Written by: Nick Farinola // Edited by: Joe Ahart It’s tough giving anything, let alone a video game, a perfect score. Calling something a masterpiece seems completely subjective. What defines a masterpiece? Generally, it’s widely accepted as such by a large audience. Christopher Nolan’s Inception is a not only a technical masterpiece, but also a narrative one. 2018’s incredible God […]
Written by: Nick Farinola // Edited by: Joe Ahart
It’s tough giving anything, let alone a video game, a perfect score. Calling something a masterpiece seems completely subjective. What defines a masterpiece? Generally, it’s widely accepted as such by a large audience. Christopher Nolan’s Inception is a not only a technical masterpiece, but also a narrative one. 2018’s incredible God of War developed by Santa Monica Studios is widely regarded as a “masterpiece.” Most seem to forget that people have different opinions about, well, everything. Of those two examples I listed, there are probably a bunch of people that would disagree with me. Go ahead, search “God of War isn’t that great” on Reddit, and I guarantee you that you’ll find a page full of people supporting this claim. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but not everyone loves what you love. Case in point: Mafia III.
If someone told me they could tell whether a game would be “good” or “bad” just based off of the title screen, I’d tell them to get their head checked out. Mafia III challenges my video game ideologies. Right from the get go, Jimi Hendrix’s cover of “All Along the Watchtower” blasts as the start screen is revealed. It’s simplistic, the game’s title slapped across the screen set over a beautifully drab marsh area of the New Orleans bayou circa 1968. I sat on the start screen until the song finished, and I knew that I was in for a treat.
Although Mafia III carries the three in its name (along with a few characters from previous entries in the series), it couldn’t be any different from the previous titles. It challenges the player by presenting a world divided by racism and hatred. Lincoln Clay is your name. He’s a tough-as-nails, hard-hitting mother (expletive). After coming home from the war in Vietnam, Lincoln tries to settle back into a “normal” life, but when his family is betrayed and murdered by the Italian mob gang known as the Dixies, Lincoln is dragged back into the violence. Shot in the head and left to burn, Lincoln is saved and cared for by the local priest, Father James. After months of recovering, Lincoln attempts to take back the streets from the Dixie gang, and spill the blood of those that murdered his loved ones.
Don’t let this simple exposition fool you, however. Mafia III boasts one of the most mature, violent, and emotional narratives this medium has ever seen. It’s told through past, present, and future seamlessly, and the voice actors bring life to both main and side characters. One of the most striking differences from the first two games is the gratuitous nature of the violence. Lincoln is no stranger to death, and boy does he prove that thoroughly. The violence is what you would commonly see in a Grindhouse movie theater; it’s nasty, exaggerated, yet oddly satisfying. Lincoln’s motivations give reason for the violence, making every mobster I wipe from the streets of New Orleans all the more gratifying.
Although, I have given Mafia III a ton of praise, most of its mechanics are taken from other open-world action games. The ‘nemesis system’ from the Shadow of Mordor series appears here, albeit much more simplistic. This is where Mafia III’s biggest issues arises: it’s repetitive as hell. In order to drive the story forward, Lincoln must basically control the districts of New Orleans by sweeping away the leaders of the Dixie gang. The tasks you do in each area eventually open up a long story quest which sees Lincoln infiltrating an enemy base in order to assassinate a superior leader within the gang. The tasks in between involve draining the money supply of the smaller leaders by either killing said leaders, burning weapon caches, stealing commercial vehicles and drugs, etc. At first, it all feels fresh enough to continue your pursuit of Sal Marcano, the evil mastermind behind everything. However, that all changes after you’ve done it more times than the amount of fingers on each hand. It almost feels grindy, but without a leveling system. There are certain upgrades you could buy for Lincoln including health, armor, and ammo increases, but if you’re looking for a complex leveling tree out of something like Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, you will surely be disappointed.
The other glaring issue is the technical bugs. The game includes everything from funny glitches to progress-halting bugs that seriously live to annoy. For example, I had finally depleted one of the leaders’ money supply enough to unlock the big story mission to hunt him down, but the NPC that was supposed to offer me this quest got stuck in a ridiculous smoking animation that didn’t allow me to continue. I walked up to the NPC, where it prompted me to press “X” to talk to him. I did just as I was asked, but nothing happened. The NPC continued smoking his cigarette that never once touched his mouth (but rather the side of his cheek). I had to close the game and reopen it in order to progress through the story. Yeah, it’s a petty thing to complain about, but it really starts to get on my nerves when it happens enough times to where I begin to notice it. Also, don’t even get me started on the driving in this game. It’s atrocious. What’s even more terrible is that there’s an entire DLC based off of driving under pursuit. It’s wonky and poorly controlled. Again, not a deal breaker.
Towards the end of my playthrough though I felt immediately compelled to play it again, something I never feel for any other game besides the Assassin’s Creed series. The narrative was insanely emotional with poignant performances all around, and the gameplay loop (although repetitive) offered hours of glorious violence. Some of the noticeable bugs were terribly annoying, but they never took away from my love for this game. It’s more serious and hard-hitting with its themes of racism and violence than GTA or Saints Row, and it offered one of gaming’s most compelling central characters. Lincoln Clay is the product of hate, and unleashing him in the streets of New Orleans has never been so fun. Mafia III, to me, is a masterpiece because it achieved what it set out to do: deliver a brutal and emotionally-charged narrative inside a beautifully rendered world at the height of American racism. You felt unwelcome, and I loved that.
The game reportedly sold very well overseas with sales being 58.7% more than that of Mafia II. On November 2, 2016, Take-Two Interactive announced that the game shipped in 4.5 million in it first week, setting a new launch record for 2K Games. However, in 2017, development at Hangar 13 reportedly split into two groups, one focused on downloadable content for Mafia III, and one building the concepts for Mafia IV.
Have you played Mafia III? What are your thoughts on it? Let me know down in the comments, and as always thanks for reading!