At its core, Mafia 3 is a revenge story taking place in 1968 New Bordeaux (aka New Orleans). The protagonist, Lincoln Clay, an orphan and Vietnam War veteran, is seeking revenge on the Marcano crime family for betraying the black mob. Lincoln goes about this by assisting and bringing together three key players and taking down Sal Marcano’s connections. In the midst of the bloodshed, players experience the racism, hate, and turmoil of the time.
The issue I have with Mafia 3 is that the core gameplay and mechanics are uninspiring. The missions are extremely repetitive and basically consist of one of the following: pick up x (drugs, cars, etc.) and deliver the goods, go interrogate someone to learn new info, or go kill so-and-so. It’s a shame really. The game’s prologue started out with a stellar punch in the gut; it had a lot of potential. Unfortunately, this repetition slows and muddies the story as Mafia 3 descends into a cycle of deliver, interrogate, and kill to unlock the next story mission. I can forgive the last-gen graphics, and I could even forgive a certain amount of repetition, but I am at least 12 hours into the game and the pace hasn’t changed.
The other factor that contributes to Mafia 3 being a “meh” title is that its open world serves little purpose. Again, this is an issue of design. The streets are a bit too empty of cars and foot traffic, the civilians don’t appear to be doing much of anything, and there is little to do besides the before-mentioned story missions and side quests. Essentially, while New Bordeaux and the surrounding landscape appear to be locations that could house human stories, they lack a more organic sense of life.
It is hard not to compare Mafia 3 with Grand Theft Auto V, but they do have similarities. One of the things that makes GTAV standout as an open-world video game is that the world is full of things to do outside of main story missions and side quests. GTAV has a variety of customization options, cars to purchase, places to see, and activities like golf and tennis to complete. And, its quests are different enough to not become overwhelmingly boring. Mafia 3‘s world could be interesting if only the developers had filled it with more life and activities. Then again, perhaps that’s not what Mafia 3 is meant to be.
Ultimately, I will finish the game even if it is a slow trudge at times between objectives and story missions. I want to know Lincoln’s story. I want to see how everything works out for him and his associates. And that just confirms what a great game Mafia 3 could have been.