September 9, 2023•1,283 words
I missed Mafia III at launch. It was released in 2016. I didn't have time to play it back then. Early reviews were mostly negative. Players called Mafia III a "non Mafia" game and complained about bugs. So I put Mafia III to my gaming backlog for long time and haven't played it until 2023. Worth mentioning, I don't know how much the game has improved since the original release. Probably a lot, but I cannot be sure. It's playable, though it has some minor bugs sometimes.
I played Mafia III in 2023 for the first time, and I was positively surprised. Though, it is not a Mafia game if Mafia I or Mafia II is a definition of a Mafia game, Mafia III is not a bad game either. It is different.
First things first. Mafia III is a gameplay focused game, meanwhile Mafia I and Mafia II are narrative focused (they have great gameplay too, but story is the key feature and main accent of the first two games). The way how Mafia III delivers story to the player reminds Bethesda games. It occasionally gives you small portions of story in between long sessions of repetitive (but fun) gameplay. You aren't getting the story progress every 10-15-20 minutes.
Perhaps Mafia III developers were inspired by the Godfather game series, because progression through district takeover is a base of The Godfather game. The storyline of Mafia III is a story of revenge through business takeover step-by-step, pretty much like the storyline of The Godfather. Stories aren't identical, but bases of both stories (main conflicts) are somewhat similar.
- Story. It's interesting to follow. I was watching cut scenes between chapters and was actually curious about what happened to Lincoln and the crew. Stories in DLCs are also great (though gameplay of some DLCs is not so great, see details below).
- Gameplay. It's fun and non-linear, it offers a lot of mechanics to play with.
- Level design. Usually you have multiple options how to approach a mission.
- Open world. Some players might disagree and say the world is not filled with activities enough, but I think it's beautiful and great as is. I hate Far Cry 5-alike open worlds when something is always happening around you, when a game doesn't let you explore the world at your own pace and always tries to "entertain" you. In Mafia III I can spend as much time as I want looking over building facades nd architecture in city or lonely wooden cabins and gas stops in the countryside.
(warning, spoiler!) For example, in the Everyone Will Notice chapter, in the end when Tony Derazio is already dead, the game leads the player back to the hotel lobby. If the player accessed the hotel though the parking garage at the beginning of the chapter, at this point the lobby is full of Marcano gangsters searching Lincoln. Level design whispers you either to quickly sneak to the stairs and go back to the parking garage, or to fight gangsters in the lobby, leave through the main door, meet more gangsters there and after to be chased by the police. What I did - I headed to the main door, but before leaving the main door, I called the mob hit squad (ability, you can call for backup, allies mobsters would arrive in no time and fight for you) - they killed Marcano men outside, I ordered a car delivery (another ability), left the hotel, jumped to the car and immediately used the clear blue zones ability to get immunity from cops for 30 seconds. It was enough to quickly escape without a single shot outside the hotel. Of course, you cannot solve all levels with abilities, and most of the time you have to battle or do stealth, but every now and then the game allows you to solve levels in a non-standard way combining stealth/battle approach with abilities.
- Directing. Directed scenes aren't a common thing in this game, but every time the game tries to do some scripted directed gameplay stuff, it just doesn't feel natural. Especially in DLCs scripts are poorly directed. For example, once the game captured camera control and moved my cursor to the air aiming to and highlighting a plane, but thing is that I was in the middle of a battle and enemies didn't get frozen for those seconds when my mouse control was blocked.
- Bugs. Though the game is enjoyably playable, it still has bugs. In almost 50 hours of playtime I had at least 3 situations when I had to restart the game because gameplay got blocked (e.g., game lost keyboard control, game didn't load after the loading screen, etc.).
- Side quests. Optional missions are awfully boring (I don't count DLCs as side quests, for me DLCs are part of the main story). Usually you drive somewhere a long distance, pickup a car (full of something: drugs, weapons, hard liquors - doesn't matter), drive a long distance back - that's it. Except maybe Vito's killing list, it's still boring but not as boring as other side quests.
- DLC Sign of the Times. The story is okay, not as exciting as in other story DLCs, but okay. However, gameplay in this DLC is too repetitive, very slow and really annoying. I don't know why developers decided to put a little copy of L.A. Noire to this DLC and bring some vibes of the first season of the True Detective, but it simply doesn't work. Endless walking in the darkness and drug trips isn't fun. Glitchy inspection of objects (as part of "detective investigation") isn't fun either. Even battles in this DLC are boring. Developer should have made the DLC 50-70% shorter excluding all those pointless walks in dark rooms, then it would have worked.
- DLC Faster, Baby!. It is overall good, fun gameplay and good story, but I got a lot of FPS drops while played missions from this DLC. Of course my 3060 isn't a beefy gpu in 2023, but it should be more than enough for a game from 2016 with a DLC from 2017. I didn't have any issues with framerate and performance in the base game and other DLCs though.
- Not really a negative thing for me, but it would be a negative thing for someone else. Mafia III doesn't offer any advanced battle tasks or complex difficulty progression. Regardless of a chosen difficulty, the game is easy and same formulas would work perfectly well for battles in the very beginning and the very ending of the main story. The core gameplay is repetitive. If you don't like how it plays from start, likely you wouldn't like at all.
I understand why people leave negative reviews to Mafia III. It could have had a much better rating if all the issues were addressed on time and if it had a different name (like Sleeping Dogs, it was at first developed as True Crime: Hong Kong, the third game in the True Crime series, but got its own name due to copyright issues, which in my opinion became a positive change, because Sleeping Dogs is quite different from the True Crime games). Anyway, I think positives still overweight negatives. It's not a legendary game, unlikely I would replay it any soon, but it is a solid 6-6.5/10 game and a fun-to-play game. If you haven't played and you are into action games and gangster narrative, you should give it a try. Just don't expect it to be similar to Mafia I or Mafia II, gameplay-wise it is something in between Mafia II and The Godfather.