|Meh-fia III? Who the fuck am I, Gawker? RIP.|
Oh boy. It's been like 2 months now. Started playing D&D more regularly, had a strange period in my life where family emergencies were happening literally every few days, and then a close friend of mine unfortunately passed away. Quite a lot of stuff getting in the way, but somehow through those cracks I've been able to play some actual VIDEO GAMES. Let's get right into it. OH BOY.
Mafia III is not very good. It's a bizarre game to be entirely honest, in that the story, storytelling, voice acting and actual cutscenes are fucking dope. The gameplay is pretty good for the most part, if not for the floaty aiming system that has auto-aim in varying degrees of "I can't hit shit" and "AIMBOT HAX WTF" Or the fastest car you can acquire freely, that just happens to make this painful high pitched whining sound that forced me to drive on mute for most of the game.
Mafia III is an open world game without a lot of borders for the most part. You can just kinda go do all of the side missions freely(Once you unlock them) and do any of the main objective stuff in any ways you want. You don't have to drive to location, get out of car, get out of car, watch cutscene, go to objective, rinse repeat like you do in other games. Once you start these missions to take over parts of the city, the objectives are live to deal with in any way you want.
I love these kinds of open world games. It feels like it's actually open and not just "Big space to roam around but then linear missions happen". But the problem with Mafia III are the repetitive missions. You just... do the same stuff over and over again. It's the same interrogate this guy, kill the enforcers, destroy X amount of *insert illicit materials here* to cause X amount of damage for their operations.
It has some of the same problems that The Phantom Pain had. Once you acquired your powerful abilities and gadgets you make the realization that 99% of the missions are "Go here, fulton that guy", and it's just so much easier. Half of the game went by in a blur of me running up to places completely unnoticed and fultoning guys and then booping back outside of the mission area. Again and again.
Mafia III is similar because there's this autopilot you get into after playing it a while. It's a grindy monotonous autopilot that asks "Is this even fun anymore?" as you stealth your way into buildings for 1 objective, knowing that once you complete all of the objects and reduce all of those arbitrary numbers to $0, the "bad guy" will spawn in that same building for you to go kill, but not until you get the mission to come back and kill him here.
I mean, shit, I'm here right now. Why not just go kill this guy? Oh wait a second, if I recruit him instead I can get more money from my people? SIGN ME UP! Mafia III had me playing a revenge story where I kill anyone who gets in my way, by recruiting and saving the lives of as many people as possible that got in my way. Some tonal dissonance going on there, making it all feel strange. "I mean... these guys are super racist murderguys, but they give me more money... so... shit".
In the way that I was supposed to be building the criminal empire of Lincoln Clay, I instead just kinda killed a lot of people and assigned random city space to 3 people that seem like they're all one fucking second away from murdering each other in horrible acts of violence. I grinded out those missions, destroying drugs, sex rings, other illegal shit, tearing down other empires on my way.
It didn't feel very rewarding. I never really felt like I was doing anything. I still don't really understand it, myself. I'm tearing down this criminal organization and giving away their territory and operations to these 3 other criminals who are going to expand and take control, building their organization bigger and bigger, but totally definitely promise to pay me some of what they make. And that's the plan? I mean, Lincoln never gets some sort of HQ, never gets any sort of "This is where you go" sort of place so it honestly always just felt like I was giving it all away. I sort of expected the ending of the game to be everyone turning on me and going "What the fuck did you think was going to happen?".
I don't know, maybe that's just me. But for supposedly building an empire, I didn't see much in the way of that.
The story was great though. I really liked the character of Lincoln Clay. A bit of a cliche, but done in an interesting way. He's basically The Punisher. He came back from a shit war, changed deep inside, responsible for a lot of fucked up shit. He was set up and "killed", only to come back with a vengeance to kill the ever loving shit out of the people who wronged him. It's a simple concept, in fact it's kinda boilerplate for revenge stories. But at least the game has a couple of standout characters to break up the cliche a bit.
The ever so lovable CIA Agent John Donovan, who has settled into his role of The Otacon to help guide Lincoln's actions, and get the guys responsible. He's very upbeat, and the chemistry between him and Lincoln adds an element of brightness in an otherwise gloomy game about racism in the 60's and also murder.
Of all the other characters, one of the most interesting ones ends up being Remy Duvall. Not only does Nolan North provide the voice, but they actually modeled the character after him. So you get to go through the game listening to these white supremacist radio monologues from Mr. Nolan North, and then when you run into him in the story he's wearing KKK garb and spewing some bad ol' racism. It was a very fascinating experience to me.
And on that front, one of my favorite things about the story is the ever looming presence of the racism. You will find numerous restaurants and shops with signs on their front windows saying "No coloreds allowed", and upon entering everyone starts gasping and muttering shit, telling you to leave right away.
It was a really interesting time way back when, and I have the utmost respect for the developers for actually not shying away from any of it. There are numerous announcements from the news on your radio as you drive about, hearing specific stories about people of color being killed, or attacked, or discriminated against in any sort of way just for the color of their skin. It adds a sense of realism to the game that makes you think "Holy fuck, and this is just a video game, that shit actually happened."
Mafia III is interesting in a lot of ways, but unfortunately the gameplay itself just wasn't enough for me. The side quests in particular were nonsensical to me. They would take you from one far away distance across the map to another one so you could steal some sort of truck, a pick up truck or a semi-truck with trailer for a couple of examples, and task you with driving them all of the way back. Over and over again until it tells you that your underbosses can't actually earn anymore money.
There are other side missions, just as static and repetitive. "Go ride this boat to pick up drugs, go take this truck to deliver guns, go find goddamn cars". Whenever the game gives you a side objective, it wants you to do it multiple times, over and over again. Sure there was one side mission where Vito sends you to merc a whole bunch of guys, and that one was kind of fun, but it was just... flat. There was no depth to it. I never felt like anything I was doing was affecting anything, or that my "empire" was growing. People kept telling me it was. I kept seeing cutscenes of people from the present day talking about how my empire was "just getting started" and that the "power" I held was immense.
But eh, that's not exactly the focal point of the game or the story really. I get the idea that Mafia III exists in a world where Mafia IIII is way cool, but unfortunately you don't really get to see any of that.
Mafia II was a neat game. It was open world, but the open world was very limited and you didn't have a lot to do there. It was more of a linear game that gave you a big space to, I don't know, exist in. The game was bumpin and the story was great and you can see Nolan North talk to himself. Which was nice. But aside from mainlining the story there wasn't much else. I mean you could customize your car, I guess.
Instead of showing you an empire, Mafia III is more interested with getting you to collect about 600 objects, the sign of a true open world game these days. Instead of making interesting dynamic stealth mechanics or A.I. who weren't the absolute worst, or even interesting side quests, Mafia III hits you with a whole hoard of Playboy covers, replete just as much nudity as there are articles. Mafia II had you collecting issues of Playboy as well, which was more exciting than any aspect of the very limited open world that game had. But it was just the naked stuff, so if you really want to immerse yourself in some naked and also accurate articles of 1960's life, don't just ask your gramps, pick up Mafia III.
Or don't. Because it's not very good.