Mafia III review: how can a super stylish 1960s shooter be this boring?

Excellent script, great voice acting and convincing animations bring the game to life – but they can’t redeem the terminal repetitiveness of the gameplay

America in the 1960s: a presidential assassination, landmark rights movements, a nuclear arms race, the birth of modern music, man landing on the moon, the beginning of Star Trek, and a controversial war abroad. This is a remarkable era – one barely seen in video games – and Mafia III makes good use of its cultural backdrop. It tells its story well, with smart writing and some superb characterisation that elevate its simple revenge plot. Ultimately, however, it never capitalises on its open world potential, instead succumbing to an almost constant lull of tediously unimaginative repetition that makes for a boring and dated open-world shooter.

The game starts relatively strongly. Developer Hangar 13 successfully captures the distorted soul of the 1960s and places us in the rugged boots of Lincoln Clay – a bi-racial orphan and Vietnam veteran recently returned home to the Big Easy inspired city of New Bordeaux. He’s the archetypal Henry Hill protagonist; a likeable, loyal young guy who you root for despite his penchant for murder, torture and other reprehensible hobbies. His closest colleagues are similarly personable despite their illegal activities. Sammy, leader of the Black Mob, raised Lincoln as one of his own, while Father James Ballard is Lincoln’s go-to for advice and help whenever he’s in need of moral guidance.

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