Around 3 hours into this game I found myself wondering what all the fuss was about. Don’t get me wrong, it had been enjoyable playing through the tutorial missions with Lincoln and getting to see what he/I could do and the story, though a slow burner, had enough meat on its bones to keep my interest – even if it does have a terrible tendency during the opening segments to drag you out of the gameplay – but it had that been-there-done-that feel about it.
Like the South Park episode where General Disarray keeps yelling out “The Simpsons already did it”, just replace The Simpsons with Grand Theft Auto and you get the idea.
That was until I had my first “HOLY SHIT!!!” moment.
Now, I want to keep this review as spoiler free as possible so if you’ve yet to pick this game up I won’t ruin it for you but if you have played past that point already all I’ll say is “shouldn’t have said no”. That one moment changed the entire tone of Mafia III for me. Gone was the GTA clone I had mistakenly taken it for and in its place was a much darker and savagely twisted tale.
And I have to admit, I’m hooked.
Which in itself is an achievement as I’m not the easiest person in the world to please when it comes to crafting a game. At times it can almost be a case of stars needing to align for me to become truly invested in the final product, yet Mafia III manages to deliver on everything that I look for.
First off the gameplay is outstanding. Normally I’m an all-guns-blazing-let-God-sort-them-out kind of guy but for some reason I decided to see how far I could stealth my way through Not New Orleans before I had to resort to blowing people’s heads off and it was the best decision I could’ve possible made. There is something overwhelmingly satisfying about staking out a drug racket or prostitution ring before working your way into the building and stabbing every bad guy you meet in the face with your trusty army knife.
It kinda makes you feel all warm and fussy inside.
Well, it does to me anyway but there is a theory amongst my friends that I might need medical help.
Yet the beauty of it is you don’t have to go kill crazy, you can just sneak your way past all the usual cannon fodder until you reach your objective and I love the fact that it gives you that option. Hell, if you want you can even make the takedowns non-lethal and if that is the path you choose I say more power to you as you are missing out on some of the most brutal fun I’ve ever experienced in a video game. Also, get a job, hippy.
Inevitably though I messed up and had to go loud after a sentry I was hunting somehow managed to appear on a roof and spot me, leading to an all-out fire fight with the kind of rednecks that would put Boyd Crowder to shame. Fortunately the transition from Sneaky Sneaky Lincoln to Terminator Lincoln was as smooth as butter dripping off a hot biscuit. It’s a simple mechanic but not every game gets it right.
To use GTA as an example (again) I’ve always found the melee combat in the series slightly off, so instead I’ve just resorted to shooting people as it’s easier and doesn’t come with the usual “How the hell did you miss smacking him upside the head from two inches away?” feeling I usually get when trying to stealth kill someone. But with Mafia III there isn’t any hint of that as the transition from ninja with a knife to machine gun killer extraordinaire is seamless and that, dear reader, is how it should be.
Then there’s the story.
I’m a sucker for a good revenge plot, as my vast collection of Kung Fu movies stand testament to, and the one in Mafia III is a doozy. Again without wanting to give anything away I can say I’m completely engrossed in the tale that is playing out before me and feel justified in Lincoln’s course of action, no matter how violent it may be. Seriously, if the sort of shit that happened to him had happened to me I think I’d have gone postal too.
The game’s fictional take on New Orleans; New Bordeaux itself is a beautiful place but doesn’t quite feel as alive as it should and I think that that’s more to do with the lack of activities available outside of the missions and side missions than it is to do with the graphics, as they are, at times, quite breath taking. And then there’s the other times when they’re just not.
There are a few things about Mafia III though that stop it from being a perfect game. First off it takes far too long to install from disc, I think it took about twenty minutes which is faster than if I’d downloaded it but come on, it’s on a fricking disc. It shouldn’t take that long to get going.
Then after I’d had the update patch, a paltry 2GB, which in this day and age is a small miracle, I couldn’t get the damn thing to run. The first couple of days with it required me to boot up another game already on my HD so I could exit it and then Mafia III would run, no problem. This has since stopped and it boots up first time, every time now but that was a highly annoying 48 hours, I can tell you.
Then there’s some of the graphics themselves.
A few of the textures are off during cut scenes giving Lincoln and the rest of the cast slightly weird looking hair and other times you will find yourself in a room and everything looks like it’s just had a coat of gloss paint added to it for no apparent reason, giving it a very shiny but completely off putting tinge. I haven’t yet stumbled upon some of the more outrageous glitches that have been popping up on the interweb but I have noticed the odd thing like sunlight strobe flashing underneath doors that kind of pulls you out of the moment.
But these things are just small potatoes when you take Mafia III as a whole and if somewhere down the line I find myself agreeing with other reviewers about its repetitive nature and blah, blah, blah, then I’ll be the first to hold my hand up and do a revised review.
Until then though you can take it from your friendly neighbourhood reviewer that Mafia III is pretty damn close to being a masterpiece and well worth a space in any gamers collection.
Rating:9 Houses In Not New Orleans Out Of 10.
Platform reviewed: Xbox One
Neil Gray | @NeilGray007