It shouldn’t be a challenge to live up to a franchise like Mafia, given the fact that there are so many different directions you can take when drafting up another installment. The first two games were absolute classics that put players in the shoes of men directly involved with the Italian mob. The third and most recent installment, Mafia III, turns the franchise on itself and lets players take control of a man named Lincoln Clay who is out for bloody revenge against a prominent member of the Italian mafia. It’s a unique and fun take on the franchise and Hangar 13 did an outstanding job with writing up the narrative for this one. It’s a really entertaining experience, but at the same time, a very disappointing one in comparison to its predecessors.
When Mafia III was originally announced, I was ridiculously excited to experience the franchise again, but in a much different manner. With every piece of information revealed and every gameplay video demonstrated, the game’s impending launch could not come quickly enough. As we neared the release date, we received some disturbing news that 2K Games would not be distributing press copies to media outlets for pre-release reviews. As much as we all want to stay positive, decisions like that usually do not bode well. For those who are unaware of how review copies work, the developer or publisher will send review copies to media outlets with a criteria or a list of restrictions, that usually require the reviewer to refrain from talking about specific features, plot-points, etc. However, 2K’s decision to completely refuse to send out review copies was unsettling, and a lot of people were understandably upset. Now that I’ve played Mafia III myself, I’m starting to figure out that 2K Games might have simply been worried that some of the issues I’m about to mention would halt sales…and they damn well should have.
Now, let me just say that Mafia III is not a terrible game. I’ve been having a substantial amount of fun with it and part of me likes it almost as much as its predecessors. However, I cannot forgive how visually offensive the game really is. The graphics in Mafia III are absolutely abysmal to the point where I shake my head every time I notice it—sometimes I get so involved in the game, I forget about the low resolution textures, blurriness and amateur shadow effects…until I’m sightseeing and my eyes get sore. Should one do some digging into the game’s files, they would find that the texture resolutions are at 512x512 pixels, which is beyond offensive. Don’t understand the issue? An iPhone 7’s screen resolution is around 1920x1080 pixels. How’s that for perspective? You’re essentially playing an AAA game in 2016 with graphics from a game that’s ten years older, if not more. While it’s not a deal breaker for everyone, it’s certainly unacceptable in this day and age. The irony is that in cutscenes, everything is absolutely gorgeous.
The other unfortunate downside is the redundancy. One has to remember that Lincoln Clay’s mission involves crippling an organization, which requires a lot of footwork and seemingly menial tasks. Which is fine because it’s perfectly understandable. However, there is almost no variety in these tasks at all. I can’t name one game that isn’t repetitive in some way, but what other games get right is switching it up every now and then. After a while, you feel like you’re doing the same mission over and over again simply because some are so identical to previous missions. The main missions in the story are not repetitive or redundant at all and have great variety, but the side missions are uninspired, regardless of how fun they may be. It’s simply tragic, in my opinion.
You may be in luck though. If you’re like me and you’re able to get past these annoyances and enjoy the game for what it is (and quietly pray for a free HD texture DLC) then you’ll find a lot of enjoyment with Mafia III. The narrative is absolutely well written and really kept me wanting more and to see what happens next. The story unfolds almost like a documentary or retelling-of-events from the point of view of surviving characters and it’s really a unique spin on video game story telling. I found the voice acting to be some of the best I’d ever heard in a video game and it really helps craft an outstanding story. With a brilliant soundtrack, you’ll be barreling through New Bordeaux with some of the best classic tunes and probably find yourself waiting until a song is finished before starting up a mission.
Overall, Mafia III is a decent game. It’s on the border of decent and good. It could easily reach the great marker with a simple update that improves the resolution of textures and fixes the blurriness so the game is more crisp and detailed. It’s fun, despite its redundancy and the story is pretty damn good. However, if you’re still on the fence, I would pick up a used copy for that refund insurance, or just wait until it hits the bargain bin. If other players continue to point out some heavy flaws that don’t get resolved, it won’t be long before that happens.