Mafia 3 is an ambitious project that is occasionally bogged down by repetitive gameplay.
At its core, Mafia 3 is a standard revenge story. However, the tone of the game is such that the player's desire for revenge is amplified. You control Lincoln Clay, a returning war vet that finds himself being pushed into the life of crime to support the only family he has ever known. After a grand betrayal, Lincoln is on a warpath fueled by revenge. The campaign has the player dismantling the crime syndicate that betrayed you and your closest friends.
Mafia masterfully sets a tone for the story that is rife with tension and racism. Taking place during 1968 in the American South, Lincoln’s position in society as a black man becomes the crucial point of the story. Given the racial environment of the time period in which the game is set, citizens and enemies will constantly sling racial slurs and remarks towards Lincoln. While overwhelming at times, these interactions provide an environment that shows the insurmountable odds facing Lincoln.
Presentation is where this game excels more than most games I've played in the last decade. The narrative is told through the lens of a documentary featuring many of the characters decades later recounting the events during the game. The seamless transition between flashback and current events exacerbates the brutal impact of Lincoln's actions. The already stellar presentation is further enhanced by the game's incredible soundtrack. Consisting of everything from Johnny Cash to Aretha Franklin, the soundtrack is varied and relevant to the time further engrossing the character in the soul of the world.
Mafia’s biggest setback is its repetitive mechanics. As you plow through the establishment that ripped your family away from you, you will find yourself stuck in a cycle of gameplay that gets old relatively quick. Go to new district. Do side activities to unlock next mission. Get story mission. Kill storyline character. Repeat. Many missions will have you chasing down <insert criminal type here> then deciding to employ or kill the individual. I was disappointed to even see recycled animations when given this choice.
The gunplay is solid, but the limited weapon choice significantly limits how any situation will end. To be fair, the weapon selection’s limited nature could be informed by the time period in which the game takes place.
Mafia 3’s monotonous gameplay is saved by a compelling story and incredible presentation.