointingly, enemy thugs often look the same. Yes, there are a few variations for each factional area, and this does aid in determining how to combat each type. But it also feels a little lazy. People walking the street often have a familiar appearance too, slightly decreasing the realism of the setting that is initially set by day and night cycles and weather effects in the city.
The cut-scenes work really well to push the story through. The grainy 1960’s style interviews give some insight into how things turned out the way they did, and Father James in particular provides a back story for Clay. After each of the cut-scenes I must admit that I was left wondering how it would all end.
One thing that is done superbly in Mafia III is the audio. The voice acting is first rate, giving the main characters a sense of individuality. And even NPCs have conversations as you stroll past giving the town of New Bordeaux a living, breathing atmosphere. Often characters will act in an untoward manner towards Lincoln Clay, and indeed, there will be times when he enters a store and is told that his kind isn't wanted in there. But the voice acting pales in comparison to the soundtrack. There were times (like in real life) that I was driving to a destination and did not get out of the car upon reaching that point because I wanted to finish listening to the song on the radio. The tunes encompass the era of change throughout the 60's, with classics from the likes of The Rolling Stones, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Johnny Cash and Aretha Franklin.
“Sitting on the Dock of the Bay(ou)”
The developers at Hangar 13 have not shied away from some controversial topics, embracing the racial and political undertones of the era to create a game that feels authentic. Unfortunately, for me it didn’t really translate to a Mafia title. Taking on the Mob isn't the same as being a part of the Mob, and surely if this was real life, Lincoln Clay would have woken one morning, after his initial destructive sequence, to find a horse's head in his bed... if indeed he woke at all. Mafia III does most things right, though. It is an enjoyable game, one that has probably the best licensed soundtracks for a game outside of a music-based game. The combat and cover mechanics work really and the cut-scenes allow the story to progress smoothly in the wonderfully presented city of New Bordeaux.
Wonderful setting and perfectly matched soundtrack
Enemies look generic, combat can feel repetitive after awhile