Repetitive play a letdown

Each mission in Mafia III pretty much follows a standard, cookie-cutter formula: drive somewhere, shoot things up and get out.
Each mission in Mafia III pretty much follows a standard, cookie-cutter formula: drive somewhere, shoot things up and get out.PHOTO: 2K GAMES

Mafia III is a well-intentioned game that sets out to tackle weighty, potent issues such as racism and war, but is unfortunately let down by its monotonous gameplay.

In the open-world action game, players control Lincoln Clay, an orphaned, mixed-race Vietnam veteran who finds a home among the Black Mob, an organised crime faction.

After the Black Mob is betrayed and slaughtered by another crime family, Clay begins his climb to the top in a city cleaved along racial lines.

Developer Hangar 13 has crafted the fictional world of 1968 New Bordeaux (a twin to the real-life New Orleans) brilliantly.

Wrought-iron railings and neon signs lend an air of faded glamour to the city, which is inhabited by well-scripted and well-acted characters such as Clay's priest, Father James.

The soundtrack, which comprises 101 curated tracks, also plays a crucial part in building the world. It spans genres from foot-tapping country to gritty soul, from The Beach Boys to The Rolling Stones, and was a constant companion on my numerous car journeys.

  • 7/10

  • RATING

    PRICE: $109 (PC, version tested; PS4, Xbox One)

    GENRE: Open-world shooter

Against this backdrop, Mafia III thrusts one overarching theme: racism. When you boot up the game, Hangar 13 includes a note which tells you that it "sought to create an authentic and immersive experience that captures this very turbulent time and place, including depictions of racism".

What this means is that, as Clay, you are always acutely aware that that you are not like everyone else.

While walking the streets, racial slurs and vulgarities are a given, and even your white "friends" are derogatory in front of others so as not to arouse suspicion.

There is a very clear, deliberate attempt by the game to make you aware of this injustice and, by extension, our own faults as a society.

But does this truly work?

At the start, yes. Each time I heard an insult about my race, I felt a prickle of genuine anger. My community was under attack, and I wanted to fight back.

But after hours of this, I began to get numb. This is partially due to habituation, and partially due to the gameplay's repetitive nature, which meant that there was no chance to interact more deeply with the issues at hand.

Each mission pretty much follows a standard, cookie-cutter formula: drive somewhere, shoot things up and get out.

This may have been fine if the game's shoot-from-cover combat were engaging, but it was not. Going up against the AI felt almost like cheating. Hiding behind cover makes you practically invisible, and you can run up to a pair of enemies and take down one without his buddy noticing.

While other reviewers have reported technical issues such as crashes and glitches, I had no major problems playing it on my Nvidia GTX 970M.

Granted there were a few times that the textures and lighting messed up, or I experienced object pop-in, but, overall, the game was still playable.

  • Verdict: An ambitious game that tries to explore a serious issue - racism - but is hampered by its repetitive gameplay.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2016, with the headline 'Repetitive play a letdown'. Print Edition | Subscribe