Lincoln Clay's bloody quest for vengeance is a terrific adventure
action-adventure Mafia 2K epic soundtrack
Mafia III is the story of Lincoln Clay's fight to avenge himself and his foster family against the powerful mafioso who controls 2K Czech's fictitious take on New Orleans, Sal Marcano. The game makes no bones about the fact that its protagonist is a dangerous sociopath whose ultimate objective will entail carving a bloody path of murder, extortion, theft, arson, kidnapping, and other felonies too numerous to count. He's certainly no hero, but as with all of these kinds of games, he's generally portrayed as being at least marginally better than the people he's trying to take down.
After a prelude, the game is divided into a series of racket and district takeovers with the goal of replacing Marcano's lieutenants around the city with Clay's own associates. This typically involves going after a racket's enforcers and fiscal and physical resources until you've drawn out the boss, at which point you can intimidate or kill him after you assault his stronghold. Lincoln starts out with one associate who controls her own small army of hired guns and eventually recruits three others. As Lincoln slowly takes over New Bordeaux, he doles out these districts to his associates as a way of currying favor and gaining bonuses such as upgrades to vehicles, guns, or Lincoln himself (such as extra health bars).
In addition to the main story missions, there are loyalty missions to boost your popularity with your associates and a number of collectibles. Like its predecessor, the game has its set of collectibles that remind you that game audiences are mostly male (Playboy centerfolds), but it also has several other sets of items, including album covers (which are pretty cool), Alberto Vargas paintings, communist propaganda posters, Repent magazine covers, and Hot Rod magazine covers. The other item that Lincoln collects is fuses, and the fuses are used to rig up junction boxes around the city so that Lincoln's CIA friend Donovan can tap into local communications and gain intelligence on various targets. The practical effect of wiretapping is that it shows collectibles on the minimap and also allows you to "see" enemies through walls, which makes stealthy approaches to combat a bit more feasible.
One thing the game lacks is anything resembling fast travel. If you want to go anywhere in New Bordeaux, you will be walking or driving. The game's fantastic '60s soundtrack takes the edge off that point but only for so many hours. And the soundtrack is great--2K managed to procure compositions from virtually every major artist from the late '60s except for The Beatles in an array of music that ranges from zydeco to blues to R&B to rock. The game also has a few radio shows and pseudo-vintage ads that play on the in-vehicle radio stations but after over 100 hours you really start wishing that 2K had put some kind of fast-travel system that would allow you to travel across the city in less than 10 real-world minutes.
Each of the single-player DLCs in the season pass adds a few new mechanics to the base game. Faster, Baby is the most interesting of the three, although the only significant additions to the game are the customizable cars and racing. The story in this first DLC revolves around the efforts of The Voice and his daughter, Roxy Laveau, to combat Sheriff Slim Beaumont's efforts to suppress voting rights of people in the fictitious Sinclair Parish. Of the three DLCs, Faster, Baby feels of a piece with the main story of the game far more than the others--having a black protagonist in the late '60s in the Deep South, there was no way to avoid the issue of culturally-embedded and institutional racism and 2K Czech handles it well both in the main story and here. Roxy also feels like a blaxploitation-era Pam Grier, which makes her character that much more endearing.
Stones Unturned follows John Donovan's quest to track down his old war nemesis who has resurfaced in New Bordeaux with a small army of mercenaries at his command and a sinister agenda on his mind. This DLC adds sniper support that is so finicky it's virtually useless and a few bounty-hunter missions.
Sign of the Times wears its Manson influences on its sleeve, but it is primarily a story about the relationship between Lincoln and Anna, a young woman who figures into the plans of a murderous cult that has emerged in New Bordeaux known as the Ensanglante. This DLC introduces some investigation mechanics that are only used in certain segments of this story and the use of throwing knives. There is also a series of missions that allow Lincoln, along with his adoptive aunt Lily, to rebuild Sammy's Bar, which is destroyed in the game's prologue.
The game's main story is well-written and populated with interesting characters. While the driving mechanics are just okay and the driving itself gets excessive after a while, the shooting mechanics are well-done. I spent over 150 hours on the game, but I did many of the available side-missions and sought out every collectible and activated wiretaps in every area, so a playthrough that adheres more strictly to the story missions is probably much shorter. The game is not without its bugs. One of the official patches forced players to disable the Steam overlay or deal with weird controller stick issues that made the shooting parts of the game considerably more difficult. Also, some of the mission markers will occasionally disappear from the map, making it effectively impossible to continue them.
While it feels like Lincoln Clay's story is done, I could definitely go for a fourth installment in this series. It sounds a little Vice City, but a story set in a different part of the country in the '80s has potential to be (totally) awesome.