Mafia 3 is a brutal, dark re-imagining of 1968 New Orleans
We jump in on a behind closed doors presentation at E3 and check out how Mafia 3 is shaping up.
Whether you were taken aback by the location, the characters, or the story, the Mafia series has always been an interesting series to follow. As one of the first PC games I ever played, the original Mafia holds a special place in my heart, which makes each new Mafia announcement one I take particular interest in. This year’s Mafia game, which is the third in the series, is moving away from the time periods the first two were based around, favouring a jump in time to look into one of the darkest years in American history — 1968.
Mafia 3’s New Bordeaux, themed around New Orleans at the time, is giving developers Hangar 13 and 2K Czech a fascinating time period to cover, and, sitting in on a behind closed doors presentation at E3, I got to check out a bit more of the game’s intricacies and what makes this year’s Mafia tick.
Lincoln Clay’s journey in New Bordeaux is fuelled, wholeheartedly, by revenge. Broken and bruised following a mob attack on his family, Clay, a Vietnam vet turned gangster, elects to take revenge on those who have done him wrong, taking over the city in the process.
Taking New Bordeaux isn’t a one man job, of course, and this is where Lincoln’s underbosses Cassandra, Burke, and Vito come into play. Bringing back Vito for Mafia 3 is a decision that has been met with a lot of positivity, too. Considering his importance in both Mafia and Mafia 2, it’s a fine decision by the developers to have brought him back, enabling players of the series’ earlier titles the chance to catch up with what’s been happening with him and his Italian mob — a notably positive nod to long-time Mafia fans, indeed.
Lincoln’s underbosses play an integral role in Mafia 3. New Bordeaux is divided into nine districts, and as you make your way through each district — taking it for your own by clearing out the crime racket in that area — you’ll be given the opportunity to assign one of your underbosses to take control of that district. Each underboss will give you different rewards and perks when taking over a district, as you go about building your own crime racket, and while keeping a balance would perhaps be in your best interest, it’s entirely up to you.
On the back of that, Mafia 3’s story will change depending on your decisions. In the presentation’s case, Lincoln had awarded Cassandra a lot of the districts in New Bordeaux and Burke was catching on to that, in turn becoming agitated. Burke, frustrated with Clay’s reluctance to trust him, snapped and quit the underboss operation after he’d awarded Vito the district. Following that, Lincoln then had to go and take him out, bringing his underboss operation down from three to two.
This scenario, as the presenter said, usually wouldn’t happen in another playthrough unless you generally played the same way. Mafia 3 has been designed to cater to your choices, and the developers insisted that each playthrough will probably play out a little differently. It’s a really cool choice, and one that will hopefully add quite a bit of replay value for those that seek it.
The second half of the game’s presentation showcased Lincoln going out on a mission, tasked with eliminating Uncle Lou — an important member of one of the rival crime rackets you’ll be taking on. The mission almost entirely took place on a boat, and it was here that I got an extended look at how Mafia 3’s gameplay and mechanics actually work. And, unlike the previous games, Mafia 3 seems to play much closer to the quick (and brutal) gunplay seen in the Grand Theft Auto series rather than having a reliance on cover-based gameplay — a staple in its predecessors. That isn’t to say cover has been entirely scrapped — as it’s still an important factor in the game — however, the combat is faster and rewards you for thinking on your feet. As well as this, quicktime events allow you to perform brutal finishers on enemies, although I’m not sure how quick it’ll take for this to feel overly repetitive.
As Lincoln traversed the boat — which, at that point, had been heavily damaged by an explosion further down river — he made quick work of the enemies on the upper deck, taking them out with pin-point ease. Even though it was a standard affair, it’s worth noting that the enemies seen in the demo seemed to be aware of where they were positioned in relation to Clay, taking strategic positions in order to flank him or get a good shot in. In groups, these enemies seemed genuinely dangerous, however in one-on-one situations Lincoln dispatched of them with no effort.
Throughout this mission I was particularly taken aback by how detailed the boat looked — indoors, it was comparable to the modern day cruise ship, with a beautifully lit stage set up. Illuminating the area were many lights that, when Lincoln got down there, turned on when a jolt of electricity ran through the boat. It was a sight to see, as the lights illuminated the innards of the boat beautifully, creating a scene that contrasted heavily with the events transpiring.
At the conclusion of the mission, the boat blew up, throwing both Lincoln and Uncle Lou into the the river. Upon finding an area where the water was shallow, the final part of the mission involved a cat and mouse-esque sequence. It was almost reminiscent of scenes I’d watched in classic action films, as Creedence Clearwater Rival’s Green River started booming in the background Clay slowly, but assuredly, hunted down Lou from the shadows armed with only his knife. It was brutal in its execution, but speaks volumes of the game’s setting.
All in all, Mafia 3 is looking fantastic. I came out of the behind closed doors presentation once again impressed with the effort Hangar 13 and 2K Czech are putting into their next Mafia title, with many little intricacies and minute gameplay changes making it an experience that’s looking like a game that will have a lot of longevity and life. Of course, we’ll have to see how that actually pans out closer to release, but from what’s been shown so far, Lincoln Clay’s journey is looking brutal, unforgiving, and hugely fascinating in one of America’s darkest years.
Mafia 3 launches on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on October 7.