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Mafia III

Mafia 3 was not great, but it did get credit for tackling the rampant racism of its 1960s New Orleans setting head-on—a "bold, subversive move" in a game that was otherwise a pretty big letdown. It turns out that it was actually toned down somewhat prior to release: At one point it featured a "cold open" sequence that laid out exactly why lead character Lincoln Clay joined the Army and went to Vietnam, but developer Hangar 13 cut it, and scrubbed it from existence, because it was just too far over the line. 

"That whole cold-open has been burned from our servers," executive producer Andrew Wilson said at the recent Develop Conference (via Eurogamer). "It literally does not exist. Because if ever that had come out without any context in any form it would have looked terrible, because disconnected from the game it's obviously even more shocking." 

Game director Haden Blackman described the sequence as a "really violent prologue" in which Clay kills a cop while escaping a mob ambush. That in itself may not seem like such a big deal in the context of videogames, even if it was as violent as they said. The problem is that it was added late in the game, and so it felt "exploitative" rather than like an integral part of the story. 

"Lincoln never really talks about it," Blackman said. "I think we added one scene where he has a conversation with this Priest, Father James, and they talk about it a little bit, but we never really paid off on it. There were characters involved in it who he encounters later but doesn't really acknowledge." 

"We ended up cutting it because of the feedback, which was super-painful for me personally because it was something I'd pushed forward and championed, and I ended up directing that day's mocap shoot because it was such sensitive subject matter, and we worked on it for a couple of months. But it was absolutely the right thing to do in hindsight." 

Blackman explained in a Q&A session that he believes it's important to tell "meaningful stories with meaningful characters," but added that it's important to avoid getting "on a soapbox," or presenting idealized characters. 

"One of the first conversations Bill [lead writer Bill Harms] and I had about Lincoln was, 'He can't be perfect. He has to be flawed'," he said. "We cannot put him up on a pedestal and say this is the idealised African American lead character, otherwise it won't feel true, or honest, and we wouldn't have enough to relate to with him while working on the story."

Hangar 13 suffered layoffs earlier this year after Mafia 3 failed to catch fire. A Kotaku report from April indicates that it is now working on a new project.   

Mafia III

Mafia 3 opens with a documentary-style montage and potted history of the game's main character, Lincoln Clay, whose body and life you jump into shortly after he returns from the war in Vietnam. But the game didn't always open this way.

Once upon a time Mafia 3 had a far more explosive start, a 'cold open' sequence to play out before the opening montage. It was controversial stuff - so sensitive, in fact, developer Hangar 13 scrubbed it from existence lest footage ever get out.

"That whole cold-open has been burned from our servers," said Andrew Wilson, executive producer, speaking at Brighton's Develop Conference yesterday in a session hosted by "It literally does not exist. Because if ever that had come out without any context in any form it would have looked terrible, because disconnected from the game it's obviously even more shocking."

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Mafia III

"We've known each other for many years, but this is first time you've come to me for help," says Vito Corleone to Amerigo Bonasera in the opening scene of The Godfather. Swap out the word 'help' for 'the chance to discuss selling Mafia on our digital storefront', and I imagine that's how GOG secured Illusion Softworks' 2002 open world crime sim last year

I suspect a similar strategy was behind bringing Mafia 2 and Mafia 3 to the online distributor too, which means the organised crime series is now available to play DRM-free in its entirety. To mark the occasion, each game is subject to a limited-time 50 percent discount—66 percent if pick them up together. Is that an offer you can't refuse? You tell me. 

PC Gamer UK's 91-scored review of the first game doesn't exist online, sadly, but let me pull excerpts from Rich McCormick and Andy Kelly's respective Mafia 2 and Mafia 3 analyses. 

First, Rich's words on the second's setting: 

It was the city that drew me in. An amalgamation of New York's streets and Hollywood's hills, Empire Bay is as interactively sterile as all other 'open-world' game-cities, but it's been coated in a veneer of dreamy credibility. Each street and hallway has a feature—a man shouting at an open window; a woman pressing her ear to a door; the sound of an argument. It's easy to see these details written down in a design document, but it gives Empire Bay a genuine rhythm, a pulse that Liberty City lacks. 

Plus, it helps that it is—on hefty machines—stunning. Turn up in the city in winter, and the streets are caked in snow, with layered bands of crystalline white on the untrodden paths contrasting with slush on the roads. And the lights! Even as the game transitions out of the 1940s and into the '50s, Mafia II's waxy lighting remains consistently arresting, casting pools of gold and yellow on windscreens.

Second, Andy's frustration with the design and performance issues of the third:

The repetitive mission structure might not have bothered me as much if the game was more fun to play, or if there were any interesting systems to experiment with. The melee combat has a satisfying crunch to it, but the firefights are about as generic as cover-based shooters get. Vehicle handling, even with the vaguely more responsive ‘simulation’ mode activated, is frustratingly weightless and slippery. And the AI is astonishingly dumb, with enemies behaving more like confused robots than people.

The PC port is pretty bad too. The textures are muddy and the image is curiously blurry, even when set to your monitor’s native resolution. The fact that I couldn't hit 60 frames per second with a GTX 970, even on medium settings, suggests poor optimisation. And the aggressive colour grading—an attempt to create a vintage ‘60s aesthetic—is way too overpowering. The city can look spectacular at night, especially when it rains, but overall the image quality and the fidelity of the world are incredibly disappointing. 

At half-price, Mafia costs £3.99/$5.24, Mafia 2 Director's Cut (which comes with its DLC) costs £15.00/$19.74, and Mafia 3 costs £17.49/$23.04 on GOG till April 5 at 9am PST/5pm BST.  

Some online stores give us a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Read our affiliate policy for more info. 

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

The month of March is upon us, and that means it's time for a new Humble Monthly Bundle. This one is headed up by Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, God Eater 2 Rage Burst, and Mafia 3, complete with the Sign of the Times DLC.   

The Humble Monthly Bundles go for $12 each—it's technically a subscription, but you can cancel whenever you want and the games are yours to keep—and feature one or more "early unlock" games that are available immediately, and a bunch more that are revealed when the bundle is over.   

The follow-on games are typically lower budget and less well-known, but the lead games are usually worth more than the price of entry anyway. Last month's bundle, for instance, started with Dark Souls 3 and the Ashes of Ariandel DLC, and ultimately finished with that plus Overgrowth, Lost Castle, Splasher, Aviary Attorney, Last Day of June, Holy Potatoes! We're In Space, and Arawkanoid.   

The current Humble Monthly offering will be available for just a hair under 35 days, which means you've got until April 6 to make your move.    

Some online stores give us a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Read our affiliate policy for more info.

Mafia III - (Tom Sykes)

Mafia III

Hanger 13 gave the world open-ended crime caper Mafia III, a game that is at once a formulaic GTA-style action game, and an impressive slice of the American South in the 1960s (with a few fictionalised elements letting the team interpret New Orleans a little more loosely). It seemed to do pretty well sales-wise but today the chances of a Hanger 13-developed follow-up appear dim. The studio has been hit with substantial layoffs.


Mafia III

2K Games has confirmed with Kotaku that Mafia 3 studio Hangar 13 has laid off a portion of its staff. Numbers weren't revealed, but the Kotaku report describes the cuts as "significant." 

"2K can confirm that there have been staff reductions at Hangar 13 in order to ensure that the studio’s resources are properly aligned with its long-term development plans," a rep said. "These reductions will not influence 2K’s ability to create and deliver its products that are currently in development. We never take these matters lightly, and are working with the affected employees to support them and explore potential opportunities throughout our organization." 

Mafia 3 moved the series away from its classic Mafia roots and into the racism-riddled Louisiana of the 1960s. "The choice to tackle a difficult period in American history was a bold, subversive move," we said in our review, which also praised the game's world-building. Unfortunately, the gameplay was "rote, unambitious, and poorly designed," with too much repetition and not enough depth.   

Despite those shortcomings, Take-Two Interactive touted the game as a success, noting in its fiscal year 2017 second-quarter report that Mafia 3 "is the fastest-selling game in 2K’s history, generating week one sell-in of more than 4.5 million units." The most recent quarterly report, released last week, also cites the launch of Mafia 3 as part of the reason that quarterly revenues were down by nearly $100 million compared to the previous year. 

Mafia II - (Alice O'Connor)

After five years of not being sold for download anywhere (and long being out-of-print on disc), the first Mafia has returned to sale. GOG this week dredged the digital bay, hauled the crime ’em up out, and chipped off its concrete boots to re-release it DRM-free. This version has an edited soundtrack with the licensed music removed, mind. Presumably music licenses expiring is what got the game pulled from sale back in 2012. I’ve not played Mafia since ooh it was on CD, so I am tempted to see how it feels 15 years after it came out – and after two sequels of varying quality and direction. (more…)

XCOM® 2 - (Jamie Wallace)


Bundle Stars is offering up some rather nice discounts on a big batch of 2K Games’ finest wares this week, with up to 80% off some selected titles from the XCOM, Borderlands, Civilization and Bioshock series, among others.


Mafia III - (Graham Smith)

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time.>

I was put off from playing Mafia 3 [official site] by John’s thorough review, which told tales of bugs, bad AI, repetitive mission design and more design flaws. But then a few people I respect kept praising it, for its supposedly exciting combat and its more-ish missions. I finally gave it a try a few weeks ago. (more…)


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