Mafia 3 provides a complex and enthralling narrative buried 6 feet deep by a mountain of repetitive, uninspired gameplay.
In Mafia 3, you follow Lincoln Clay, a mixed-race Vietnam war veteran as he enacts a revenge plot to destroy the mob empire of Sal Marcano after Marcano betrays and kills Clay’s family.
The Crusade you follow Clay in turns out to be a very well written and acted story undermined by tens of hour of time wasted playing through filler content that takes space between the great story missions.
Mafia 3 seeks to be a GTA V killer by including a vast, open world with tons of content, but falls far short with no incentive to explore, uninspiring side missions, an actual regression in terms of content in the series, and a great narrative disjointed by poor mission design.
Fantastic Writing With Oscar-Worthy Acting
Characters like John Donovan, and Father James add so much to the story and through the game’s brilliant cutscenes, display fantastic acting skill. Every significant character in cutscenes seem truly human. Every important character and even most minor characters are well written and voice acted. There’s a fantastic war-buddy dynamic between Clay and Donovan, and their interactions were genuinely interesting and fun.
In one scene, you returns to Donovan’s hideout to get the next mission. When Clay enters the apartment-turned CIA surveillance center, Donovan is sleeping. Clay, being a Vietnam war veteran like Donovan, scares him awake by shouting in Vietnamese, as if they were under attack by the Vietcong.
When I played the game, no text appeared in the subtitles when he spoke in Vietnamese. This isn’t the game trying to tell a joke, this is the game reminding you about the history the two have together, and making you think about it. You’re being subtly tricked into being more invested in the characters.
These scenes are common between missions and they give the main characters so much more personality. This brilliant display of camaraderie makes it a damn shame characters like Donovan don’t accompany Clay on any missions like in Mafia 2.
This game may have some of the greatest lip-syncing in any game ever made. It is insanely detailed, with tongues even moving to match what a character is saying. At some points,you could turn off the audio in cutscenes and just read a character’s lips and fully understand what is being said.
The game uses documentary-style interviews to further the narrative but what truly caught my attention were the C-Span style videos where a group of senators questioned Donovan on the events on the game, after they had occurred. I found these cut scenes annoying and unnecessary at first, but a post-credits cutscene not only justifies the C-Span, it ends the game on a fantastic note and sets up the possibility of a fantastic spin-off of the series.
Its a true marvel how much effort was put into the game’s cutscenes, and they were the only thing really carrying the game’s many flaws.
Pretty good depiction of the era
Mafia 3, taking place in the 60's, depicts a tasteful realization of racism without coming off as a lecture. More often than not, games present its commentary as lecture rather than normality of the era’s culture. Games like Bioshock infinite and LA Noire only show instances of racism to tell the gamer how bad being racist is rather than making it clear how common it was for the time.
Note: The subject of race has been very inflammatory for reviews of this game, this is all my opinion and I apologize if my opinion on the game’s depiction of a race other than mine may seem incorrect. If you believe so, please tell me in the comments for me to better understand.
Mafia 3 creates a disturbing sense of normality in the city of New Bordeaux with little influences of racism in nearly everything. At no point in the entire game had I heard the words “black” or “African-American” spoken a single time. Only terms that in today’s context should never be used to describe a person of color. When someone calls the cops on you, you can hear the operator order police officers to investigate. There’s a noticeable difference in the operators tone based on whether or not race is involved. Its along the lines of “We have reports of a man with a gun, if anyone has time go check it out, take some reports” versus “We’ve got an armed ***** male in Frisco fields, all units converge.” Those were actual quotes I heard in the game.
This sense of normality in racism makes the struggles of people of color easier to relate to, as rather than being told someone is racist, you really witness them be racist and are a part of their misdoings.
Then again, as will be mentioned later, lots of throwaway moments in the game detract from the game’s great settings. When I beat one zone and made it to the zone’s lieutenant, I went through the same animation of threatening a throwaway character, but this one responds with “Whatcha’ gonna do, [N]” right before you kill him. There’s an emphasis on the slur from this C-list voice actor that makes the whole situation memorably awkward. Its like the game is shoving “LOOK ITS A RACIST PERSON” in your face. The scene falls flat and I still can’t tell if its due to the overabundance of throwaway moments in the game or an issue with the depiction of racism in the game.
Improved Shooting and Driving Mechanics
Mafia 3 has superbly satisfying and well polished combat and driving. Both weapons and vehicles having realistic weight and satisfying sound.
Smart audio, animations, and weapon balance make the shooting mechanics fun and brutal. Driving has been greatly upgraded from Mafia 2, with each vehicle feeling like it has weight, and a decent feeling of speed.
Little needs to be said about the shooting and driving, as they are solid, but don’t do anything too crazy to warrant a full description.
Disappointing use of a Decent Soundtrack
Mafia 3's original soundtrack mostly consists of heavy bass lines and jazz-rock fusion. While the tunes themselves are passable, they’re used improperly at every moment. Most cutscenes, while most don’t need them, are almost always void of any music. When you’re getting into a huge, exciting firefight, the most you’ll hear of the game’s soundtrack is light guitar riffs with literally no percussion. There’s never any sense of tension, emotion, or excitement anywhere in the game’s soundtrack.
Even when a fight in the game begins to seem moderately interesting, they lose their fun when the scripted song ends, and you finish the next five minutes of the fight in musical silence.
While other critics like Angry Joe praised the game’s soundtrack for matching the era, I found it lackluster as it was improperly used, and frankly it wasn’t even good 60's rock.
Additionally, I kept feeling like I was hearing the same songs in the radio over and over again. I may like The Rolling Stones’ “Paint it Black,” but I don’t think anyone can handle hearing Paul Revere and the Raiders’ “Kicks” 3 times every real life hour. Hell, literally as I write this portion of the review, Mafia 3 is running in the background of my browser and “Paint it Black” JUST started playing for the second time in an hour. There’s more than 100 licensed songs in Mafia 3 and they couldn’t be bothered to get a single Chuck Berry song?
There are 10 sections on the map of Mafia 3. Each section has 3 major story missions which you can complete which adds up to 30 missions in the game. 20 of those missions have you doing the exact same thing, and the other 10 are actually interesting story missions which last nowhere near as long as the other missions.
In those 20 extra missions, you’re tasked with go here, kill and/or interrogate some random grunt, and repeat until the next section of the mission is available. Eventually you’ll fight the lieutenant of the zone, kill them, and a 10-second cutscene plays where some guys come to occupy the area. Every enemy, including lieutenants (bosses) takes no more than two shots to die; there’s no sense of increasing difficulty based on who you’re fighting.
There’s a distinct lack of creativity in most missions. In Mafia 2, every mission was extraordinarily unique, and supplemented the major themes and plot points of the story. Two Thirds of Mafia 3 serve little to no purpose but to artificially extend the length of the game.
Filler Content Bogs Down Amazing Story
As previously mentioned, there’s a ton of unnecessary gameplay in Mafia 3, but the issues extend further beyond the story missions in the game.
Mafia 3's underboss system is a disappointing, short-lived version of Shadow Of Mordor’s nemesis system, promising a sea of depth in the introductory hours of the game, but instead offering a kiddie pool.
As a result of the lack of interaction with the game’s underbosses, the whole system and the three characters could have been thrown out and left out of the game.
The game tries to spread itself out way too much, trying to offer GTA V’s level of content to explore, when it should have stuck to Mafia 2's heavily directed storytelling.
I can say a solid five hours of my time with the game could’ve been avoided if I hadn’t played through any of the inane, barebones side missions. They add nothing to the game and exist solely to imitate some kind of interaction with the game’s main characters. Besides Donovan and Father James, literally every (surviving) character in the game could have been written out or heavily modified to better streamline the narrative.
The collectibles in the game are wholly unnecessary and sidetracking. The collectibles system almost forces you to go out of your way to chase collectibles that allow you to find other collectibles. Collectibles provide for a monotonous and frustrating experience that adds nothing to the full game experience. I wasted many hours looking for collectibles as well, and I would’ve been much happier if they were left out of the game altogether.
No Sense Of Progression
There is no customization in Mafia 3. That may sound confusing, you may be asking “customization of what?” I mean there is no customization of literally anything in Mafia 3. You can’t control the appearance of Clay, your cars, or your weapons.
There are minor upgrades such as “carry one extra healing item” or “20% more rifle ammo” but their effect on the enjoyment of gameplay is completely inconsequential.
The only “unlocks” for items are a few weapons and mild stat boosts, and even then the only weapon of any value is the silenced m1911. The other silenced weapons are pretty much useless, and all the other unlockable weapons are either boring, ineffective, or unneeded. The rocket launcher and grenade launcher have close to no ammo and are thus terrible choices to carry, as you have to keep buying ammo to use them.
Basic character customization such as changing clothes was in both previous Mafia games and the fact that the game has regressed from such basic features is indicative of the game’s lack of depth.
By 2016's standards, Mafia 3 has very poor visuals. Environmental models and textures are muddy, every non-important character looks like a plastic doll, texture and model pop-in is abhorrent, and the lighting is outright broken. There’s no attempt at using basic functions of DirectX 12, such as tessellation; something that would greatly improve the performance and visuals of the game.
Judging by the game’s performance, the game may not even use DirectX 12's multi-threading capabilities which would allow computers to process the game ten times faster.
Textures are muddy, the skybox looks worse than games from the N64 era, and every male character has hair like a ken doll.
The draw distance and pop in are horrible, with character models not loading in when you stand as far as ten feet away.
Mafia 3 has some of the most annoying ugly, and headache-inducing lighting bugs I’ve ever seen. Reflections are outright broken and the sun is unrealistically bright. The lighting bugs I had in the game were constant, and there were so many that other critics encountered both the same issues as me, and more.
Mafia 3 has extremely lackluster graphics, and even then, running the game on the highest settings makes little to no difference visually, but it does tank your framerate.
Extreme Performance Issues On PC
If you’re reading this review to decide if you should buy the game on console, don’t bother reading this portion of the review. If you have your PC Master Race card on, read on.
Note: PC performance is subjective and may differ from computer to computer. Although some may have a less or more powerful processsor or graphics card than mine, some other part of your computer may mean you may have better or poorer performance than mine. Always do research about your computer’s capabilities before buying a graphically intensive game.
At launch, Mafia 3 was locked to 30 frames per second, and my computer struggled to even reach the game’s frame cap. Four days later, a patch was released which uncapped the framerate and let me run the game at a solid 35 frames per second on the lowest graphics settings through out my entire playthrough.
Stuttering, freezing, and crashing were extremely common, and some have reported loss of save games. My game has stuttered and froze, but I only crashed twice during my 36 hour playthrough, and both times I had switched tabs from the game which likely caused the crash. I had to play through the entire game at around 30 frames per second on the lowest graphics settings and it greatly affected my enjoyment of the game.
To put it bluntly, this game will struggle on most computers, and even the best computers will meet with some difficulty. Unless you’re running SLI Titan graphics cards and a quad-core i7 on an SSD, the game will likely be borderline unplayable.
Mafia 3 is an interesting albeit disappointing take on the Mafia franchise that presents some clever storytelling, but a fundamental misunderstanding of pacing story and gameplay. While shooting and driving mechanics were on par, there was little built on top of that solid foundation.
Wait for the game to get a significant price drop, and if you’re planning to play on PC, wait for a significant price drop to 30 dollars or less.
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