The reviews for Mafia 3 arrive, revealing a marked split in between the quality of both the setting and narrative, and the quality of the gameplay itself.
Gamers were understandably concerned when the news came out that 2K Games was refraining from sending out review copies of Mafia 3 early, but one way or another the reviews are going to arrive. In this case, though, it was after the game had launched.
Mafia 3 marks a drastic change from the Italian-focused metropolitan cities of Lost Heaven and Empire Bay. However, other changes to the combat system and mission structure of Mafia 3 weren't met with similar enthusiasm around the board.
The third entrant to the Mafia series brought players to a scenic fictional New Orleans-esque setting. Developer Hanger 13 upped the ante by transitioning away from the player being a member of the Italian mob in a series first, shining a spotlight on the systemic racism of the times.
Reviewers were quick to praise Mafia 3 for its engaging narrative and beautiful setting, but after delving deeper into New Bordeaux it turns out there wasn't enough substance underneath the flashy cover to keep players entertained through hours repetitive and dull gameplay. The result is a game that comes with several parts fine-tuned, but also completely missing some of the puzzle pieces that fit together to create a truly memorable experience.
PC Gamer (Andy Kelly)
It draws too much water from a very shallow well, repeating the same mission types far too often, and wrapping its story around a territory system that just isn’t deep or entertaining enough to support an entire game. Mafia 2 was criticised by many for being too linear, but I’d take that over this aimless parade of dull any day
Ars Technica (Sam White)
Mafia 3 is a classic case of style over substance, where its slick setting and story can't make up for tired open-world gameplay. What a disappointment.
IGN (Marty Sliva)
Mafia 3’s strong characters and confident storytelling kept me engaged, even if the gameplay rarely delivered anything but bog-standard and repetitive open-world action. That’s a bummer, because Lincoln is an incredible protagonist and New Bordeaux is a fantastic setting thematically, and it would’ve been great to see them put to better use.
GameSpot (Scott Butterworth)
Every aspect of Mafia 3's writing--from the dialogue to the mission descriptions--is excellent. The obvious care and craftsmanship that went into its narrative elements should serve as a model for all other triple-A titles. The gameplay, however, just can't live up, and repetitive missions and technical problems drag the experience down further, turning a game that could have been truly great into one that has to settle for "fair."
Eurogamer (Edwin Evans-Thirlwell)
The overall impression is of a man with enough personal baggage to fill a safehouse, trying to carve out a space for himself in a universe that despises him. Both he and his city deserved a better game than this one.
As it turns out, the off-putting gameplay trailers certainly foreshadowed the main flaw of Mafia 3. That is, its lacklustre and repetitive gameplay simply didn't due the engaging narrative and carefully-calculated scenery justice.
The entire Mafia series has been chock full of interesting characters and gripping plots, and we can only hope in the future that 2K Games can polish off the elements of gameplay that Mafia 3 needed to keep par with the high expectations such consistent writing brings to the table. The game isn't a bad experience, per se, it just didn't go the distance that fans had expected to.
Mafia 3 is available now for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.