Mafia 3 PS4 Review - Bad Moon Rising

Mafia 3 is unlike any video game you've played this year. The enormous, vibrant location. The impeccable 60's score. The ruthless narrative. Unique and immersive, it all creates an extremely addictive atmosphere that I couldn't quite escape. You can simply tell the developers were desperately trying to create a game that pushes the genre forward. While it does in certain aspects, a technical issue galore keeps it from reaching the goals it set out to achieve.

After the initial hours, I was absolutely blown away by the top-notch cinematic elements of developer Hangar 13's debut release. In all seriousness, Mafia 3 has the quality found in many of your favorite movies. The story follows Lincoln Clay, who happens to be the best protagonist I've hung around with in a long time. An orphan who was adopted by the black mob, he is also a war hero returning home in 1968, after serving in Vietnam. His homecoming parade doesn't last long, as he's viciously betrayed by the city's biggest mobster, Sal Marcano. What ensues is a bloody, graphical revenge narrative.

From the start, the game does a great job at introducing characters. Our antihero, his friends, his foes, and everyone else in between is a well-crafted character with a real sense of personality. They're rich and multi-dimensional. Dialogue and voice acting are shockingly natural and lifelike, which only helps you get further attached to these people. By the time the credits rolled, they had psychologically evolved to remarkable places.The plot touches all the expected spots of a revenge tale, but it positively concludes in a great ending that is enhanced by the deep understanding of every character you pick up throughout the 30-hour campaign.

The storytelling also deserves to be praised. It's unlike any triple-A narrative I've seen this year. It's a mix of cutscenes taking place in 1968 with footage of a documentary being shot in present day. Said documentary features interviews with CIA agents and some of Clay's dearest comrades. It's a fresh, magnificent method to deliver a complex storyline.

Now, the latest entry in this criminal franchise also introduces a brand-new setting: New Bordeaux. This New Orleans-inspired city is the perfect background for the story, the protagonist, and the recurring themes. The immense metropolitan presents numerous vibrant districts with varied demographics, architecture, and styles. It also tackles the environment's reality with a ton of confidence. Racism is a major theme. As a black man living in a 60's south US town, Lincoln isn't only facing off his opposition. He's up against society. Race is a topic that the entertainment business typically chooses to avoid. I praise 2K for diving in it with guts, class, and purpose.

Mafia 2's biggest mistake? Big open world, not much to do. That error has been corrected. Mafia 3's open world is not empty. As a whole, it makes sense to not have minor side-activities such as cycling or hunting. Lincoln is starring in a Shakespearean revenge story. Why would he go bowling an hour before getting retaliation? Still, there is plenty to do when not progressing through the main campaign. There are a ton of side quests and collectibles like playboy magazines to locate.

When it comes to visuals, I have very mixed emotions. At its best, Mafia 3 is undeniably a pretty title. The use of color is charming, the scenery is varied, and face models look stunning. Sadly, things go south rather quickly. To put it bluntly, there is an unbelievable amount of technical issues. I experienced a handful of crashes, pop-in galore, occasional blurry textures, enemies spotting me through walls, and poor lighting. These issues weren't particularly game-breakers for me (they might be for you), but the combination of problems is inexcusable and it certainly kept me from fully enjoying the experience.

Another anchor that prevents the game from touching the stars is the lackluster, repetitive mission structure. See, Lincoln Clay doesn't just want to kill Sal Marcano;he wants to dismantle his entire criminal operation. To do so, he must eliminate the mobster's main partners and lieutenants. Since each crook controls a district of the city, you must lure them out of their holes by taking away their foremost possession:money. How do you remove their income? By killing their men, demolishing their drugs, and ruining their business.

While it might sound complex, it becomes a bit boring. You arrive at a location, interrogate informants, kill enforcers, destroy contraband, and steal cash. Eventually, the district's boss comes after your head and you annihilate him as well. Rinse and repeat. To be perfectly honest, there is a fair number of memorable story missions like the shootout at the abandoned amusement park. But the 'filler' missions leading up to the main encounters never change, which ultimately slow down the game.

Once you capture a district, you must assign that district to a leader (one of them is Mafia II's protagonist Vito Scaletta), who will grant you new weapons and abilities in exchange. Ignoring one of your partners too many times might cause them to turn on you. It further enhances the 'mafia' concept, and it's an addition I greatly appreciated.

Even if Mafia 3's mission design is mostly uninspired, I never felt bored while playing.  The lack of boredom is a direct result of the surprisingly solid gameplay mechanics. Some critics have complained, stating that the system feels dated. Nevertheless, I can't criticize them if they work. Gunplay and driving feel incredibly crisp and smooth. When engaging in shootouts, enemies will die after receiving two or three bullets, which is significantly more realistic than the dozens of shells it takes to drop an adversary in other titles. Considering the fact that you'll spend most of your time shooting and drifting, I was generally having fun. That said, my favorite addition to the franchise is the stealth approach.

Again, it doesn't re-invent the wheel by any stretch of the imagination. As a matter of fact, we've seen this in countless titles. However, something about New Bordeaux makes the silent murders feel that much more exceptional. From beginning to end, I doubled my playtime by carefully and noiselessly slaying each guard in an area until I could reach my main target. In addition, these exchanges masterfully display the fantastic animations. As Lincoln stabs every gang member with the same exact blade, blood splashes everywhere, and you can see the pain in their eyes as life rapidly slips away. During my run on hard more, I didn't really suffer any problems with the AI.

Verdict: Mafia 3 is a good game that could have been iconic. Its first-class storytelling and memorable cast kept me engaged, even when the technical issues and repetitive open-world action tried to spoil the fun.

The Good
- Fantastic Storytelling
- Well-Crafted Characters
- Fascinating Setting
- Memorable Story Missions
- Plenty of Side Content

The Bad
- Inexcusable Amount of Techincal Issues
- Repetitive Mission Structure

Developer: Hangar 13
Publisher: 2K Games
A review copy was provided by 2K Games

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