*these are opinions based on the PS4 version of Mafia III running on an OG PS4*

I’m about 6-8 hours into Mafia III and if you’re thinking about buying, let me give you some advice;

Wait.

Look, I understand. Gaming season is upon us and Mafia III stands as one of the first AAA games to be hitting shelves. But I can honestly say, this game is not worth the big dollars. As a game that will likely take a price-drop in a few months, I say hold out and, if it’s the open-world sandbox genre that interests you, see what Watch_Dogs 2 offers.

Visuals

Mafia III’s biggest let down would have to be the visuals. Up close the textures are reminiscent of late PS3 games. From a distance it’s still very unappealing. There’s a road covered in puddles seemingly all the time and it is not a pretty sight. And even with these low res textures the game still feels jerky with an unstable frame-rate. Fog is everywhere and draw distances seem pretty poor.

The first car that Lincoln (the protagonist) is put into is very shiny. So shiny, in fact, that you can see a reflection of the sky on the body of the car. Unfortunately, randomly changing areas of the sky cross the car, which made me nauseous as I sat waiting at a traffic light. I’d drive away but the game suffers from serious pop-in when both driving and on foot.

It is worth noting that the user interface is very pretty. It’s arguably generic open-world, borrowing strongly from GTAV, but it was the pause menu that sold me. Not only that, it’s fairly fast and responsive compared to some games I’ve been playing recently. I will admit that behind the prettiness, it took me a few visits to figure out that there were more settings than just the controls.

I also encountered a cutscene where saturation was VERY off. I don’t know if it’s because I walked into it at the wrong time of day, but it was very odd, especially when immediately afterwards things went absolutely fine again.

A lot of these issues will hopefully be addressed in a future patch, I struggle to see the low res textures being addressed on the current PS4 and XBO consoles. To be fair though, the game is smoother and more in line with recent releases than  felt Mafia II was.

AI

The AI is bad. I know that when you get an open world game there’s going to be some odd stuff at launch, but when so much of our tasks involve you taking a stealthy route, dumb AI will hurt the experience that much more. While the animations will have characters turning their heads, they won’t even notice Lincoln. It’s this weird level of disappointment, like I thought “damn, spitting out to the side has foiled me!” only for the redneck to go back 90 degrees and continue staring into oblivion.

While I appreciate the complexity derived from the era and the race relations vs the police, their response is… awkward to say the least. The location, whether it’s a slum district or not, will affect how and if the police will respond. But even in the affluent areas, a witness will go to call-in a crime and I’ll be way out of their radius before they’ve even made the call.

Controls and gameplay

The controls and UI have taken a step up from Mafia II. Where Mafia II drew inspiration from games around its time, so too does Mafia III use and subtly improve upon the many open-world sandbox games we have now. The stealth-combat is reminiscent of Watch_Dogs, and arguably a smoother experience when shit hits the fan and you’re left in a massive gun fight (though the AI will make this difficult).

The driving is designed around the world of ~70s New Bordeaux, which means that speeding down the street, while required on occasion still feels natural in the car, something that many open-world games have struggled with. While I rarely used the rear-view mirror the game provides, the speedometer is quite useful when tackling certain missions and is a welcome inclusion from Mafia II. The fuel meter is missing, but in a way it takes away a factor that got in the way of play (unless it’s in the Driving Mode (pictured below) that I haven’t trialled yet).

There’s now collectables that will add to replay value, which will increase longevity for some players. The game also has wiretapping which makes identifying collectables and enemies in a few block radius easier.

Narrative

The way the story has been told so far has involved splicing in interviews from the future (at least after 1999) and stock footage and images from the era. This vehicle to deliver story is a refreshing take on ‘historical’ games.

Lincoln’s position as a Vietnam War vet is an interesting take, as it seems to be an attempt to justify how he’s just so free with murdering all these people in his vengeful rampage. I think the developers were careful in telling the story of Lincoln Clay for his demeanour and actions to be acceptable. But at the end of it, Lincoln feels like another generic game protagonist. He’s not that interesting of a character this far into my play time.

The supporting cast however I’m struggling with. While the major players seem to be voiced well, lesser characters have some abysmal voice work. And it’s not just the acting, but the implementation. If you’re only going to let a character I have to visit multiple times in a half hour any NPC lines when I approach, have more than just “Lincoln, aren’t you a sight for sore eyes.”

It’s also worth noting that the licensed music is amazing. It’s unfortunate you only hear it around radios and in vehicles. I actually felt a little torn a number of times on whether or not to leave a car to do the mission or stick around until the end of the song.

Conclusion

My recommendation is not to buy into the game just yet. Maybe future patches will make it feel a whole lot better. But by that time, the game will definitely have seen a price reduction. Friends with the XBO version share my thoughts, and with the PC version locked at 30fps, the wait for patches is going to be seen on all its platforms.
All this said, the story is turning out quite interesting and these are only early thoughts. I’m hoping that it gets more interesting to cover my dislikes soon, but at this stage it really could go either way.

Side note- it’s bloody weird to have X as the skip cutscene button, O as continue and ‘Options’ doing nothing. Maybe that’s just me.

Disclosure: I got a deck of cards with my copy. Don’t know why that’s worth saying but I better make the point so we’re all level here.

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