Open world games have become a bit of a staple over the past few years, with big titles like The Witcher 3 and Grand Theft Auto V changing up how we view these massive games. Mafia 3 aspires to be similar, offering players a look at the deep south in the 1960s. It’s a turbulent time in history that has proven to be a great backdrop for Mafia 3’s simplistic plot revenge. Sadly, though, Hangar 13 have done the game a huge disservice, marring its true beauty by tying it down to a dated open world formula that almost feels like we’ve stepped back in time to when developers had no idea what they were doing with such huge and open worlds.
A Scarred World
Being a fan of the Mafia series, I had a lot of hopes for Mafia 3. Many fans, myself included, hoped we would be welcomed by a massive and sprawling world similar to GTA V, or The Witcher 3. We hoped for a world that felt alive and kicking, just brimming over with things for us to do. This is something that the Witcher 3 handled very well in regards to side quests and missions. Everything you did had meaning, and felt progressive. Instead, it feels more like Hangar 13 took the same formula used to make Far Cry, and just ran with it, giving us an open world that is full of wonky AI, garbage collection tasks, and overly repetitive gameplay mechanics. That isn’t to say there aren’t enjoyable parts in the open world segments. There are. They’re just too few and far between that you lose sight of them amidst all the other things popping up one your screen.
Aside from the game’s disappointing open world, the gunplay feels meaty and excellent. Each shot really seems to hit home, driving blood and screams of pain from your targets. Headshots pop off without much issue, and shotgun blasts to the legs or stomach send your enemies falling to the ground, their groans and grunts merely fuel to the fire of Lincoln’s craving for revenge. Of course, you never really have to fire a shot, if we’re honest. For those who enjoy stealthing around maps, and taking out enemies covertly, Lincoln’s whistle and knife are a powerful combination, that simply breed upon the game’s unintelligent AI.
A Bandaid Too Small to Stop the Bleeding
The game’s big saving grace, however, is its story. The simple revenge plot, that we’ve seen overdone so many times throughout history, leads players through one of the most turbulent times in American history. It’s a journey that fits good together, with each punch leading to the next in a smooth and enjoyable fashion. You just can’t help feeling tied to Lincoln, and sympathizing with him despite his violent and destructive actions. His underbosses also all work really well, with each one breathing life into the story in their own ways. Our only real complaint here is that you just don’t see enough of them, and the story feels like it’s been pushed out of center stage so that they spotlight could be placed on the game’s open world.
Mafia 3 is an interesting case study. Hangar 13 had everything they needed to hit the ball out the park, and yet, somehow they managed to strike out multiple times in a row. The setting feels wonderful, the guns feel meaty, and the story is everything that Mafia fans could have hoped for. That’s why it is such a shame that Hangar 13 decided to mar this beautiful project by tying it down to a dated open world formula full of meaningless filler that adds nothing to the story, characters, or even the world. The story is amazing, capturing perfectly the time period and character's motivations. Sadly, the open world and filler content make it almost unbearable, forcing you to choke down a whole lot of bad for just a few small sips of the good.
This review is based on a review code provided by the developer. Mafia 3 is now available on PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 for $59.99. It is rated M.