Mafia III Review

Richard Walker

As the old adage goes, revenge is a dish best served cold. But for Mafia 3's Lincoln Clay, revenge is a dish best served with buckets of blood, preferably prepared using a razor sharp combat knife. Betrayed and left for dead by the Italian mob, Lincoln subsequently sets out on the warpath, hellbent on exacting vengeance upon those who wronged him and destroyed his family. That means dismantling mafia don Sal Marcano's sprawling criminal empire across the city of New Bordeaux one piece at a time.

Wiping out Marcano's criminal rackets is at the heart of Mafia 3's story, as Lincoln and his chain-smoking CIA insider John Donavan set about bringing down enforcers, lieutenants and capos, before going after the big man himself. However, there's more to do beyond simply getting to Marcano, meaning Lincoln requires the help of underbosses Cassandra, Vito Scaletta and Thomas Burke. As you recruit each of these lieutenants, you'll gain a variety of perks like an arms dealer, a consigliere to collect your cash, a hit squad to help out in a fight or vehicle delivery, but retaining these means keeping your underbosses happy.

Don't mess with Lincoln Clay. Seriously.

As you gain control of each of New Bordeaux's rackets, you'll assign them to whichever underboss you like, before calling a sit down to decide who inherits the entire district. It's up to you whether you favour one or two of your underbosses, or take a more diplomatic approach, divvying turf up equally between all three. Failing to keep an underboss happy, however, will push them out, turning them into an enemy that Lincoln will have to deal with. It means the decisions you make during sit downs can have real consequences, so you'll need to choose wisely.

There are some facets of Mafia 3 that you'll need to think about then, although for the most part, the game's missions are largely variations on the same objective, sending you into hostile territory to clear out criminal scumbags. Little things like wiretapping junction boxes using fuses also reveals enemy positions, other racket locations and collectibles in the region on the mini map, making life easier for yourself.

An accomplished cover shooter at its core, practically every one of the rackets you seize comes from clearing out heavily armed goons, whether via stealthy means or through a more gung-ho approach. As such, you can expect to be stacking up the bodies, murdering enforcers, interrogating informants who can be recruited if you'd rather not kill them, and inflicting damage to the racket by destroying stashes of drugs, chemicals or whatever. It can actually get rather repetitive.

Thankfully, Mafia 3's shooter mechanics are fantastic, as are the rest of the game's open-world systems, like the fun driving model (that includes a more realistic 'simulation' option that can be toggled on or off) or the brutal and gratifying melee combat. By the time you reach the latter stages of Mafia 3, you'll be a well-oiled killing machine, able to pull off brutal kills and headshots with aplomb.

Unfortunately, Mafia 3 is hampered by a whole litany of bugs and other issues, most of which are odd visual quirks, including some lighting weirdness, numerous instances of pop-in, nutty physics that send cars flying through the air off the slightest bump, character model glitches and regular occurrences where the AI behaves in laughably strange ways.

In fact, the AI in general can be rather shoddy, either seeing you through walls or passing you by completely without noticing you're there. It's a shame, because Mafia 3 is genuinely enjoyable despite its range of problems. The soundtrack too is utterly stellar stuff, delivering the best of 60s music and bringing its version of a tumultuous 1968 New Orleans to startling life. The tunes blaring out of the radio from the likes of The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Jimi Hendrix and others are one of the best bits of Mafia 3.

The game's excellent storyline also keeps things ticking along nicely, intercut with present day documentary-style sequences and Donovan's testimony telling the tale of Lincoln Clay's vengeful mission from the perspective of the people who were there at the time. It's a great narrative device, although there are certain scenes that recount what happened before you've actually had the chance to play out the ensuing scenario.

New Bordeaux transforms at night.

Nonetheless, Mafia 3's story is fantastic, unflinchingly violent and authentic in its rendition of a turbulent time and place. Definitely not for the faint-hearted, Hangar 13's open-world is one that's riddled with rampant racism, sex, drugs and other criminal activities, covered in gritty detail that doesn't pull any punches. Where GTA revels in sharp satire and humour, Mafia 3 is a more serious beast, not shying away from any of the issues that ran through American culture at the time. From the moment you start the game up, there's a statement from Hangar 13 saying as much, warning that the offensive language and period is shown as it was, warts and all.

As for the achievements, there's a really good spread across all of Mafia 3's various aspects, but there are a couple thrown in there that require a second playthrough. For such an enormous open-world game, that seems a bit crappy, meaning only the most dedicated will bother to pursue the full 1000G. The majority are devoted to story progress and missions, pulling off feats in combat and taking over rackets, encouraging you to really get stuck in. A good list, overall.

A decent open-world game, despite its myriad issues and repetitious mission structure, Mafia 3 excels as a cover shooter and epic crime saga. The problems with the game are outweighed by how enjoyable it is to play, with its robust driving and combat, and remarkable rendition of 1960s America. Look past the bugs and you'll find that Mafia 3 is an uncompromisingly violent and well-told drama that also successfully depicts a snapshot of an abhorrent, intolerant society.

Mafia III

An enthralling open-world crime drama tarnished only by a few largely inoffensive bugs, Mafia 3 succeeds in delivering an involving story with great shooting and stealth gameplay. Repetitive missions and a lack of polish mar the experience, but you'll still have a ton of fun playing Mafia 3.

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Mafia 3's soundtrack is brilliant and the sound design in general is excellent. Voice performances too are superb, making it pretty hard to fault the audio presentation overall.


The cut-scenes and digital performances are outstanding, but the open-world is marred by an array of bugs and a slightly shabby draw distance. A couple of months extra polish might have done Mafia 3 the world of good. However, the game still does a great job in evoking 60s America.


The cover shooter mechanics and driving model is perfectly pitched, but the AI is sometimes fairly stupid and the physics are prone to insane tics. Nonetheless, the core gameplay shines through, despite repetitious mission design and some messy glitches.


A massive game that'll take tens of hours to complete, as you wipe out each of the game's numerous criminal rackets. Optional objectives flesh things out, despite being dull fetch quests, and there are more Playboy magazines to collect too. Not bad.


Some of Mafia 3's achievements mean two playthroughs, which is annoying, but the rest of the list is pretty solid. An excellent spread and a decent list overall.

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