Better Late than Never: Mafia 3 First Impressions

Yeah I know, Mafia 3 came out in early October 2016 but I was like, busy with some other stuff…and things at the time.

So I finally got around to picking it up (thank you weekly sales) and spent about 4 hours with it earlier this morning.

The original Mafia game was a flawed but novel take on the GTA style game and Mafia 2 while an improvement, and not a bad game in its own right, was largely forgettable (I have literally forgotten everything about it except that I enjoyed it more than not).

With the third installment 2K games tried several new things and at this point most of them are working for me.

The story has been set in a New Orleans stand-in known as New Bordeaux at the height of the civil rights movement.  The main character is a young black man with the a little too on the nose name Lincoln Clay (as in Abraham and Cassius respectively).  The game starts with heist at a Federal Reserve and through well placed flashback sequences we learn that Lincoln has just returned home from Vietnam.  Lincoln has big plans but gets swept up into the rather shady dealings of his adoptive “black mob” family and their more traditional Mafia overlords.

This opening sequence is absolutely fantastic and makes the most of the documentary style cutscenes framing the story.  While Mafia 3’s story, a largely by the numbers revenge story, is nothing we haven’t seen before the use of these documentary segments make the story feel just that much more intriguing.  You are given the impression early on that Lincoln’s quest for vengeance is absolutely devastating to New Bordeaux and as a result it pulls you in, wanting to see more of how it plays out.  Of course this framing technique steals some of the thunder from the eventual betrayal but the scene itself is extremely well crafted.

I have only played a little while past this point and can already see that the game suffers a bit from the things that plague the worst of open world games.  Whereas the opening moments were fairly tightly constructed, guiding you through the story, the main game has now reached this wide open style but the world isn’t full of things to do.  In the two or so hours that followed the excellent opening I’ve had a wide open world with but a single objective at any given time and some collectibles to hunt for.  I’m still enjoying the game but really think the more tightly constructed style of the opening would have better serviced the game as a narrative device.  Open worlds are fantastic when they provide you with things to do and find.  Maybe it opens up even more in the future but so far it hasn’t.

Graphically the game is serviceable at best.  Nothing will really take your breath away but I’ve also not seen things that break the experience either.

Aside from story the best thing about the game is the soundtrack.  Being set in 1968 gives the game an absolute ton of amazing music to use in cutscenes and on the radio.  Of course this means I won’t be able to stream the game due to copyright concerns (which is a damn shame) but its hard to be down when a game has you driving at high speeds with CCR, Steppenwolf, Johnny Cash, The Rolling Stones and so many others from the era.  It has been a long, long time since an open world game like this has had a soundtrack I’ve actually enjoyed (maybe GTA:San Andreas) but the copyright issue makes it a double edged sword.  For the first time in ages the music was perfectly selected to add to the game’s ambiance and due to overzealous copyright enforcement I won’t be able to share the experience.

All in all I can already see that the game isn’t a perfect game and I’m glad I waited this long to pick it up.  That said I am still enjoying my time in the messed up, backwards-ass world of the South in the late 60s.

Time will tell if these hold throughout the whole game.

-Shad (@PolyNerdic)

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