Not having a proper Assassin’s Creed game this year to play, my heart has felt a bit empty, and yes I know there have been some “less than stellar” outings for the series the past few years (although AC:Syndicate is quite good). But not having a single player open world game this year left me longing for something in that style. After pouring many hours into Forza Horizon 3 (honestly one of the GOTY), I needed something more focused on a narrative and story than just tooling around an open world racing game. After the mostly positive things I’d seen about it, even though I had not played the two previous games, I decided to pick up Mafia 3 on the PC. I did this for a couple reasons: first, my PC is a beast and I need to continue to test its limits, and second the actual setting and storyline for the game was something new.
You play as Lincoln Clay, a Vietnam veteran who has returned to New Bordeaux (fictional analogue for New Orleans) and has dreams of getting out of the city quickly but instead is pulled smack dab into the world of organized crime that his adopted father is a well known part of. Oh yeah, and he’s African American and the game is set in the 1960’s, and the game makes it very clear you know that fact. The entire city is peppered with visual and auditory notes to let you know that this is a place where segregation still exists, from the store signs saying “No coloreds allowed” to the random chatter you hear walking through the streets by the residents. Even the neighborhoods themselves are clearly segregated, with a lot of the poorer/rural areas being populated by minorities and the swankier places being predominantly white, and it makes no bones about making your character the target of every racial epithet predominant at the time from even the very first time you gain control of the character.
The game itself plays like your standard 3rd person open world game, with cover, stealth, shooting and driving mechanics that will make you feel right at home if you’ve ever played a GTA game. It even goes to the trouble of including Batman’s famous detective vision for spotting enemies as well as the ability to stealth kill/subdue the various mobsters you encounter. It was during the first few missions, where I was running/gunning my way through nameless mobsters that I made a conscious decision, specifically after unlocking the stealth takedown mechanic which defaults to kill the enemy but the game actually offers a subdue option instead. While not one to shy away from violence, and certainly would be within the fiction for the character I was playing, I decided instead to switch off the lethal takedowns and go with the non-lethal ones instead. That’s when this officially became my Assassin’s Creed game for the year. I’ve been doing my best to tackle every mission with ruthless and quiet efficiency, only resorting to killing when necessary. Luckily, the AI isn’t SUPER sophisticated but can catch you unawares on occasion. It really does make you feel like someone who is MUCH more skilled than the faceless mobsters you are dispatching.
It was pretty exciting when I made my way to the penthouse of a swank hotel only to be shot at with a rocket launcher upon bursting into the capo’s office.
The structure of the game itself has you disrupting the mob’s operations in districts by doing various tasks, and once you’ve caused enough damage you can take out the local lieutenant and bring the district under you control. It’s these missions where the comparisons to AC become even more prevalent, as you only have to complete some of them to progress the story, but my “open world OCD” made me complete them all in the beginning for fear of missing out on something. After the first couple of districts, I quickly realized that there wasn’t a tangible benefit to this strategy and have been progressing a bit more quickly since then. While it seems a bit like filler, I’m enjoying the actual play of the game enough that I don’t mind the repetitiveness of these missions. They usually involve destroying some property, stealing something valuable or intimidating a lower level mobster for information. After securing the rackets in the district you are given your final mission to oust the “captain” of the district which so far has contained the best set pieces, and also the most compelling gameplay moments. It was pretty exciting when I made my way to the penthouse of a swank hotel only to be shot at with a rocket launcher upon bursting into the capo’s office. Once you dispatch a “main” baddie, you are treated to the best part of the game, which is the story and presentation.
The story is presented in the style of a documentary, with older versions of several story characters relating their experiences with Lincoln Clay and his actions within the game itself. The developers even went to the trouble of creating nifty little vignettes with the main historian shaking his head saying “that’s not the way it happened” whenever the character dies during a main story mission. The acting in the game (including the mocap that must have been done) really brings the characters to life, even if games like this still suffer from the uncanny valley syndrome still plaguing realistic games. While the plot of the game seems like a cookie cutter revenge story, it is the total package of the presentation that keeps me moving forward to the inevitable, bloody conclusion that all mob tales usually end with.
If I had some criticisms of the game, it would definitely center around the AI again, as I’ve noticed what friends and I have come to best describe as the “Splinter Cell” AI routine. What this means is that as soon as you alert an enemy, all of his friends seem to instantly know the general vicinity you are in and will start shooting you or laying down suppressing fire. This is another reason I’ve been relying on the stealth more too, since silent kills leaves your location a secret. Also, the enemies seem to sometimes shake off my attacks randomly and definitely appear to be “bullet sponges” if you aren’t going for a headshot, but it’s a small quibble since the auto aim is fairly generous (I’m using a controller to play, sue me). One last thing to call out is that as an open world game, there is a certain amount of “open world jank” that you have to be ready to accept. My experiences have included cars randomly blowing up while parked and physics/graphics causing so odd behavior, but overall the game looks/plays as expected with no real slowdown or crashes that I’ve had so far.
Overall, I think I found an adequate replacement for my yearly Assassin’s Creed fix, but this certainly feels more like the original AC as opposed to my favorite game in the series Brotherhood, but it’s an extremely solid foundation with a compelling story that I’m looking forward to completing. I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a good mob/crime/revenge story.