Welcome to New Bordeux, a fictionalised version of New Orleans in the racially charged 1960s. Playing as Lincoln Clay, the premise, story, and soundtrack is easily some of the best to be released this year. However, there are so many elements that let the game down that make it just acceptable rather than an incredible game.
The opening to the game is simply spectacular. It’s got it all: Excellent set-pieces, drama, betrayal, reunions, and fragile alliances. It all builds up to a moment that really pays off. You give a damn about the protagonist, what happened to the people around Lincoln Clay, and who did what. I left the opening 90 minutes almost gobsmacked at how well everything was delivered. It was simply one of the best openings to an open-world game that I’ve ever played. But then the game really began.
At almost every corner of the game, Mafia 3 just breaks itself down. Every time it starts to bring you back in, it pushes you away again, never feeling like you’ll every get attached to any part of it. The opening of the game felt like every section was unique and will never be repeated. The rest of the game follows a frankly dull rinse and repeat design that makes it an absolute chore to try continue just to get more of the frankly really interesting narrative. It almost doesn’t feel worth it though after about six hours as you realise just what the game is going to do to you for the next 30 hours or so.
The game asks you to take out each area of New Bordeux by killing targets, destroying enemy property and cargo, and generally causing damage to a rival game. This will culminate in taking our the leader and then giving it to one of your own crew. The problem lies in the fact that this structure is continued and you are expected to do it over and over again throughout the game. In fact, it’s pretty much the only thing you can do with the main missions. Even doing it the first time, it started to outstay its welcome but expecting to do it for a few dozen hours felt like hell.
On top of the poor game design, the game almost falls on the side of “technical mess”. There are so many small and sometimes big problems within Mafia 3. The lighting model consistently feels off doing a complete disservice to the great art design seen throughout the city.
The biggest redeeming quality to Mafia 3 is how well the setting is executed. It is easily one of the best soundtracks of the year and simply driving around the city listening to the soundtrack is just so good. The licensed soundtrack is also used at pivotal moments of the game’s story and once again they come off so well. Walking down fictional places completely influenced by the real New Orleans, it was honestly one of my favourite experiences in gaming all year.
When Mafia 3 falls into place, it is thrilling, dramatic, but most importantly, enjoyable. It’s when it takes the reigns off that it falters, and quite a bit too. I can’t help but wonder just favourably I would be thinking about the game had the filler not been forced in and made the game feel so bloated. The teaming seemingly know their strengths but needed forced content to make it feel bigger. If this game was more linear, or even mix things up a little more, toned back on the repetitive content then it would be a sure fire success. There’s just so much here that gets in its own way that I could never fully enjoy what it was offering.
The story, the subject matter, and the overall tone deserved better than the game it’s left in. I cared about the characters, really enjoyed those set piece moments but the surrounding content made it so hard to continue. I wanted to love Mafia 3, I wanted to have deep discussions about what it wanted to say, how great the time period is, but in the end, I just wanted to forget it and move on.