Wot I Think: Mafia III

Here, at last, is our Mafia III [official site] review. Having published two reviews-in-progress over the last week, this is the final version. I’ve still not finished it, because the game is apparently infinity hours long. And it’s a fascinating mess. A vast, seemingly unfinished, calamity, incredible amounts of work routed by its AI, bloated plot and lack of ambition. Here’s wot I think:

I turn up to a country club in a red sports car, the guy on the gate horrified that a black man thinks he can just go through the main entrance. I’m Lincoln Clay, freshly returned from the Vietnam War, and I’m helping out my father-figure by getting the Haitians off his back, and as part of that doing a favour for the local mob. I’ve been invited to see mafia boss Sal Marcone in his luxurious club, the sort of place that doesn’t welcome a negro gentleman, as this guard is letting me know.

But I’ve been invited, and he has to let me in. Into a courtyard where, in my shiny soft-top I proceed to mow down everyone in sight, to absolutely no reaction. Groups of members stood about chatting are panicked when their friends start dying, but make no effort to get away, while other gaggles a few metres away seem not to notice. More bizarrely, while the “help” I kill – a couple of gardeners – stay dead on their well-kept lawns, all the posh folks eventually get back up and carry on with their conversations. Welcome to Mafia III.

Mafia III takes the novel twist of not being a game about the Mafia, the Italian mob really being a side-product of its story of a young black Vietnam vet attempting to take control of the city from the made man who killed his family. Grabbing a huge bucketful of Saints Row, and picking handfuls of the last decade of Ubisoft games, the result is an open city in which you regain territory by claiming others’ rackets, killing off rivals, and recruiting underlings to your ever-growing empire. Mostly by driving toward and icon, then killing everyone there. But it doesn’t start off this way.

At first the game plays much more like the previous two (Mafia: The City Of Lost Heaven being a flawed classic, Mafia II being deeply unpleasant and woefully dull) with a faux open world as decoration, the game as linear series of story missions set within. As Lincoln is introduced, things play out in a more familiar fashion, mission after mission in order, with the freedom to drive off but no reason to do so. However, once you’ve ploughed through the opening chain of narrative-driven missions, and mistakenly believed this is true to the form of a Mafia game, it then slumps bonelessly into a saggy, bloated open city that no one was asking for.

It is far more Saints Row III than anything else, a broad map with an ever-growing number of missions and side-missions to complete, some for the central narrative, some for extra power in the city, as you occupy more territory, control more funds, and share out the city’s rackets between your assets. And wow, it’s an enormous game. I’ve been playing every damned hour I’ve had for a week, and I’m still not through the main quest. Whatever other criticisms must be levelled at it, you cannot accuse them of skimping on content. Near identical content repeated again and again and again, but so much of it.

The game, while pretty enough in places, looks very dated. And not 1960s dated. Character faces look a good five years out of date (except for the teeth – they’re exceptional teeth), while vehicles look like they’re made of plastic. It’s derivative in every sense, feeling like a slipshod knock-off of a GTA knock-off, something Ubisoft would have squeezed out in between bigger projects. So familiar is every aspect of the game, from its bland open city with mission chains strung within, to the press-Y-to-steal-a-car ordinariness of the process, to even featuring purple fleur-de-lis icons on the map without any apparent sense of awareness nor shame. Good grief, if you’re going to lift so many features of someone else’s game, don’t bloody use their distinctive logo too!

As a part of this, it of course wants to be able to offer all the mod-cons of your standard Ubisoft icon-em-up, but keeps hitting a narrative wall with its chosen pre-computer, pre-mobile, pre-internet setting. In increasingly embarrassing and desperate bends of reality, it tries to justify surveillance systems by use of wiretapping junction boxes, which then apparently give you pinpointed locations of all enemies in an area via… I really have no idea. My best theory is that there’s a whole second layer to the story where Lincoln Clay is in fact an unaware robot from the future, explaining how he’s capable of seeing the outlines of enemies through walls, and red highlights around combative foes in crowds.

Where the game shines is in the city they’ve built. It’s huge, elaborate, and despite the dated graphics, often very interesting. There are stretches of swamps with remote, broken down houses, large city areas bustling with life, rich suburbs, desperately poor shanty-towns, acres of countryside, and networks of rivers and canals. Inside built up areas are all manner of stores you can go in, big municipal buildings, side streets with hidden collectibles. A great deal of detail. And nothing to do in any of it but fight.

I get the impression that at one point Mafia III was intended to be a far more elaborate game. Various store types, from thrift shops to bars, liquor stores to restaurants, are all open-doored and specifically marked on the map. Yet none of them serves any purpose. You can’t buy anything, anywhere. There’s no option to purchase food for health. There’s no drinking in a bar. You can’t sell loot at a thrift store. Hangar 13 have said, since release, that they intend to make it possible to buy clothes at some point, but it seems pretty likely to me this was intended to be just one of the commercial aspects of the game. Oh, and there are train tracks everywhere and no trains.

As wonderful as the city can be, hollow as it is, the layout seems to be one of pure spite. The mini-map bears no relation to the real world when it comes to the layout of streets and alleys. What’s marked on your map as a clear path is far, far more often a dead end, sometimes with buildings blocking your route. Most common, however, are seven foot fences that this enormous special forces vet is incapable of climbing over. I’m a fat six foot special fried rice vet, and I can get over a wall. Every other alley has a pointless dead end, more interesting approaches to enemy buildings are inevitably blocked by spiked fences, routes to back entrances invariably involve running three sides of a block to reach. Being on foot is an exercise in seemingly deliberate frustration.

Larger buildings all turn out to be intended for scripted sequences, but enter them before you’ve triggered their related story and you can go through and kill everyone inside anyway. Trigger it, and all the goons will be magically restocked when you go back. And then a quest chain will frequently have you then return to the same location yet again, this time a scripted repeat, and even then have it repopulated with enemies in all the same places. Seriously, this happens so often – you clear out a big place, go to your mission handler, and they send you straight back to the very same magically all better building again.

It’s pretty agonising that such incredible effort went into building such an enormous game world (larger than Fallout 4’s, I read), and then for so many problems, so much lacklustre mission design, be put into it. Oh, and yes, the time-of-day cycling. It’s something else. Driving down a road you can see the sun rise, suddenly set again, pop back up for a bit, then decide no, sleepy, more night time. For crying out loud.

But the key issue that affects every element of the game is the dreadful AI. The city is so reliant on it to create or maintain any scenario that each element of the game invariably suffers. From driving to shoot-outs to stalking to police chases (which is about the sum total of the game), the NPC borking breaks the flow or ruins your time.

Say you’re in a car chase, or being chased – I can absolutely guarantee that every run will be affected at least once by an AI driver making an absolutely absurd decision, randomly swerving in front of you, suddenly adopting a serpentine driving pattern, or pulling out of a junction into busy traffic. And when one tap of another car can end the chase, or have you caught by police, it’s infinitely infuriating that such berserk behaviours are inevitably the cause.

That car handling is pretty poor, everything sliding around like the world is a giant ice rink, over-emphasises this frustration, but it’s as nothing when compared to the mysterious deaths I’ve suffered at the wheel. Police shoot from their moving vehicles with astonishing precision, but even when they’re not firing I’ve found I’ve suddenly fallen dead. This is irritating as it means restarting a mission, but worse, you lose half of whatever money you’re currently carrying to the game’s own capricious whim.

On foot, shoot-outs are a factory-like process. You can hide behind things and emit a ridiculous magic whistle, that has the power to draw just one enemy away to investigate. (They didn’t even bother to have a dialogue line like, “I’ll go check that out, you stay here.” Instead anyone nearby reacts the same, but only one walks over.) You then boff him on the head (or stab him through the neck if you feel the need) and drag his slumped body into your hiding place. And you can keep doing this daft – although admittedly quite satisfying – procedure until everyone’s gone, or the AI decides it can see you and everyone goes spare and starts shooting. Then you blat them in the head as they conveniently bob up and down from behind their cover. There’s no wit, no need for cunning. If stealth goes wrong, shoot-outs are far, far easier to pull off, for no consequence.

NPCs are programmed to report every crime they witness by running to the nearest public telephone. This can lead to a comedy sequence of running over the snitch with the car you just jacked, then running over the witness to that murder, then the next, until a secret dice roll decides no one nearby cares about this escalating vehicular slaughter. Should the police get called (which they regularly are, even if you stop the pedestrian before they reach a phone…), it’s a case of driving outside of a small blue circle to get away. That’s it.

Vehicular police chases are equally ridiculous, with no neat tricks in the world to get away. Should you get out of their line of sight, ditch your car and get in a new one, and then drive near them again, they’ll magically spot you and pursue again. There are no auto-shops or equivalents for sneaky escapes, and getting away from them is usually as easy as doing a U-turn and speeding off. Later you get an option to call a contact to have the police called off, but it can only be used very rarely, and is mostly unnecessary.

By far the strangest thing about the game is that enemies, on noticing you, all fall over. Entire rooms of men just fall on their bottoms in shock.

And this all describes when Mafia III is “working”. When it goes wrong, and it very often does, things get really weird. I’ve had enemies teleport on top of vending machines in panic, run on the spot, attack walls, trap themselves inside objects, fail to notice me strangling their friend immediately in front of them, or just happily sauntering along while a shoot-out goes on around them.

The game just doesn’t notice how you’re playing. Choose to use non-lethal attacks (peculiarly a setting made in the game’s options, rather than in-game) and the game doesn’t do a single thing differently. Not only does knocking a character out count as killing them for specific assassination missions, but NPCs will gasp, “He just stabbed him right through the neck!” as you quietly squeeze a man’s neck and lower him to the ground. I bopped a guy who said something racist to me on the head, and a lady declared I’d murdered him. It makes no difference on a narrative level either, and then in some moments where you’re supposed to have a choice about letting a boss live or die, you stab them in the neck without being asked. Really odd.

The clumsy jumble of a game keeps adding new elements the further you get in, none of them feeling either thought through nor usefully embellishing the experience. By the time you’re choosing which of your assets should take control of a new racket, the game is attempting to have you play off your loyalties to one against the other. This seems like a splendid idea, and would be were it based on your narrative relationship with them. But instead your decision is entirely forced by what advantages each choice gains you. Pick Vito and you’ll get extra health, stamina, and back-up for larger fights (that you absolutely never need). Pick Cassandra and it’ll improve your weapons, and give you better abilities to hold off the police. Burke will give you more access to explosives, and let you call off police hunts. So you don’t pick based on loyalty, or narrative, but on a skill tree. But a skill tree that hates itself, with chains getting pissed off when you pick the others. There are big narrative consequences for your entirely irrelevant skill options: as I say, such a muddle.

This actually develops into a decent feature an absolutely ridiculous number of hours into this extraordinarily long game – failing to provide assets with rackets and territory will start to piss them off, and showing a bias toward one over another will see them develop grudges. And this really works! The script changes dramatically to reflect their mood, the advantages they afford threatened to be taken away, and eventually if one asset is severely deprived, they’ll walk out on you and create a whole other turf war for you to deal with. This is all splendid, and it’s beyond ludicrous that it’s buried ten, fifteen hours in. (the game of course finds a way of spoiling it, by refusing you access to other advantages because it thinks you’re still involved in a war after it’s been resolved. Sigh.)

As alluded to in my opening, Mafia III is also a game very much about race. And race in the late 1960s southern United States is clearly not a comforting or comfortable subject. The game offers a rather strange and seemingly paranoid opening card that concludes, “We find the racist beliefs, language, and behaviors of some of the characters in the game abhorrent, but believe it is vital to include these depictions in order to tell Lincoln Clay’s story.” Which is, well, a pretty odd way of putting it.

“It’s vital to include these depictions in order to tell the story of this era of this nation’s history,” would have been equally unnecessary and paranoid, but at least made a lick of sense. Lincoln Clay isn’t real, the city is fictional, and his is not a story that was going untold until some people in a room invented it. Anyway, this is all to say that the game is jam-packed with racial epithets and abuse, oozing out of every pore, as the character you’re playing is insulted, jeered, rejected or dismissed. And that’s a novel experience for a white dude in the UK – I cannot speak for anyone else’s perspective or experience, and clearly am not a victim of racial abuse in my daily life. Your mileage will clearly vary. For me, being incessantly called “boy” or “nigger” feels alien, distant, far outside my own life, and I perceive it as ugly, but not particularly affecting.

I think it might be partly that I’ve just sat and watched thirteen episodes of Luke Cage, and heard the n-word an awful lot in doing so, and perhaps been too recently fatigued by its use. I think it might be more significantly because of the bubble gum frippery of the writing, a muddle of “I’ve watched the Godfather a few times” gangster speak, and “Cor, isn’t it terrible how people were awfully racist” condemning scripting. The latter is, I think, the bigger issue, the game too frantically making sure you know the sorts who use such language are all dreadful, rather than more intelligently capturing the larger horror that such language – and the societal status it implied – was indelibly a part of the vocabulary of the era. That it simply wasn’t a perceived big deal that people would say this, ostensibly “decent” people would use such words without a surface-level burning ill will. In being so busily worried about ensuring everyone knows that they’re not a racist some of their best friends etc, they’ve ended up diminishing the impact and severity of the language used.

The further you play, the more irrelevant the setting and the characters become, allusions to any of Clay’s motivations dissipating as he just becomes a generic grumpy bad guy in most scenes. There are a couple of oddly poignant moments in cutscenes for side-missions, but the main quest enters a long, long stretch of, “Hey, let’s take out this boss guy for a bit,” but with baddies who shout out racist barks.

And my, what a welcome return for the Playboy licensed pictures of bare ladies to collect as you go. Yes indeed, you too could be the proud owner of a (completely broken) gallery of scans of ladies with their boobies out (as well as, hilariously, some articles from Playboy too – yes indeed, I imagine they only included the magazine in the game for the articles). No, the images themselves aren’t offensive. Some of them are very lovely vintage photographs. But the bizarre desire to have included them at all, this bold statement that this is a game for the boys, seems superfluous and thoughtless.

It is, peculiarly, a big backward step from Mafia II’s superb gunplay. That game made the ridiculous mistake of barely using its best feature; this one has infinite shoot-outs, but without any of the thrill or tension. Enemy AI is so appalling that their only ability beyond bobbing up and down from cover, is to run straight toward you in a suicidal charge. Although that’s a best case scenario – it’s not unlikely that they’ll instead opt to face a wall and endlessly run toward it, or get themselves run over, or just walk off.

Features that had made the previous game more interesting – the ability for fire to spread, clever use of cover damage – are gone. Molotov cocktails are hilariously useless, and you could throw them at a pile of birds nests lined with matches and they’d fizzle out in three or four seconds. You can shoot out some bits of cover, but it adds nothing.

I’ve not finished the game, but I’ve spent dozens of hours playing it. And what I’ve experienced has been decidedly mediocre at best, farcical broken AI at worst. It feels like an open-city game from at least five years ago, possibly ten, in presentation, depth and delivery. The further I go, the less of an impact it has, as it degrades down to its three or four near-identical mission types. Go there and kill everyone, go there and kill everyone but one person, go there and pick something up after killing everyone, and go there and decide whether to kill or not kill one guy after killing everyone, all while breaking stuff or picking up cash to lower the baddies’ resources. Side missions are terrible bores, driving trucks long distances across nothing territory, or whizzing a clumsy boat around in the water to pick up some crates, for instance. Busywork, not entertainment.

At the same time, this also offers the brainless icon-clearing fugue state that I have enjoyed, if criticised, in other open-city games, but it’s impinged by the incessantly awful AI spoiling the monotonous flow. Every time I think I’m being too harsh on it, it manages to quickly step in and do something unbelievably stupid. At one point I was being hunted down by a huge army of baddies, part of a scripted mission, and I ducked inside a building to find some cover. It happened to be a building that was part of my territory, and presumably to stop me killing key characters, guns don’t work inside such places. Well, my guns don’t. The enemies’ still worked just fine. I was slaughtered. My head was in my hands again.

Even after the weekend’s patch, there are still no mouse controls for the weapons store menu, nor the assigning of rackets to assets, nor even selecting stacked missions in the Objectives screen. I’ve had it crash to desktop with no warning a good few times, which is obviously very annoying. But beyond that, the game is pretty solid to run at this point. It’s just so self-sabotaging at every point. Astonishing amounts of work have gone into this, to creating such a vast detailed city, writing an apparently infinite story, building something on such scale. And then this has been dramatically let down by the dreadful AI, a woeful inability to edit, and the mindnumbing monotony of its identical missions. I’m fascinated by it, but I absolutely cannot recommend it.

Mafia III is out now on Steam for £35/$60/€50.

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97 Comments

  1. onionman says:

    So…. 7/10?

    • DirtySidorovich says:

      Thats exactly what I would give it. Shooting feels soooo good man! Best third-person shooting to date imho. So fact that rackets just makes you go around, shooting people dont really matter, since thats best thing about this game. Along with story.

      I would even say 8/10 but all the technical issues just can´t be overlooked. I would hold off buying it right now. Wait for price drop + patches.

      • Jediben says:

        Better shooting than Max Payne 3?! I have literally just finished a MP3 playthtough and my uncle has given me Mafia 3, so I shall find out if this claim has merit.

    • invitro says:

      I think this game would be in wild heaven fantasy dreamland if it got a 7/10. It’s been clobbered by almost every reviewer I see on gamerankings.com: Polygon 6/10, Quarter to Three 2/5, Game Revolution 3.5/5, USgamer 3.5/5, PC Gamer 54/100, Telegraph 2/5, and Guardian 2/5. Average: 53%. MetaScore = 60/100 (14 reviews). WOW. That’s the lowest I can remember a AAA game getting in a long time. But hey, it’s got boobies and nasty words!

  2. sabrage says:

    Can you put the revisions from the previous two versions of this exact same article in bold or something?

    • John Walker says:

      Each “revision” has added another 1000-1500 words, so no, that wouldn’t be a sensible way to lay it out. It was always said that it was in progress, and this is the final version. (Another good reason to object to publishers not providing review code ahead of release.)

      • Maybeitsjustme says:

        So not only do you not respect your audience enough to make your content worth reading your punishment for the lack of review code seems to be devoting three times as much press coverage.

        The way I see it you have two options: post a single review once when you’ve finished the game or create a monthly column where you post a list of games without review code that you will not be reviewing.

        All you’ve done here is insult your readers whilst rewarding the very publishers you are unhappy with.

        • Michael Fogg says:

          … or maybe it’s just you.

        • Sin Vega says:

          “This game is a bit crap!”
          “This game is a bit crap!”
          “This game is a bit crap!”

          “Wow look guys! Triple PR! What a great result!”

          • Capt. Bumchum McMerryweather says:

            As Robert Romine will attest: any PR is good PR.

          • Sin Vega says:

            I’ve no idea who that is, which rather casts doubt to begin with. But the idea that “any publicity is good publicity” is the kind of talk that should get a person branded as a child molester and thrown in prison, just to see if empirical experience might teach them what basic logic didn’t.

        • Beefenstein says:

          You probably get insulted enough to rise above the challenge eventually.

        • Flangie says:

          He’s rewarded them by saying their game is crap three times. They must be delighted.

        • GallonOfAlan says:

          Jesus. Entitled much? Just read the bastard thing.

          • Capt. Bumchum McMerryweather says:

            You know if you don’t like people giving their opinions in public places, you should go check out North Korea. They’ll love you there, they might even give you a job in the department of ‘alterations’.

          • Klydefrog says:

            Yeah, GallonOfAlan! Don’t you realise that calling someone out on their whining is LITERALLY censorship!?

          • Capt. Bumchum McMerryweather says:

            Whining about Whining is still Whining.

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            keefybabe says:

            What about whining about whining about whining?

          • Marr says:

            I’d like to complain about people who hold things up by complaining about people who complain. link to youtube.com

      • sabrage says:

        I understand preserving the flow of your ideas, but I’m getting serious déjà no-thank-you trying to find what’s new here.

        • April March says:

          I agree, and will repeat myself by suggesting it shouldn’t be done any more. RPS has a lot of systems for providing early reviews for long games, like Early Impressions.

          Though I must admit that I found it fascinating to witness how a writer changes his presentation over time.

          • ooshp says:

            The sense of entitlement is strong in these comments. Don’t like it? Don’t read it. Or do what I did, and skim to the end of the final review to see if his position has changed instead of reading every word again.

            I didn’t think it would need spelling out, but clearly the idea was to provide an opinion as quickly as possible since no pre-release review copy was available. In fairness to the game and developer, the review has been… reviewed as he got further into the game. I don’t think a more balanced approach could have been taken.

            Seriously, he tries to do us a favour by providing a quick response before you blow all your earth dollars on a lemon, and all you can say is “OMG you made me click all 3 links and read similar words!”.

          • sabrage says:

            They show up in my RSS, and I didn’t read it (or your comment much past the word “entitlement”; it’s hard to read when my eyes are rolling.)

          • Sulph says:

            An early access review is a pretty weird idea, because its usefulness to the reader beyond broad entertainment at the writer’s reaction is nil. Even then, if the game becomes better or worse as it’s played, the reviewer’s take shifts accordingly to reflect the overall viewpoint, which leads to the reader having to reconcile the previous takes he read on disparate elements.

            In terms of immediately useful information, the one thing these three revisions have done so far is show people how the reviewing sausage is made, and as folks who’ve been to a butcher’s can tell you, that isn’t something people usually want to see.

          • Capt. Bumchum McMerryweather says:

            God, if I never see the word entitlement again it’ll be a fucking billion years too soon.

            Anyway yes, I do kind of agree, early impressions and review should really be two different bodies of writing. In this case I read the first piece in full, read a little bit of the second one and none of the final one. I don’t know if I’m just being “entitled” but seeing the same opening paragraph put me off a bit. That being said I do get John’s point well enough: it’s nearly good, but instead it’s a bit crazy.

          • invitro says:

            “God, if I never see the word entitlement again it’ll be a fucking billion years too soon.” — It sounds like you need a trigger warning. ;)

          • inspiredhandle says:

            Bit late to the conversation but…

            Check your privilege.

      • eljueta says:

        I have to agree that if you update a review you should add at least some way to see what was updated. reading the same thing 3 times is not very pleasant.

      • Vast_Girth says:

        It was a very annoying experience trying to pick out the new bits. Please do not publish a review in this way again. Impressions and review should be 2 completely different articles.

      • SpakAttack says:

        I agree – an early impressions is fine, but repeating whole blocks of text in your final review doesn’t work for me.

      • Vandelay says:

        Have to agree that this was not the best way to present the thoughts here. The thoughts themselves are as informative and entertaining to read as ever (although it is disappointing to read that another Mafia game is a failure,) but this is not a format I feel works for the reader. Separate articles would be much better and would also give a sense of your changing thoughts on what is obviously a massive game.

        Or, don’t even bother with early impressions. I’m sure most of us here are perfectly capable of waiting a week to hear your thoughts. We certainly don’t need an article that says anything more than “Play this now”/”You may want to wait for a full review”/”Avoid at all costs.”

      • invitro says:

        Though italicized changes would be a nice bonus, I like the way John handled it. If I were more interested in the game, I’d probably think seeing how the review changed would be neat. I think some of you guys pick on the reviewers too much, though. I think they write excellent reviews, which is why this is the only video game website that I read regularly. (I do read Steam and other websites’ reviews for games I’m thinking about obtaining.)

  3. Rogerio Martins says:

    Yeah, I agree with a lot of points, the game has terrific story and I really like the gameplay. Yet it fails with a lot of repetitive quests, graphical glitches, crashes and there are some truly bad design decisions like not providing fast travel.

    In the end I think the pros outweighs the cons, specially with it’s amazing story and characters, but it makes the bad stuff even more apparent.

  4. Ginsoakedboy21 says:

    I may be missing something but why are there so many semi-naked people in the screenshots?

    Oh well, that aside, this feels like one of those games where two years from now, there will be a 10,000 word article on Kotaku where anonymous devs tell what an utter shambles the development was. A shame, unlike John I rather enjoyed Mafia II and was looking forward to this.

  5. Flank Sinatra says:

    As a lifelong resident of New Orleans, I was looking forward to playing an open world game set in my home town. Or a least a fictionalized version of it. But the game sounds terribly buggy and unfinished and I haven’t seen anything of New Orleans that I recognize in any of the screenshots. Guess I’ll wait for it to go on sale and check it out.

    • Premium User Badge

      DelrueOfDetroit says:

      It’s not set in New Orleans but a fictional version of it called New Bordeaux.

      I find it strange too that they would pick a city with such a distinct culture and then seemingly choose not to display any of it. Wouldn’t Jacksonville Florida have worked just as well without any cultural expectations?

      P.S. I am jealous, New Orleans is one of the few US cities I would like to visit.

      • brucethemoose says:

        Do it.

        It’s an amazing city, and I swear I’ve never eaten better food anywhere else in the world.

      • invitro says:

        “I find it strange too that they would pick a city with such a distinct culture and then seemingly choose not to display any of it.” — Here’s how it works. If you say you’ve got an open world game in a city based on New Orleans, well that’s easy and cheap, and people will pay you for it. But if you put actual elements of New Orleans in it (rather than what the devs think New Orleans might be like based on movies and TV shows), well that takes a bit of research, thus a bit of spending of money. And not many of the game’s intended audience will know the difference.

  6. tenochtitlan says:

    Another downside of the skill tree thing is that I accidentally missed all of that rivalry stuff, because I wanted the range of abilities and so the districts were distributed somewhat equally. Even with a difference of two districts between two of them, they really didn’t do much except get verbally abusive a little bit.

    Btw, the reason why he randomly kills the racket bosses without giving you the option to save them is because you didn’t unlock every single communications tower box. Not that it matters because money is useless. Also, making you collect three electronics things each to unlock one of about four hundred boxes is about the only way you could have made the UbiUnlock(TM) system worse.

  7. Zenicetus says:

    I agree with most of this review, although for some reason I haven’t experienced nearly as many AI glitches and other technical problems as John has. Which isn’t saying the AI is great, just that I’ve seen few weird glitches. Maybe because I’m not trying to interact too much with civilians and cops? I think Lincoln would probably have kept a low profile while moving through the city, not go all GTA on it.

    I think John still doesn’t quite get that this isn’t a game “about” racism in the South during the late 60’s, in the sense of making some large point about it. It’s just using racism and this particular setting as context to tell a revenge story. The protagonist could be a halfbreed Native American taking on a mining company or series of Cattle Barons in the Wild West, and you could tell basically the same story.

    I just wish it wasn’t so repetitive. I’m only 12 hours into what is apparently a massive game and I’m already bored with the repetitive stealth/combat routine. Not sure how much further I’ll go with it. It’s a damn shame, because it looks like a slew of people did a lot of hard work on the environment design, and then it’s wasted because the mission designer and AI programmers couldn’t take full advantage of it.

    • Premium User Badge

      kfix says:

      I think John still doesn’t quite get that this isn’t a game “about” racism in the South during the late 60’s, in the sense of making some large point about it.

      Graham linked to an interview with one of the devs in the last Sunday Papers, I think if you read that you might feel differently about what they were trying to do. Doesn’t sound like they quite managed it though.

    • RichUncleSkeleton says:

      I think John still doesn’t quite get that this isn’t a game “about” racism in the South during the late 60’s, in the sense of making some large point about it. It’s just using racism and this particular setting as context to tell a revenge story. The protagonist could be a halfbreed Native American taking on a mining company or series of Cattle Barons in the Wild West, and you could tell basically the same story.

      This sounds right to me. It’s basically 70’s exploitation cinema in (bad) video game form. Maybe for their next project, Hangar 13 can make a TellTale-style adventure game set in a Jewish ghetto in 1940’s Poland.

    • buddy-bubble says:

      fully agree with you. Im like 8 hours into the game (ps4) and haven’t encountered a single AI glitch. It’s not a perfect ai, of course it can’t react sensible to everything you do. But within its rules it worked without a bug for me. But I also have to agree, gameplay outside of the missions is boring

  8. pendergraft says:

    Did anyone get the feeling they planned to make more cutscenes but then changed their minds/had to give up on the idea to meet their deadline? The first time you meet the Irishman’s daughter, it’s a well-done, emotional scene that actually managed to elicit my sympathy in the suffering of video game characters.

    Then you meet her again and she confides a very personal secret, only this time it’s not actually a cutscene. It’s two mostly lifeless mannequins standing in front of each other with their mouths flapping and occasionally performing MMO-quality emotes.

    Most interactions in the game are like this and it’s a damn shame. Especially the conversations you unlock with the priest. You can hear the voice actors giving it their all but it’s rendered dumb by the one fixed camera and theme park automatons.

    • Amstrad says:

      Yes, I noticed this as well. It becomes pretty obvious when dealing with any of the side mission character. One particularly noticeable bit for me was when speaking with Alma the Cuban smuggler and her dialogue mentioning a song playing that reminded her of her mother or some-such.. with no such song playing in the background.

  9. RichUncleSkeleton says:

    My single favorite thing to do in Mafia 3 is to walk into a segregated store, get yelled at by the clerk who is seemingly oblivious or indifferent to the black woman with a giant afro standing in there, steal money from the cash register and have him scream “are you gonna pay for that?!”, then punch him out as he goes to call the police, while the other patrons in the store completely ignore the whole ordeal and stare listlessly at the shelves like nothing happened. It almost sort of works in a screwball way, except the game takes itself way too seriously to ever embrace any of the stupid, frequently unintentional shit that happens on a moment-to-moment basis. Memo to Hangar 13: if you’re going to shamelessly rip off Saints Row, maybe try stealing some of its humor while you’re at it.

    • A Wanderer says:

      Yep.
      To me, the funniest part of Saints Row (especially the third) came from the fact that you could have a bloody war raging in the streets with tanks, helicopters and RPGs, and normal people just do not give a damn.

  10. ukpanik says:

    “I’ve had it crash to desktop with no warning”

    “Excuse me human. Yes you. I’m going to crash in about 10 seconds…prepare thyself”

  11. thrasius says:

    I just want to point out that the Fleur de Lis is a symbol of New Orleans, the purple background too. That, at least, is not a ripoff of Saints’ Row. Otherwise, I haven’t played either game. So I have no further comment!

  12. geldonyetich says:

    Open world crime games area dime a dozen, and so I wonder why bother giving Mafia III an acknowledgement of existing when I’ve already Saints Row IV, Sleeping Dogs, and several GTAs sitting in the backlog.

    • Premium User Badge

      Qazinsky says:

      Maybe you could post your back log then, so that RPS can see what games they should bother reviewing. This scatter of reviews of games that don’t matter is really starting to bother me so if they could just finally see that list of yours so they can just focus on the right games, that would be really helpful, thank you!

      • geldonyetich says:

        You seem to misunderstand me. I do not resent RPS’s choice of what to write. Rather, I resent that the industry keeps making the same kind of games when I’ve already so many of them that I don’t have the time for. I honestly have no idea how you came up with the impression I was whining about RPS’s coverage. Maybe you are projecting from having seem snot nosed brats do that on other reviewing sites.

        To talk a bit about my actual point some more, I’d like to see more open world games with unique themes. For example, instead of being a criminal, hey, what not be a cop? There’s a few such games, but nobody’s really managed to nail it yet. Or maybe an open-world superhero game, straight up, not lamp shaded like in Crackdown and Saint’s Row IV. And these are the easier examples, I’m not talking about something really out there. Instead, it’s just crime simulator after crime simulator.

        • invitro says:

          “For example, instead of being a criminal, hey, what not be a cop?” — I’m totally with you here. But adolescent boys fantasize about being gangstas about ten times as much as they do police officers.

  13. DoctorDaddy says:

    John! I love your articles, but this one has been frustrating trying to parse the new content from the previous work-in-progress elements. I’d just humbly request that this format not be the norm. Thanks!

  14. Jetsetlemming says:

    I’m having a great time with the game. I recognize some elements of critique in the review, but their sum isn’t nearly the same negative impression for me. Not sure why, maybe because I resonate more with the story, and thus give it more of a benefit of a doubt/excuse more flaws.
    While they absolutely didn’t need to continue the Playboy feature from Mafia 2, I feel like they did it a LOT better, especially by including a couple articles (that are actually relevant to the setting!), and expanded the collectathon to pinup paintings, Hot Rod magazines, Communist Propoganda posters, etc. I’m very disappointed that, unlike the first two, the posters repeat. Communist media is, by definition, open source, 2k, and there’s an entire century of material to borrow from. No excuse!

    Anyway, I’m having fun, and really enjoying how much work they put into non-standard areas for a videogame, like the story and research (accurate historical info for the Irish Civil War in background text blurbs? Yes please!), instead of the fanciest graphics that can’t run on my computer or a complicated multiplayer system that would be dead in a month anyway. It’s refreshing, and a positive sign of potential diversity in developmental focus going forward.

  15. a very affectionate parrot says:

    What is it about this specific game and John that is making so many horrible trolls show up?
    This review pretty much mirrors my experience except I gave up halfway through getting the Irish bloke to join me, I think I used similar words when describing the mission types when showing the game to a friend.
    There’s just far too much of those repetitive kill/interrogate/steal/destroy missions, meanwhile the massive number of buildings you can enter contain nothing but cash registers to get a small amount of useless money from.
    The period setting is fairly well replicated but one particular thing I scoffed at was two factory workers discussing going to see The Doors, clearly blue collar workers in Louisiana were their main audience at the time.
    The soundtrack is pretty decent as well, but again it’s not exactly the kind of music you’d expect to be playing on 1968 Louisiana radio stations.

    • Zenicetus says:

      “The soundtrack is pretty decent as well, but again it’s not exactly the kind of music you’d expect to be playing on 1968 Louisiana radio stations.”

      I agree about the repetitive missions, but you’re wrong about the radio. That’s EXACTLY what a disaffected ‘Nam vet would have been listening to on the radio, when driving around town.

      Remember this is pre-Internet. People got their group “social media culture” from TV, and AM and FM band radio, including all the college and alternative stations. The FM bands had been taken over by Rock music back them. It wasn’t “Classic Rock” either. Artists like Hendrix were the new hot thing. Even the Southern rednecks were listening to it.

    • Spacewalk says:

      It’s not specifically this, you get that with everything that John has strong opinions about.

      • Distec says:

        What trolls. When I read comments like these without any additional context, I assume that the RPS comment section went the way of Youtube. But all I see is “Hey, this review format was kind of terrible” and a few sprinklings of “You’re wrong, John”; give or take the requisite bitterness that seems to be the baseline for all online discussions everywhere (this site being no exception).

        Is this what qualifies for trolling these days? Really? We seems to have produced the daintiest of flowers in this garden. If it seems like the discussion following any John Walker article has its temperature elevated, you might want to consider the possibility that this tone is following the lead set by the author.

  16. Hedgeclipper says:

    Anyone know what its like for modding? Sounds like that the game really needs is for someone to get unreasonably obsessed with fixing up all the details that seem to have been dropped.

  17. April March says:

    Reading this review for the 2.8th time, I was suddenly reminded that GTAIV also had some businesses, like bars, that could be entered and were marked on the map, even though you couldn’t do anything in them. That was even more puzzling, since in that game it was possible to eat food to recover health.

  18. Geebs says:

    I think that laying into the developers for the disclaimer that was obviously put there by the legal department is both a bit passive-aggressive and a bit ignorant of context. The US of A has been having a bit of a discussion this year about violence between young black men and the police. Did I say discussion? Er, actually everybody has been totally losing their shit over it – and in many ways, rightly so. In that sort of environment, I think it’s far more sensible, and far safer, to give a clear statement of intent at the beginning, than to let a misunderstanding lead to an outcry which swamps any message they were trying to put across.

    Of course it would be perfectly reasonable to criticise the developer if they then go on to make an overtly racist game, or not actually make a point that was worth all of the bad words, and conclude that the opening screed is just a fig-leaf. I didn’t really get the sense from the article that that was the case, and in fact you talk about how you can’t relate to being on the receiving end of constant racist abuse. Maybe putting you in that uncomfortable situation was the point?

    (Re: the description of the AI’s terrible driving: that’s a bit quaintly English as well – where I live, you will see examples of all the behaviours you described in a single city block)

    • Zenicetus says:

      The driving quote was a bit odd, or maybe it’s a difference in settings and controllers. In Mafia 2 I had to be careful how I drove around town, and there were even two different speed modes to avoid attracting the cops.

      This one is very different. Not necessarily better, just different. I’ve been driving around the city full-speed, blasting through every stop sign and street light, swerving into the wrong lane to get through a road jam at the intersections. If you’re halfway decent at the driving — and I’m just using mouse & keyboard and I’m no wiz at this sort of thing — it’s very easy to avoid oncoming or sideways traffic when zooming through every intersection and swerving to avoid a collision.

      Which is a good thing, because if the driving was as tedious as in Mafia 2, I don’t think would have gotten this far in the game.

    • Distec says:

      This was the only part of the review that raised my eyebrow, as I already had low expectations of the game and little else surprised me.

      John gives the impression of being puzzled by this disclaimer’s inclusion and calls it “paranoid”, but he should know better. I agree that it’s unnecessary in the sense that I don’t like creators feeling obliged to preemptively shield their work this way, but I absolutely understand why one would include such a feeble gesture these days. Living across the pond in the UK can explain some of the disconnect, but the hot topic of “racism” and all its potential facets has seemingly extended beyond just BLM and the United States. If you’re a Westerner with an internet connection, there’s a good chance you’re encountering this conversation on a very frequent basis.

      So the whole “Gosh, it’s quite odd that they included that” bit seems pretty blinkered.

      • zarniwoop says:

        Why have you put the word “racism” in scare quotes?

      • TheRealHankHill says:

        The disconnect John is trying to tell us how we should feel about representation of things that we actually lived through is not lost on me. It’s kinda perturbing actually, feels like cheapening real life situations we have witnessed, experienced, or been subjugated to.

  19. buddy-bubble says:

    Was it really necessary to submit this review 3 times without somehow marking the changes?

  20. Ashabel says:

    It really sounds like someone in 2K saw the lack of Assassin’s Creed this year and decided they need to push out an open world icon collector in order to feed off all the lost and confused fans. But then Watch_Doge 2 got announced and they hastily decided to release a game couple months early in order to not compete with it, even though there was no reasonable way for the game to be complete at that rate.

    A quick search reveals to me that the project lead on this was the guy who was in charge of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, which really honestly explains a lot.

  21. Premium User Badge

    zegenie says:

    At least you’ve given them something to put in their ad spreads:

    “Rock, Paper, Shotgun sums up their review with: I’m fascinated by it”

  22. Bashmet says:

    Definitely don’t agree about it looking dated, but it could really use some more variety in missions.

  23. GallonOfAlan says:

    Regarding the ‘work in progress’ aspect of the reviews.

    Next time a writer does this, and says ‘this is a work in progress’ at the top, just don’t read that version and instead wait for the one that doesn’t say that.

    Then you won’t get all confused and have to have the bits that changed pointed out to you. Why would someone need the bits that changed between versions pointed out? I have no idea.

    • Capt. Bumchum McMerryweather says:

      I get what you’re saying, and you’re right; don’t like it don’t read it.

      However readers could be forgiven for expecting two different bodies of writing. Every single review in progress I’ve ever read has been such – an impressions article, followed by a final opinion, so I was expecting the same when I came to this little series of articles.

      Not that I’m criticising John’s decision, but it was kind of a weird choice to treat the website like a word document for him to edit, rather than producing two separate and coherent pieces – one that said “I can’t be sure yet, but this game might be a turd” followed by one that says “yup, this game is pretty much a turd, here’s why”.

      • Premium User Badge

        FhnuZoag says:

        Yeah, I think this review format is interesting as an experimental technique, but I don’t think the experiment has really worked. It would have been more effective to have e.g. done a series of much shorter game diaries instead.

  24. Shiloh says:

    So… 5/7 then?

  25. Premium User Badge

    AutonomyLost says:

    I was excited about this game last weekend, and got 16 hours total from it before I noticed I didn’t really enjoy playing it any longer. Deleted it two nights ago and imagine I won’t be returning, which sucks. I was quite excited for it in the lead-up to release.

    Gears 4 and Shadow Warrior 2 will be dominating my game time this weekend.

  26. oravalag says:

    I called Vito to ask for reinforcements while I was on a mission on the Bayou. Reinforcements were spawned in the water and were eaten by crocodiles.

    After repeating the same simple missions over and over again, these kind of bugs are actually what keeps the experience interesting.

  27. Costa_69 says:

    FACK! PING

  28. Costa_69 says:

    You ruined the game this series of Panos of your greed! Fuck you asshole and you get punished God

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