Six Thoughts After Seeing 30 Minutes Of Mafia 3

Six Thoughts After Seeing 30 Minutes Of Mafia 3

Mafia 3 made its first appearance this week at Gamescom, and beyond the scene-setting first trailer (which you can see below), the team at 2K Czech had a half-hour of city-roaming and third-person shooting to show off. I had mixed feelings about what I saw; its setting is great, the music and ambience are fantastic, but it also looked like exactly the same kind of open-world crime game that I've played many times before.

This post originally appeared on Kotaku UK.

The protagonist's progressive domination of the city is achieved by taking over bases from rival criminals, there's a lot of cover-shooting, the police chase after you if you misbehave, and there's an ever-present mini-map with red dots on it. Here are some of my thoughts.

1) It is quite brave of 2K to make a Mafia game in which you are actually trying to take down the mafia. Protagonist Lincoln Clay grew up orphaned, is just back from combat in Vietnam, and had found a sense of family and belonging in the black mob before the Italian mob double-crossed and murdered them all. He is extremely angry about all of this, and is on a revenge quest. Functionally, though, you're still a one-man army on a power grab. Or, well, not quite a one-man army, as there are three "lieutenants" whom Lincoln recruits, and whose services you can call upon to hire muscle to bring along on a mission, call off the cops, or provide other criminal assistance. One of them is Vito, the protagonist from Mafia 2.

2) This is, essentially, a late-1960s, New Orleans-based GTA. It is set in 1968 and the city is pulsing with energy. Live music emanates from clubs as Clay walks past them, there are cops on the street hassling an interracial couple, people in colourful flares hang out in a graveyard smoking pot and fondling each other. The music is all era-appropriate (though I'm guessing there will be some leniency with the exact year, as I'm pretty sure that one of the songs I heard was recorded in the early 1970s). Ambience-wise, this is very impressive - this is a different kind of American city to explore as a game world, away from the modern high-rise grids that we're usually taken to.

Six Thoughts After Seeing 30 Minutes Of Mafia 3

3) What an excellent setting for a video game. 1968 America is gripped by the effects of the Vietnam War, the sexual revolution, widespread social reform, civil rights unrest and the Cold War. It was the year Martin Luther King was shot. And (for the third time) the music is seminal. New Orleans is a fascinating city. Then again, WW2-era Paris is also an inspired, thematically challenging setting for a video game and the developers of The Saboteur decided to explore that through the medium of a drunkard smearing Nazis across the bonnet of his car and blowing things up, which is still the biggest disappointment of all my years playing games.

4) Mafia 3's reveal concentrates on a mission in an underground jazz bar, run by rival criminals. Clay must first track down some members of a drug boss' crew and interrogate them at gunpoint whilst driving into oncoming traffic; gathering intel allows you to scope out a mission before diving in, so you can take different approaches to it. In the club, there's a jazz singer playing, the air is hazy with smoke, and shady guys stand with their arms folded at entrances to secret rooms. There's some sneaking around before the literal big guns come out and Lincoln shoots every gangster in the place dead so he can claim it as his own.

Six Thoughts After Seeing 30 Minutes Of Mafia 3

5) This is perhaps testament to my open-world fatigue, but I do wish that we could build beautiful living cities in games and then do things in them other than shoot things and drive cars. This is one of the greatest things about Los Santos - although there's no meaningful interaction with NPCs, or much sense of life behind the walls of the city's buildings, you can at least go BMXing or play golf or go hiking as well as shooting people and driving cars. Mafia 3's New Orleans looks so amazing that it makes me want to go and find some live music or people-watch or go for a drive and find something interesting, rather than shoot gangsters popping up from behind cover.

6) The takedowns in this game are unnecessarily violent, which is a real turn-off. Sneak takedowns involve Clay stabbing people several times in the gut, throat or face with an enormous knife, accompanied by gruesome sound effects. Mafia 3 tends to excess, it appears: cars flip over and explode when gently grazed by an oncoming vehicle, gun takedowns involve shooting goons across the room on the end of a shotgun, there are seemingly endless rival criminals to shoot or explode or gut. Clay has rocket-launchers and grenades in all his bases. I'm re-watching The Sopranos at the moment, and it's making me wonder what a video game mob story might look like if it were punctuated rather than dominated by intense violence. (It probably wouldn't sell.)

Mafia 3 is a 2016 game - it's already looking pretty far along, so I reckon end of next year would be a realistic expectation.

Six Thoughts After Seeing 30 Minutes Of Mafia 3

This post originally appeared on Kotaku UK, bringing you original reporting, game culture and humour with a U from the British isles.


    Can I just say... its a real pleasure to read early thoughts of a game that aren't essentially 'All aboard the Hype Train'. This industry is filled with a lot of successful manipulation from the developers and 99% of game articles. Its refreshing to read some healthy scepticism.

    Never played a Mafia game before, but that trailer was something else. My girlfriend who isn't really into games watched it, and she says "I wish that was a movie, I'd watch that." I hope it isn't too much of a GTA clone, but the setting and story look really interesting.

    Bit of a shame about the overkill part of it though. Would much rather a tasteful experience rather than overly violent.

      Mafia is much more story-based, and linear than GTA.

      I played Mafia II, and I can say it isn't a GTA clone, because it actually takes itself seriously rather than making fun of modern society in such a way.

        The open world element of the current two Mafia games are empty shells. It's nice that they're there, but they serve no purpose. There aren't any side missions to speak of, there's no reason to explore. I always wished they'd add more depth and purpose to the city, maybe Mafia 3 will finally get there.

          Whilst I definitely agree with your regarding Mafia II, I remember having heaps of fun just cruising around and causing trouble in the first one. Then again, that was a long time ago now and when I think back GTA didn't offer much else to do back in those days either.

          I do remember running out of petrol in Mafia. Haha.

            I loved popping the tires of civilians cars, and watching the ones that didnt flee, just still sit in their car, futilely revving the engine and turning the front wheels left and right.

            However, I HATED the race car section of the game. The number of times I rolled over and instantly killed myself =.=

              I hated it too, it infuriated me. In the end I Googled an exploit for it and just rolled back and forth over the line to win.

    So in other words it's just like mafia yay (sarcasm) already turned off considering what you say about the violence. The last game set a Guinness world record for amount of f bombs in a video game. No thanks count me out

    Mafia never needed and sequel and I'll continue to live this way

      WOAH, swearing!? Count me OUT man! Swearing's naughty!

      Have you never actually watched any of the gangster movies Mafia is inspired by?

      Casino (1995): 422 counts (2.4 per minute)
      Goodfellas (1990): 300 counts (2.05 per minute)
      Scarface (1983): 207 counts (1.21 per minute)
      Donnie Brasco (1997) 172 counts (1.35 per minute)
      Hoffa (1992): 150 counts (1.07 per minute)

      Those are all in the space of a movie. The storyline of the Mafia games lasts a lot longer than that and has less swearing in comparison, but even if it did have the same kind of rate, it's only being true to the material. It's about gangsters, gangsters swear a lot.

        I'm basing my opinion off the original. The original was to my eyes a cult classic and f bombs weren't necessary. I'd suggest you check out the original game for clarification or just watch the cut scenes on YouTube they are all there

          I've played both games, I know there was less swearing in the first one. I don't think 'necessary' is a good yardstick, no particular word or phrase is necessary to tell a story, but they all help in their own fashion. The subject and influences of the game lend themselves to a lot of swearing; I'd say it's much more of a surprise that the first game had as little as it did than that the second had as much.

          I don't like racism, and there are plenty of good 'turn of the century' dramas that don't depict it at all, but it's hardly something I can get upset about a movie set in the 1850s United States showing black slaves being mistreated. That's the subject material, that's the reality the movie is depicting.

    Heynow! I thought Saboteur was fantastic. :(

      a drunkard smearing Nazis across the bonnet of his car and blowing things up
      this sounds like someone who tried to play it like GTA and missed all the nuance of the world design just because the protagonist was a vengeful Irishman (who was based loosely on an actual person) - similar to the folks who complained that the climbing wasn't as smooth and automated as Assassins Creed when you were playing a brawler with good upper body strength rather than a trained freerunner.

    In regards to point 5, I remember Mafia 2 had similar complaints about an open world with not much to do in it. I always felt Mafia 2 was a linear game in an open world (if that makes sense) and enjoyed the story it was telling rather than a world to explore and do whatever in.

    BTW Kotaku, your quote tags aren't working..

    Incidentally, Mafia 1 was more punctuated by violence rather than concentrating on it compared to most others.

    I liked the Mafia series, aside from the GTA experience, the music and story were awesome, especially how Mafia 2 shows Mafia 1's ending halfway through the game.

    Mafia 2 did end abruptly, so I'm hoping there's some explanation as to what happened.

      Really? I thought the ending to Mafia 2 was pretty well-paced and clear.
      The last half's essentially a vendetta gone wrong, against the rules, and the denouement is really poignant, to me, in how the protagonist's childhood friend is sacrificed for the sake of propriety and securing your character - the more useful pawn.

      Last edited 10/08/15 6:05 pm

    Watch any mafia movie. Violence is in every single one, I dare anyone to name one with little to no violence.
    The point of the violence of course is to convey the point that the protagonist ( or person dishing out said violence) is not one to be take lightly.

    We are talking about stories where breaking someone down and 'sending a message' was as necesary as the politics.

    If you don't like violence I could see you not liking most mafia related movies.

    It's interesting how modern enthusiast press almost feel the need to insert "concerns" into every single preview of anything whilst flagrantly dismissing or ignoring a multitude of reasonable empathetic perspectives. The writer insinuates the game is "dominated" by violence rather than "punctuated" by it. As a media education professional, it always strikes me as strange when these words seem to be appropriated to no actual definition - which, in turn, as the reader forces me to have to make a massive leap in logic and ignore a multitude of media communication techniques and conventions that have existed for decades as well as newer modern ones simply to accept it. If, however, I use my requisite knowledge and experience in the field, I can discern a multitude of reasons for explicit violence that inform perspective and narrative.

    In fact, games are so complex in their construction that it's probably more apt to call this perspective "ignorant" or "prejudicial" when it hasn't come from the result of education in and application of technique; but rather a self-indulgent appropriation of them. In classes, at times we discuss emotional reactions versus construction as a way to make students aware of the manipulative effects of the media but also to unpack the varied social perspectives associated with each piece. It's a shame that myself and my students now struggle to find a considered perspective anywhere as opposed to reactionary accounts that fall in line with the rhetoric we've all been taught to avoid in critique and discussion. There are many valid reasons for violence in media and just as many valid reasons against, it simply seems to be interpreted, however, as simply being bad whenever a writer feels it is. Is it wrong to make use of actual, existing and valid ideas as opposed to ignorant (by definition) reaction? How do we defend the simplification of concepts when they have no bearing on the greater discussion of violence in media by being factually incorrect or misappropriated?

    Are we able to rationally examine violence in media, occasionally finding its use to be valid, insightful or effective without resorting to critical rhetoric like calling things "lazy" or "tired" when your preference is simply elsewhere? There are many legitimate narrative uses for confronting violence and I can't help but think it's a little irresponsible for all writers - seemingly en masse - to start dismissing the concepts used to create art historically, in present day and into the future just so their prejudices and narrative are more easily affirmed.

    Edit: typey typo

    Last edited 10/08/15 3:46 pm

      Gotta admit, I'm pretty tired of seeing editorial comment about "Isn't it about time we moved on from violence in games?" preaching to me like someone who's decided that, "Isn't it about time we all moved on from a food industry that exploits animals?" to try and convince me that I don't want meat in my food anymore.

      No. I like meat in my food and I like violence in my games. And that's exactly what I buy. Bloggers trying to convince me to get on board with a lack of either because they've had some personal epiphany about how evil it all is, isn't going to convince me about either.

      That said? I get where the author might be coming from when it comes to references to the Sopranos and other TV. Some of the most high-impact violence I've seen has come when it's sparse, but violent. Not gratuitous, just violent. As in sudden and visceral and jarring for its contrast with normalcy.

      I'm all for a personal preference towards some sporadic but high-impact violence that doesn't run the risk of being desensitized through over-exposure.

      Seems like something difficult to pull off in a game, but Sleeping Dogs is an excellent example of an escalation of violence. As the game goes on and the protagonist slips deeper into their cover, their finishing moves and use of weapons grows more and more violent and uninhibited compared to the relatively benign punching and kicking of the early game.

    ... and yet I still wanna play it! ^_^
    Can't wait for it to come out! :)

    Hardly a Mafia game. Be honest if you watched that trailer for the first time randomly and it didn't have "Mafia III" connected to it, you wouldn't pick it. You know what mafia games need? You to actually be in the Mafia. Crazy I know...

    Certainly not the Mafia game that I wanted - Mafia 1 is one of my fondest gaming memories, Mafia 2 not being up there, but still excellent and engrossing. This one looks like it will ooze atmosphere, but I'd have preferred they stayed back in the older time periods. At this rate, Mafia 4 will be GTA V Serious Edition.

    I don't understand why it took so long to make a third sqeul to mafia

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