I love gangster movies. Goodfellas, The Godfather, Scarface, there’s something about organized crime that’s always been interesting to me. So in 2010, when a game literally called MAFIA was coming out, I knew I had to get my hands on it.
I had never played the first Mafia game, and I couldn’t get my hands on it, so I watched the scenes on YouTube to get a sense of the story. I remember really liking it, the 1930s atmosphere, the way it’s told as a testimony to a cop, it was what I believe to be masterful storytelling, and I didn’t even get to play it!
I picked up Mafia II and played through it over the weekend. Again, the story was perfection. Sure, it was another rise-in-the-ranks story with the Italian mafia, but it was the little things in the campaign that I liked about it. A quick war flashback scene, selling counterfeit stamps, do a little dock work. You could tell 2K Czech wanted to make a game that prioritized story.
Now I was really into the franchise, looking forward to the next game. Finally, I started hearing about Mafia III. The trailers looked great, the story looked awesome, I couldn’t wait to play it.
Now, after having made my way through the story, I feel conflicted. It’s one of those things where you like the game, but you have problems with it. I enjoyed myself, but I was a little disappointed.
When you play each game in a franchise (or in my case, I like to say “experienced”), especially in a row, like I did, it’s easy and actually expected that you’ll start comparing them, and that’s what happened here. As I mentioned, I think the first two were way more narrative driven, and that’s what I really liked about them.
It sounds really dumb, but Mafia III is way more like a video game.
Hear me out. Mafia II is very much an Italian Mafia movie that’s a game. There’s fifteen chapters telling Vito’s story. Despite it being an open world game, there’s little room to do anything except advance the story. There are some collectibles, but if you want to search for them, be prepared to see an objective in the corner of the screen, because you have to load up a chapter. There’s no free roam. It’s clear that they want to tell Vito’s story. Vito came home from the war, and he’s working up the ranks of the Italian mob with his childhood friend, Joe.
As I mentioned earlier, during the game (spoilers, obviously), you get to fight in the war, work at the docks to pay off your father’s debt, go to jail for selling counterfeit stamps, do bare knuckle boxing while in prison, and beat up your sister’s husband for abusing her. And while they don’t sound important, they all are, because it’s Vito’s story. These are all the things that make him who he is.
Mafia III is just a tale of revenge. It’s not really Lincoln’s story. He just happens to be the one killing people. The story doesn’t feel as organic as it did in the previous game.
I think part of it is Lincoln just decides to start his own family. There’s not a whole lot of working up the ranks like with Tommy and Vito. He starts as the boss, and he kills anyone to get what he wants.
He also doesn’t really have many relationships. He just has people he knows. Vito constantly had Joe by his side, there was dialogue and comraderie. Lincoln has underbosses that don’t really do anything except complain when they don’t get territory, a CIA agent he gets information from, and a priest he goes to when he wants to feel bad about his choices.
It’s a good game. I like it and what it brought to the lore. I like that it continues the idea of presenting the story in a unique way (in this game, it’s as a documentary), and that, spoilers, there’s not really any good ending. But it’s not exactly what I expected from a Mafia game.
Can’t wait for Mafia IV.