Mafia 3 is the latest in 2K’s open world crime series and the first on the current generation of consoles and the game is set up pretty damn well with a documentary-style opening. It’s not just the opening that gets that treatment, however, as the game is frequently bringing in characters that speak on the events of the game throughout the story. It’s one of the more impressive storytelling devices in gaming and it is incredibly effective in giving the game a sense of history and a feeling that these events could have actually happened.
The game is set in New Bordeaux, basically a fictionalized version of New Orleans in the late 1960’s so you know what that means…we get a big old heaping bucket of good ol fashioned racism. This is further explored through the fact that we have a black main character. That’s right, Lincoln Clay is the focus of the story and he’s black. Now I’d be lying if I said I didn’t buy the game off that fact alone; after all, how many games do we have where the main character looks like us? 2K handles the racial climate of the time as they should have. Yes you’ll get called the dreaded “N-Word” REPEATEDLY. But, as 2K put it in their disclaimer to open the game, it is necessary to accurately tell the story.
And what a story it is.
I obviously won’t go into spoiler territory but this isn’t your run of the mill revenge tale. Lincoln Clay is coming back from the war to his adopted family in the Black Mob and shortly after the reunion, he loses everything. The set up for the betrayal is fairly obvious but still well executed. Also, the supporting cast of characters that follow make you feel like you are truly making progress towards his goal of revenge. Lincoln’s story and motivation are given true weight not just through the superior writing, but the voice acting as well. You want to see Lincoln succeed and you want those who betrayed him gone. 2K does a great job of making each story beat feel important to Lincoln’s progression throughout the game.
Now we all know a good story doesn’t matter if you don’t actually enjoy playing the game and 2K has it covered with what was a surprisingly solid movement and combat system. The gunplay takes some getting used to. But, based on the time period and the era-authentic weapons, that was to be expected. The stealth gameplay was what surprised me the most however, as the cover system is done very well, I never felt stuck to cover and Lincoln hits it with the correct weight given his size and stature. Whenever I press the cover button, he hits cover with a heavy but quiet thud. That animation is a small but important effect that further immerses you in the game and makes you feel like Lincoln Clay. The city of New Bordeaux feels large as hell and it is which leads to my only real issue with the game, there’s no fast travel.
That’s an issue in 2016 and an issue to have with open world games in general. The only open world game in recent memory that could have gotten away with that omission is Red Dead Redemption and that’s due to the setting and the amount of detail Rockstar put into the world. However, in this game, when plenty of objectives require a fair bit of travel and some don’t last long enough to justify the travel, it’s a big problem.
Exacerbating the issue is the fact that in some cases you have to drive correctly. The game implements a system in which the police will come after you if you violate traffic rules but only if it’s in their line of sight. So you just have to be careful around them. It’s a great touch but it just makes the traveling to objectives a pain sometimes to have to slow down or wait at lights to avoid a conflict on the way to a mission. Message to all developers: DO NOT OMIT FAST TRAVEL.
Speaking of police, the game’s realism in it’s depiction of racial elements extends to them as well. Commit a crime in a rich white neighborhood and the cops are on you faster than Speed hits the bathroom to throw up after watching a WCW PPV. (Again, I am SO sorry we made you do that…not really) Commit a crime in a black neighborhood however, and your response times are similar to that of police in horror movies. Hell, they might not show up at all. In addition to that, the world feels alive. Walking down the street, you’ll hear about people speaking about historic events and people in passing and it truly gives a sense of being in that time period.
All in all, 2K does a great job in recreating a tumultuous time in America while giving us a story that much like Marvel’s Luke Cage, is something we needed as a people. Seeing a black character that had so much taken from him and being able to control his rise to power is a great feeling and one that honestly will do something that many open world games don’t get me to do, come back after the credits roll. Now I don’t do scores as I feel they’re arbitrary as hell so I’ll say this: Play this game. I know we’re in the fall season and that’s the heavy period for us gamers, but don’t let this one fall through the cracks.