Over the last few weeks, I’ve charged through every possible Mafia III video. And there’s not much about it that isn’t exciting: the soundtrack, the characters, the setting and the new take on crime storytelling. But then again, maybe you’re just excited about the 1960’s open world. And we are too. But Mafia III is shaping up to be a lot more than the typical open world crime spree. The game aims to totally immerse the player in the setting and the time period. And on top of this, it’s shaping up to tackle a number of provocative themes. So here’s what we’ve learnt about Mafia III, so you know what you’re getting yourself in for.
The protagonist, Lincoln Clay, is a mixed-race orphan and was a full-time criminal prior to his military conscription. After returning from the Vietnam War, Clay is looking to go legitimate. But a ruthless betrayal pulls him back into the life of crime. So, just to clarify, in Mafia III, you’re actually working to dismantle the Mafia.
Even from that brief overview you can notice that Mafia III revolves around a number of topical issues. And given the time period – 1968 – and the nature of its characters – criminals, and angry ones at that – you can expect that Mafia III will feature some form of revenge story. Of course, the scene is set for a psychopathic, blood-splattered manhunt. But this is more the story of a determined man who tackles racism and almost insurmountable odds to single-handedly dismantle on of the most organised factions of one of the world’s toughest crime gangs.
Rather than taking a typical linear approach to storytelling, Mafia III uses a non-traditional structure. The plot is imparted through the use of interview, recordings, hearings and confessions (of course, the list goes on). So, you’re dropped, back and forth, into smaller portions of a larger story. The goal here was to create a sort of realism that is absent in other open world games. You won’t conveniently meet every important character, through unbelievable turns of fate. In Mafia III, you’re a part of the story, and that story isn’t full of Hollywood coincidence.
Still, it’s very much yours to customise. Voluntary side missions are promised to be plentiful, as are tough narrative-changing decisions. There are also options for difficulty and car-handling, as well as the choice for lethal and non-lethal take-downs. You can also customise Lincoln Clay’s appearance by equipping outfits and accessories. (Note: this wasn’t originally an option but was announced as a free add on for the game as a response to fan feedback. So, kudos to 2K and Hangar 13 for listening to us, it means a lot.) It’s good to see that Mafia III is putting a spin on storytelling, but it’s also good to see that we can still shape that story through decision and consequence.
Mafia III takes place in New Bordeaux – a location identical, for all intents and purposes, to New Orleans. I mentioned before that the branch of the Mafia encountered in this game is possibly the Mafia at its most organised. The New Orleans Mafia is one of the oldest Mafia syndicates in the United States. And it was at its height during the mid-twentieth century: exactly when Mafia III takes place. The game’s website features a detailed timeline of 1968, calling it ‘A Most Turbulent Year’. From this, I think it’s safe to assume that the game will feature some of the year’s most historical occurrences. Perhaps we’ll hear of Martin Luther King Jr. and encounter some of the racial tension that permeated America at that time. Maybe we’ll even hear about JFK’s assassination and see the effects of the 60s sexual revolution? With Clay’s background, we’ll undoubtedly witness some of the Vietnam War ‘hangover’, and the soundtrack is set to feature some timeless classics from the Rolling Stones, Johnny Cash and Steppenwolf.
It’s a game about America’s most notorious crime gang; we were expecting Mafia III to be violent. But we weren’t expecting to be able to feed enemies to crocodiles (you can do this, for the record). We’ve seen, in gameplay videos, that Clay can execute some truly savage finishing move: knives to the throat, back, and even the face. There are car bombs and massive body counts. It’s gross and grizzly.
Most of this carnage comes from the massive array of weapons Lincoln Clay has at his disposal. You’ll seldom have trouble finding a weapon in New Bordeaux; they’re stashed all over the city. And if that’s not enough, Clay’s affiliations grant him access to a Full service operation: a stop and drop delivery service. Pistols, shotguns, rifles, explosives: basically every peacemaking weapon in the military’s arsenal. And they’re in the hands of an angry, violent man.
We mentioned before that Mafia III allows players to shape their gaming experience. And weapon customisation extends that freedom by allowing players to tailor their armoury to their specific style. The tactical players will jump at the opportunity to equip scopes and silencers, while the more ostentatious crowd may lean more towards the rocket launcher and a ‘blow everything up’ approach. Whatever your tendencies, Mafia III has you covered.
It’s Not a Hero Story, But It’s More Than Just a Crime Spree
If you couldn’t tell from all the talk of crocodiles, weapons and car bombs, Lincoln Clay is very much an anti-hero. He’s a bad guy doing horrible things to bad-er guys. And there’s a fair chance he’ll catch some innocents in the crossfire. The development team didn’t pull any punches making Mafia III, but they were careful to make their portrayals fair. Hangar 13 studio head and Mafia III lead Haden Blackman said that the content they included was “what feels natural in this part of the world and doesn’t seem like it’s forced in.”
And by all early access account, Hanger 13 has done a spectacular job of this. Those lucky enough to have previewed the game have been commending the 1960s vibes and the distinctly ‘New Orleans’ world. The rest of us have simply been salivating over the stunning pre-release videos.
The stage is set for Mafia III. Here’s hoping it delivers.