Everyone loves a good revenge story. In Hollywood, we have seen this cornerstone theme used in so many amazing films from Leon, Django Unchained and Man on Fire. In part, this kind of plot motivator works so well because it resonates with us when life doesn't seem fair and we'd like to set it right. The key to a revenge story is to create empathy for the lead character and in Mafia 3 the developers do a fantastic job in this respect.
The year is 1968 and the Vietnam War is still in full swing. Lincoln Clay is a black American who has just returned from a tour in Vietnam and is trying to fit back into his old life. While away, his family have been under increasing pressure from local gangs and so Lincoln visits the Haitians to send a clear message. While still in financial arrears Lincoln's surrogate father, Sammy Robinson, sets up a meeting in with the local crime boss Sal Marcano and his son Giorgi. While discussing the job on the table Sal 'suggests' that Lincoln take over from his ageing father but Lincoln being loyal declines. The bank job (which is played out in sections) acts as the game's tutorial: as the job finishes Lincoln returns to his father's bar to celebrate. Sal Marcano and his men arrive shortly after to pick up his cut of the robbery: he waits until their guard is down and brutally murders the black mob members. Lincoln is the first to go down with a shot to the head from Giorgi as he announces 'you should have said yes'. What Giorgi doesn't know is that his bullet ricochets off his targets skull, as the bar burns around him Lincoln in pulled out alive: our revenge story is born.
As far as Marcano and his men are concerned, Lincoln is now dead: this gives him the perfect opportunity to start building his own empire without interference. Lincoln is clear on his mission, to hurt Marcano by destroying everything he has built but to do this he will need help. Lincoln decides to contact his handler from Vietnam, CIA agent John Donovan for help and soon they have a base of operations up and running.
So the game opens up strong with a mixture if cut scenes, real life footage and a tutorial of sorts spliced in between. In these cut scenes, we see the best motion capture, facial mapping and lip-syncing I've ever seen. It is not just from a technical standpoint that this area excels, the developers have captured so many subtle ticks and expressions it is uncanny. The team that worked on this part of the game deserve an award and it is this exemplary work that gets you invested in the story from the off. It is not that Lincoln is a particularly nice guy, but he and his family feel real and this is why when they are butchered by Marcano it has such a powerful effect.
Once you've survived the betrayal and met up with Donovan the game introduces the systems you will use to take on the Marcano family. Every district, of which there are ten, has their own lieutenants and criminal rackets. You must enter districts and start dismantling each lieutenants operation through a range of activities such as killing gang members, destroying property or anything that interferes with their business. Once you have caused enough damage the lieutenant will then be drawn out and become available to deal with. Once the area has been liberated you can then offer it to one of your own lieutenants to run and depending who you give it to the others can become dissatisfied and even turn on you. This balancing act is one area of the games progression that does mix things up a little and add a degree of replayability.
The problem we run into in a relatively short space of time is that the player is essentially doing the same thing at the start of the game as he/she is at the end. Kill the enemies, damage the property, kill the dude in charge and repeat. If I'm being fair there are a few ways to mix things up, like for example, you can place wire taps which allow you to recruit leaders into your racket. While the driving is fun I do find the lack of any kind of fast travel system a little strange and a feature I think games like this need. Sometimes you will have to travel all the way across the map to complete a small objective only to then drive all the way back.
Full Metal Jacket
Lincoln is an absolute killing machine who spent most of his time in Vietnam in a special forces outfit. This means he is a minister of warfare who knows how to use any weapon and even when he's out of bullets his bare hands are just as lethal. The combat in Mafia 3 is very much like the overall campaign, very satisfying at first but then becomes too familiar with little to change the script. That said I do like the combat, the way enemies recoil depending on where you hit them, for example, is very satisfying. Car chases are also full of action and I've had some pursuits that Steve McQueen would have been proud of.
When the police start to chase you this is displayed on the mini-map, if you lose them a search perimeter is set up and you must stay low until the search is called off: simple enough. According to the tutorial, cops will chase you in this game for traffic offences but not once have I been engaged, even when speeding past doing a good 80 MPH and honking my horn. In actual fact I haven't seen a great amount of enemy AI on display, in firefights gunmen will either hide behind cover, lob grenades or advance towards you with a total lack of self-preservation. Given the games bread and butter is combat I think some more diverse behaviour would have done wonders here.
As Lincoln recruits his own lieutenants each come with a list of perks as well as progression tree. From the start, you can call in a weapons dealer, armed muscle or even someone to pick up your surplus cash. These are some awesome quality of life features that do mitigate elements of the busy work and for that the game deserves credit. As you take new areas and districts, small side quests open up in which you can steal and deliver various types of product (weed etc). These missions then add loyalty with the respective lieutenant and thus make it less likely they will betray you under pressure. I do like this system and it pushes you to explore the map a little more than you ordinarily would. It does seem however that like with many features in this game, as soon as they do something right there is a bug to undo the good work. At the time of writing, these side missions are not working properly because often you will get to the location of the boat/truck and it's just not there.
Beauty and the Beast
It is rare to find a game with such a contrast in the visuals, most games are consistent but Mafia 3 is all over the place. As I have mentioned already the cut scenes are literally the best I have ever seen and will surely raise the bar for motion capture/facial detail in the industry. New Bordeaux can actually look stunning, with the right lighting and situation. The interiors are also mostly well designed with lots of items/debris to knock about, but for every gorgeous sunset, there is an ugly scene waiting around the corner. Sometimes the city just ends up looking washed out and very low resolution: this is usually just after sunset or dawn. Water also looks like undulating plasticine with vaseline smeared over the top but the prize for most ugly skybox I've ever seen in a modern game goes to Mafia 3. It is so bad I assumed my GPU was bugging out with some kind of strange graphical glitch, but it turns out this is how the game actually looks.
The city streets do look good with lots of nice details to keep the immersion going, in fact, I would say Mafia 3 actually beats GTA 5 in some regards. Woman without umbrellas walking in the rain guarding their hair with their hands, people responding properly to your wild driving and overall NPC animation is excellent. There are also some great locations to discover across the games modest map from abandoned mansions to old to the busy city centres. While New Bordeaux is fictional it is based on New Orleans so there is plenty of sightseeing to be done.
Cars look great in Mafia 3 with a satisfying level of detail across the decent catalogue of motors , it is a pity more time wasn't spent on the damage model which is very poor. Yes, hoods come off and doors crumple: but it's all very light damage. With that said the handling of the cars is (mostly) superb and screeching around corners in one of the muscle cars is exhilarating. I do think many gamers, especially those who are fans of GTA 5, will be disappointed with the vehicles in Mafia 3. The big daddy of open world crime games does a far better job across the board. You have to remember though that the team at Hanger 13 have gone for authenticity (like with previous Mafia) games and I personally I think they have done a very respectable job. After all, if Station Wagons drove around like Dodge Vipers something would seem off.
One of the main bugs I have seen in Mafia 3 so far is the physics engine, quite often the game will just lose its shit and start throwing object around like a petulant poltergeist. It is almost like there are gravitational anomalies hanging around the city of New Bordeaux waiting for unsuspecting players. I've seen bodies start dancing around, cars flip around the street and even get sucked into the ground. Despite the entertaining nature of these 'events', it is clear that these rogue physics are a problem that needs to be addressed by the team.
The soundtrack of war
The music in Mafia 3 is easily one of my favourite aspects of the game. Over a hundred carefully chosen songs that you can hear throughout the game world but for the most part booming out of you car stereo. Absolute classics like Long Tall Sally and Born to be Wild are thrilling to listen to when locked into a car chase or running for your life from racist cops. Jimi Hendrix, Aretha Franklin, Steppenwolf, Status Quo, Creedence and so many more absolute classics bring the atmosphere flooding into this title.
As with most open world games, these days Mafia 3 has a range of collectables to pick up along the way: album covers, communist propaganda posters and even playboy issues from the time. These are all the actual models who posed in Playboy which are interesting to look at but don't offer the player any more incentive such as a new car or weapon to unlock. However, if you are a fan the the Ubisoft inspired 'collect all the dots' game this will keep you going for hours and even offer some decent fapping material.
Is it PC?
It is becoming really tiresome to keep seeing big games like this running into the same problems, especially when they are so avoidable. The PC version of Mafia 3 has released with a litany of performance issues and bugs. Not only that but to release a game on PC locked at thirty FPS shows either a real lack of understanding of what PC gamers want or maybe just a lack of care. With review copies being held back from media outlets it is clear Hanger 13/2K knew about these problems and didn't want sales affected by mediocre reviews. As DOOM proved this year, silly review embargoes don't always mean something is wrong - but it's a good indicator. The first major problem I ran into was when I rebound my crouch to the 'C' key which then stopped the skill working entirely: this took three hours and two fresh installs to fix.
Hanger 13 have since added more graphics options including sixty and unlimited FPS so at least they are moving fast. However, this patch not only reset many options to default but remapped most skills to completely different keys I and often miles away from WSAD. It is a small complaint but for me, this indicates the people making these changes are just not thinking about what they are doing. Due to the possibility of skills stopping responding (and having to start again), I decided to use the key configuration as it was but this has often left me fighting to do certain skills. Once the FPS cap was removed the game is running better and feels more fluid but there is no denying the game is not well optimised. I have friends with 1070's still only getting 45 FPS which doesn't sound right. I have a theory that the physics in this game are linked to FPS and hence the thirty FPS cap. How they thought nobody would mind however is beyond me. Mafia 3 was quite simply not ready for release because even on console, players have been reporting high amounts of crashing, glitches and poor performance.
I would genuinely love to know how an experienced publisher like 2K thought releasing a AAA game on PC with a 30fps lock in place would end well. If you follow my site you will know I have just finished a retro review for the Bioshock Collection and the first two games were given a shocking port on PC. Everything from key mapping problems, settings changing at will, mouse acceleration issues and the game crashing for so many gamers. Isn't it interesting that the same company (Blind Squirrel Entertainment) who provided PC gamers with such an abysmal port also worked on Mafia 3? Obviously, we don't know what goes on behind closed doors but it has been reported so many times over the years that the PC ports are left until the last minute and given the bare minimum of resources compared to the console version. It is these issues that in part made me set up my site, to add another voice for PC gamers and to make them aware of substandard PC ports.
Performance issues aside, how does Mafia 3 stack up as a game in its own right? I actually enjoyed Mafia 3 from start to finish and while the bulk of the game lacked innovation, the gameplay that we get is of a fairly decent quality. The games main strength lies with its excellent story and the stellar cutscenes. How you get on with this game will depend on what kind of gamer you are: GTA 5 is saturated with activities from skydiving, scuba diving, photography, a full stocks and share system etc. If you are the kind of player that needs these extra frills and fluff in your open world romps then Mafia 3 is not for you. Right now with the current technical issues, I cannot recommend you pay full price for Mafia 3 because the game clearly needed another six months of development. This is such a disappointment for me because this game could have been very special indeed.
However, if you are in the market for a good shooter in a well realised open world, Mafia 3 is a decent game that delivers top-tier story with a solid thirty to forty hours of gameplay. If you are on the fence then there is always the next Steam Sale when the game will hopefully have been patched to a more acceptable state.
Thankyou for reading mt review for Mafia 3 on PC, I hope you enjoyed it. If you don't already please follow me on Twitter @riggedforpeic and check back soon for more PC gaming goodness. If there is a game you think I should be looking at and you can't see it here: please let me know at Riggedforepic@gmail.com