Mafia III PS4 Review

February 11, 2017 by  
Filed under PS4, Reviews & Features, PlayStation

Publisher: 2K Games  Developer: Hangar 13, 2K Czech  Genre: Action/Stealth

Players: 1  Age Rating: 18+  Other console/handheld formats: Xbox One

Having played this just off the back of playing Watch Dogs 2, I couldn’t help but make comparisons between that and Mafia III, with one being marginally more fun to play and the other feeling rather tedious and empty for an open world game. Rule of thumb – an open world needs actual things in it to make it feel alive, and the world in Mafia III feels anything but.

From time to time a hitman and his cronies will come after Lincoln. You need to kill him in order to stop them from attacking you again.

Set in the 1960’s, you take control of Lincoln Clay, a soldier recently returned from the Vietnam War who is witness to the brutal murder of his adoptive family at the hands of the Marcano Crime Family, which sees him being left for dead. The story basically turns into a generic revenge plot set during a time when tensions were strained between black and white people, and with this being very much reflected in the story and gameplay.

Unfortunately, whilst Mafia III has intriguing ideas, the execution is way off. The game is heavily story-driven, though it failed to capture my interest. The introduction nearly made me give up playing – it took over two hours to get to the open world and any actual gameplay. It shouldn’t take that amount of time to pull you into a game, and my attention span is still teetering even now because of the tedious plot about Clay’s revenge and determination to overthrow the Marcano family entwined with some boring cutscenes about an investigation and trial. You’d think a game set in the 60’s and focusing on racial tensions and mafia rivalries would be interesting, but the developers failed at coupling an excellent story with equally interesting gameplay.

In fact, whilst the Mafia games are known to be ‘open world’, and with Mafia III supposedly having the biggest map of all three games, the choice to make it open world in the first place is extremely questionable when there is basically next to nothing in it – the world here greatly contrasts with the thriving world of Watch Dogs 2, a game that proves it can be done. Mafia III would have been much more suited to having a linear structure as the world here is very uninteresting and dull.

Of course, perhaps this is because a lot of time and focus was spent on character design and animation, which can truly be commended. Faces are very expressive, with such detail that you can even see muscles moving on the characters, such as in one scene in which Lincoln is speaking with someone and she is responding aggressively – you can see a muscle twitching in her neck as she speaks. The overall animation here manages to convey characters emotions excellently, and whilst graphically the game feels as dated as its setting, the animations are top notch.

If caught committing a crime, a witness will phone the police. You have to stop them if you don’t want even more trouble.

Whilst some areas of Mafia III are excellent, the areas that matter should have had more focus, such as the gameplay – Mafia III is still a game after all, despite its attempt at political commentary. First and foremost, the AI here, whilst not the worst, is certainly not the best by a long shot. The fact that Lincoln can whistle, calling only one individual enemy’s attention to himself at a time, instead of having numerous enemies running over to investigate the sound, should tell you all you need to know about how bad the AI here is – it’s certainly a long step back from games such as Metal Gear: The Phantom Pain. I am not exaggerating either – the game even instructs you to use the whistle to thin out groups of enemies, though it is laughable how they come towards you one at a time, making gameplay far easier than it should be. Of course there are times when you are spotted and then whole groups will start shooting your way, leading to Lincoln’s many infuriating deaths, though the gameplay is hardly trial and error.

Enemies can duck behind cover and blind shoot at you, though more often than not they will make their way towards you to try and shoot you at point blank range, with you then being able to use your melee attacks to take them down, again, to the fine tune of excellent animations. Shooting enemies can also be dodgy though – the times when I have had the cross hair directly on an enemy’s head, only for the bullet to supposedly miss its mark is exasperating.

Though if you think the AI of the enemies is terrible, then I am sure you will love the police in the game. During some missions there will be corrupt police hanging around, mixed in with your actual targets, and because the police are being bought off by the mafia, if you start shooting the bad guys, the police will join them in shooting you, and they are relentless. Magically police will also see you when they shouldn’t, such as during one mission where you are required to blow up some barrels – the police dispatcher managed to describe Lincoln perfectly despite no one being around to see him. Police are also relentless during car chases and will follow your every move, with you then having no choice but to risk death from their bullets by running away on foot. I found that the police seem to be like cats and have an aversion to water, so whenever the heat was on Lincoln, I found the easiest way to make them lose sight of me was by jumping in water and swimming away until the search is called off. You do have an ability in which you can call a dispatcher who will keep the police off your back for a couple of minutes so you can pretty much get away with the crime you’re supposedly committing, though during missions in which you are escorting a vehicle, it can become very frustrating having so many police on your tail and having to abandon the vehicle.

Mafia 3 deals with racism, from using taboo language, having missions based around racism, and in some areas of the open world, such as some diners or bars, Lincoln isn’t even welcome because of the colour of his skin and the owner will call the police. There is a meaningful story here trying to get out, though is bogged down under sub-standard gameplay and cutscenes.

So the AI leaves little to be desired and at times it can be frustrating, especially when the game encourages stealth but makes it all too easy to draw you into combat. The AI can still have its unintentionally amusing moments though, through the many glitches and bugs you may experience.

As for missions in the game, for a good chunk of the intro I was wondering where on earth they had got to. For the first part of the game, the part that is supposed to draw you in, there is barely anything to do, with the majority of the opening centered around cutscenes and small segments of gameplay of Lincoln breaking in to a bank. After you start wire-tapping areas, more does appear on the map, but the missions are terribly generic and boring anyway. The aim of these missions is to take back areas that are controlled by the Marcano family, and a lot of main missions consist of you basically taking down the top dog of Rackets, drawing them out by destroying contraband and other necessities that keep their bosses empire going, and then killing or hiring them as part of your own group. Of course there are side missions too, and little optional sections whereby you can collect Playboy magazines, posters, vinyl records, and fuse boxes that are required for the wire-tapping. Besides this, there isn’t really much to the world, and doing these things can become repetitively tiring. Lincoln can take part in racing, though it seems to be there as a requirement of an open world game, rather than added for the pure enjoyment of the player, and does seem out of place considering the developers have mentioned that adding superfluous ‘fun’ missions would contrast with the tone of the game, and Lincoln’s angry quest for revenge.

Missions here aren’t exactly original anyway and can be easily broken down into several categories: collect/steal something, destroy something, deliver something, interrogate someone, kill someone, and you’ll be doing these tasks many times over. Sure, a certain aspect will change, such as a different item that needs delivering, the transport that you deliver it in, or a different person that needs killing off, but these challenges never feel different or rewarding.

Lincoln works on behalf of 3 underbosses; as you clear out districts, you can assign an underboss who will then take control of that district, and in doing so you unlock upgrades for Lincoln, and will gain kickback. However, your underbosses don’t take too kindly if you assign more distracts to one than the other.

During missions, as is the norm now, you can either try the stealth approach or go in blasting away enemies with your weapons though, more often than not, here you will be drawn into combat. Stealth in this game is difficult to pull off because of the dodgy AI; there are objects around for you to supposedly hide behind, but mostly they feel like they exist as cover for combat as opposed to helping you slink by undetected. A lot of areas are swarming with enemies too, and the placement of them and their patrol path makes it difficult for you to complete a mission stealthily. Of course, it’s not entirely impossible to complete a mission stealthily, though it would take a lot of patience to achieve.

Along the way you will gain 3 underbosses, mob bosses who use their own connections to help you in your mission, and who in turn you assign districts too upon completing missions. Having these underbosses will unlock extra abilities that will help you in certain areas; Lincoln can call a van that will come fully stocked with refills for your guns and other equipment. Someone can be called in to collect your money and take it to the bank for you. As mentioned you can unlock an ability that will make the police turn a blind eye to your activities for a couple of minutes. There’s one which I rarely ever used, which enables the phone lines to be temporarily disconnected, preventing witnesses from calling the police. You can call in a car to your location, and, the one which helped me quite a bit during missions, you can call out a group of hitmen who will go in guns blazing, taking out bad guys along with you. When there are areas that are swarming with enemies, these hitmen are certainly a big help.

Back to more positives though, and the driving physics in the game are also excellent and smashing into other cars can be very satisfying. At one point I was flying at a car at full speed and managed to flip my car in to the air in spectacular style – of course the game isn’t made with the intention of pulling off such car stunts, but the driving in the game, especially at higher speeds, is certainly one fun aspect, drifting around corners and spinning the car 360 degrees. You also get to drive like a maniac if you are able to get into a car with a person you want to interrogate, drifting and sliding, colliding and just missing other cars in order to fill a meter and get the person to tell you what you want to know.

Whilst for the most part the driving is fun, unfortunately you’ll be doing a hell of a lot of it because there is no fast travel, and this game sorely needed one. When you aren’t ambushing enemy hideouts, delivering something or running around collecting something, you will be doing a lot of driving getting from one task to the next. Mafia III sorely needed a fast travel as when you are constantly driving long distances to reach different missions, it does become very monotonous indeed. Of course when driving you get to listen to the radio full of classic 60’s tunes, another great aspect of the game, though the driving itself only adds to the overall boredom of the game.

Upgrades are available; you can get upgrades from your underbosses as you assign them districts, or gain some simple upgrades from the back of this ammo van.

Overall, Mafia III is an example of how not to do an open world game and mostly feels like the developers were going through a check-list of requirements for an open-world game: driving? Check. Racing? Check. Bad guys? Check. Standard missions? Check. Stuff to collect? Check. Stealth and gunplay? Check. It’s definitely a game that reeks of style over substance, even though there are areas that are very well done, such as animations, the soundtrack, and some excellent voice acting also.

Mafia III definitely out stays its welcome, with repetitive missions that feel shoved in to add longevity; for every mission you complete, you unlock even more, making it feel dragged out. This is probably the developers defence for the price of the game – “At least there is a lot of content that justifies its £54.99 price tag.” It is clear that the developers wanted to tell a raw and compelling story, but it’s a story that has been lost amongst too many boring missions, boring story-telling and too many characters to count – I started to lose track of who was important to the story and who wasn’t, mostly because you have to kill so many people. As I keep mentioning, Mafia III would have been much better suited to a linear structure that was focused on the story, as the amount of gameplay distracts from the impact the developers wanted the story to have. I am still playing now, and must have been playing for at least 20-25 hours (feels longer), and all I feel is that this game should have been completed hours ago.