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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Mafia 3.

TranscriptEdit

Holy lemon-scented twat wipes! Let joy be unconfined! Let every child in the land gorge themselves on crisps beneath the swaying boughs of a shady tree! Let every teenager's bedroom emit a sound not unlike that of hundreds of ham sandwiches being rapidly and rhythmically disassembled, for the AAA drought season has finally come to an end. No longer must we stew in the swirling piss ponds of the indie market to brave the novelly pixel-art todgers as they bloodily trundle in and out of our netherholes like indecisive pine cones. No longer muse we be victimized by comedy walruses. The sun has risen on a new dawn.

"So what's for breakfast, AAA games industry?"

"Well, we thought we'd start you off with a crime sandbox in which you systematically liberate a load of districts with repetitive stealth and cover-based shooting missions."

"Oh, bollocks. I forgive you, comedy walrus. All aboard my netherholes!"

Yes, if Mafia 3's intention was to very firmly put on its most generic underpants to start the AAA season as it means to go on, then it did an excellent job of that at least. Hope you want a little backwards B branded onto your thumb for pressing the contextual stealth kill button 500 billion times.

Mafia 3 takes the series as a particular brand of GTA knockoff to the Deep South in the era of the Civil Rights Movement, where we play a young black crim named Lincoln Clay. Oh for fuck's sake! Lincoln from Abraham Lincoln who freed the slaves, Clay from Cassius Clay also known as Muhammad Ali. Nice. I know the race issue was gonna be unavoidable in this plot but you might as well have called him Jerome K. Blackperson.

2K certainly felt it was unavoidable because the game opens with the very Assassin's Creed-esque disclaimer to the effect of "A lot of people are going to be saying very horrible racist things in this game, but please understand we had to put all that in to accurately bring the era to life. I want you to think about it: not putting it in would've been even more racist. Right. Now that we've gotten that out of the way, nigger nigger nigger nigger coon coon spic." I get that the 60s' Deep South was more cartoonishly bigoted than a 2016 presidential candidate, but having granted themselves the all-clear to say the N-word, I suspect that the writer started slightly getting off on doing so.

I'm not one to judge. I'm gonna say the word retard right now for literally no reason. But don't get all hand-wringingly sanctimonious about it when your game also contains Italian gangsters with tommy guns who talk like they're never more than 3 wisecracks away from bursting into a song from Bugsy Malone. Any sandbox game that tries to have a serious message about societal ills and the corruptive nature of violence is going to be an inevitable tonal disaster area when 2 seconds later you can slowmotion ramp over a creek and smash into a gangster so hard that a neatly bound wad of bills flies out of his nose.

But anyway Lincoln is a member of a black gang in service to the Italian mob when his people get betrayed and he gets left for dead in the classic revenge narrative opening act that I think most screenwriting software will automatically fill in for you these days. So off on the revenge rampage we go. The Assassin's Creed comparison continues, because do you remember how in Assassin's Creed 1, before the series became good for approximately one and a half games, there was a shopping list of assassination targets that represented story missions, but before you could do any of them you had to do a minimum of repetitive side missions and it was like watching a TV show with 500 ad breaks? That's Mafia 3's problem. Mafia 2's problem was not having enough side stuff and being too linear. So at least they're trying but they're overcompensating with the steering and skidded right off the road and down the side of Mt. Boring.

It's like all the game's missions were loaded into a blunderbuss and indiscriminately fired at the map. The notion that the player should have the freedom to choose what order they do things in has the usual result that we have a to-do list instead of a difficulty curve. Freedom's overrated, guys. Yeah, Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison but I can guarantee that he never banged his shins on any coffee tables while he was in there. About the only time the game got hard was after it bugged out in a way that made mission indicators inexplicably disappear, which happened more than once. So I just had to drive around looking around for large concentrations of enemy dots on the minimap and hope it's not just the ice cream shop giving out free samples to bastards.

But Lincoln can't manage the day-to-day running of his conquered territories when he's got a busy schedule of hiding in bushes waiting to stab people. So the unique selling point of the game is, after taking over the district you must make the difficult decision of which of our 3 underbosses to leave in charge of it, except it's not a difficult decision in the slightest. There's 9 districts. 3 each. Bam! None of the underbosses run the rackets any better or worse than the other, so divvy them up evenly and everything's chocolate tulips. This is the illusion of management gameplay when none truly exists. You don't get to micromanage how much laundry detergent the cocaine gets cut with or how many strokes is too many for a $5 handjob.

What happens is that the underbosses give you better and better upgrades and benefits for the day-to-day gameplay and you can favor a boss to get their benefits quicker. But none of them are worth alienating the others for. The Irish mob guy, for example, who is drunk and fighty and associated with the color green - because that's how committed we are to making a serious point about racism - will teach you how to steal cars without being noticed if you please him enough. But the very first base level benefit he gives you is the ability to have someone bring you a car any time for free. So what's the bloody point?

The others give you stuff like more ammo capacity and NPC hit squads but the game gives you See Enemy Through Walls-o-Vision and the distraction ability by default so I could've gotten through the whole game just as easily with one of the starting guns and a staple remover. You don't exactly have to claw for every possible advantage when you're up against enemies that will keep coming over to check the mysterious whistling doorway with 7 or 8 dead henchmen scattered around it.

By the end of the game, I was struggling to remember why we were supposed to hate the main bad guy. He killed about .01% of the people we've killed and had been running a bunch of naughty crime rackets which we proceeded to take over and not change in any way. But he also had an overarching, sinister, diabolical scheme to set up a legitimate business, leave the criminal life behind, and create a future for his children. Oh, hang on. He does say nigger once or twice. Well, OK then. Say no more. Let's drive his harmless old ass to suicide to show how much more enlightened we are these days.

This may be intentional. The story acknowledges Lincoln's hypocrisy at times. But the problem is, I don't think Lincoln ever is a relatable underdog. He's left for dead and vows to bring down the mob with nothing to his name but his two fists, his streetsmarts and a backing of a rogue CIA operative with access to all the resources of the United States government. Wait, what was that last one? It's made out like Lincoln is the criminal mastermind, but every single thing he does is planned and supplied by the CIA dude, who, now that I think about it, shows up in the plot with no introduction and never interacts with anyone else. What, is he Lincoln's fairy godmother?

AddendaEdit

  • A big wheel round these parts: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
  • I apologise for saying the N-word so much this week but it was important to put into context what a huge unapologetic racist I am
  • Yes Lincoln you shall go to the ball
Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart · The Surge · Injustice 2 · Vanquish · E3 2017 · Strafe
Q3 Get Even · Hollow Knight / Dead Cells · Fifth Console Generation · The End is Nigh, and Yonder: Cloud Catcher Chronicles · Pyre · Splatoon 2 · Hellblade · Agents of Mayhem · Sonic Mania · Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle · Destiny 2 · Metroid: Samus Returns
Q4 Knack 2 and SteamWorld Dig 2 · Cuphead · Hob and A Hat in Time · Middle-earth: Shadow of War · The Evil Within 2 · Super Mario Odyssey · Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

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