The Theft Protection

Myths and Facts About Identity Theft

Hi, I’m Hamish Black and welcome to Writing
on Games.
I guess I’m just going to say it – Mafia
III is the most painfully disappointing game
I have played in a long time.
It’s not just a bad game and a technical
mess (although it certainly is those things).
The reason this stings so much in particular
is because it follows 2010’s Mafia II – one
of the most pointedly subversive and criminally
underrated games I’ve ever played.
Both games have some surface level similarities,
sure – they both focus on mundane tasks,
coupled with a large, technically open world
whose environment you have limited interactions
The main difference between them, however,
can be boiled down to this sentiment – Mafia
II is a story ABOUT routine, whereas Mafia
III just IS routine.
I guess you could say that Mafia II’s wildly
varied missions serve the purpose of making
the player feel like less of an agent of their
own destiny, whereas Mafia III tries to make
you feel like an all-powerful kingpin, but
gets bogged down in the fact that you are
basically doing the same mission over and
over and over again.
I’m not even kidding – each racket or series
of missions follows exactly the same pattern.
Go talk to a person in their little hut, watch
an awkward, poorly animated cutscene, go cause
enough damage to a racket (by killing enforcers
or stealing cash) in order to lure the boss
out, go back and talk to weirdo in hut, confront
and kill the boss.
It’s not like the level design is compelling
enough to justify this mission design being
so played out – you know that when you enter
a hideout (sometimes a hideout you’ve been
to/killed everyone in before) that the boss
will probably be upstairs, and that you can
basically run past everyone in order to get
to him.
Once you kill him, it doesn’t matter about
the other enemies – they all just disappear.
Now imagine doing this for twenty goddamn
hours – you get my point.
This game feels like a throwback to the worst
part of San Andreas where you’d basically
be doing the same thing over and over again
to colour in a map.
This isn’t even to make mention of the fact
that the PC port, even post-patch, is still
a mess, and the AI is some of the dumbest
I have encountered in a LONG time.
Part of the problem is that this mission design
severely detriments the narrative.
In trying so desperately to make the game
an open world, the game’s story becomes
fragmented in such a way that it’s impossible
to know or care about who it is you’re going
The game tries to allay this by presenting
the story in the style of documentary interviews
with people years after the fact, but there’s
no real throughline to any of this stuff – no
wider links to where the characters are now
or even what they did then.
Just random documentary footage which, aside
from a select few occasions, boils down to
“oh I thought Lincoln was this but he turned
out to be that and it scared me!”
It’s such a shame because the game is not
short of likeable characters – Cassandra’s
personal stake in bringing down human trafficking
is harrowing, Burke’s nihilism gives way
to a deep, unflinching vulnerability and Lincoln
has all the motivation he needs to bring down
a truly despicable villain.
It’s clear that the writers had a vision
– a simple revenge story framed by severe
racial tensions.
It’s just a shame that the narrative style
of ‘mission you’ve done a million times
before followed by unrelated documentary clip’
holds that vision back from becoming anything
of note about the race or the revenge side
of the story.
The mission design stretches the simplicity
of the revenge story so thin it can’t sustain
any amount of tension, and as a result the
racial elements boil down to a bunch of NPCs
shouting the N-word at you.
The narrative the game is trying to tell is
entirely unrelated to its mechanics or mission
Lincoln isn’t held back from anything – he
can take whatever the hell he wants simply
by repeating the same task over and over again,
and it’s clear that nobody can stand in
his way.
How does this make the mob seem like any kind
of threat, and how does this convey any kind
of racial tension?
The key to good storytelling is show, don’t
tell – Mafia III rarely shows anything,
instead opting to tell you all about it.
Like I say, this is so goddamn disappointing
because these are not problems Mafia II had.
Believe me when I say that every part of this
game is linked to its utterly gripping narrative
about the prosaic nature of mob life and the
fallacy of the American dream.
Player character Vito is not Henry Hill – he
wasn’t born to be a gangster, he simply
fell into it because in his words, he was
“poor and there wasn’t much work around.”
He’s not interested in the glamour of being
a Mafioso – he’s interested in paid work.
The game teases the vast expanse of Empire
Bay as a city ripe for the taking, then subverts
this by presenting you with a more bureaucratic
picture of the mob than games have ever shown.
The open world really isn’t open at all
– there are a few shops you can buy clothes
in, but aside from that, the game makes you
get out of bed, answer the phone to find your
job for the day, make the commute, do whatever
it is you need to do (which, surprisingly,
rarely involves shooting), then head home,
feed yourself to heal your wounds, then go
to bed and do it all again the next day.
Being in the mob has all the pomp and glamour
of a menial day job – something which the
game actually makes you do at certain points.
The difference is that here, like I say, the
story is ABOUT routine rather than just BEING
The missions here are actually wildly varied,
taking you to different, uniquely designed
locations and spanning decades in terms of
its story, so you’re never in the same place
for too long.
However, even when you’re selling cigarettes
out the back of a truck or posing as cleaners
to plant a bomb or just trying to get by in
prison – things that may not be ‘fun’
as we know it – are made compelling because
of the weight they add to the narrative.
It’s one thing trying to convince you of
the bureaucratic, capitalistic mess that is
the mob by telling you it’s bad, but it’s
another to actually put you in the shoes of
someone trying to get by in this world.
It makes you question why you’re doing this
work and who you’re doing it for.
You are never allowed that Vice City moment
of towering over those you have conquered,
because the game wants you to know that in
this system you cannot conquer anything.
Menial labour, adhering to traffic regulations,
all hammer home just how insignificant you
are in this world, even if they aren’t focused
on making the player feel like they’re the
center of the universe.
I would say that this system level subversion
of what we expect from open world games and
gangster narrative in general is far riskier
than saying your game is about race by having
characters meaninglessly spew racial epithets
at your character.
Thing is though, at the time, Mafia II met
with largely mediocre reviews because, compared
to other open world games, it really isn’t
that open.
That was the point though – it teases you
with an open world that’s yours to conquer,
then deliberately closes it off from you to
make a larger point about the nature of American
life at the time.
The idea that, for example, Gamespot’s review
unfavourably said it felt “limited” compared
to JUST CAUSE 2 is absolutely WILD in its
The problem is that, now we have Mafia III,
it feels like the new development team took
those decidedly stupid criticisms to heart
and opened up the world to the player.
In more traditional sandbox style, they made
the primary mechanic one of building an empire.
In so doing, however, they robbed game of
any narrative weight it may have otherwise
As such we’re left with a barely working,
boring, repetitive, meaningless slog of a
game that just IS routine rather than using
a varied mission structure to tell a story
ABOUT routine.
Even if its themes give off the impression
of depth, its mission and narrative structure
simply don’t allow for the mechanical, systems
level depth that its predecessor delivered
in spades.
Mafia II proved that just because your mechanics
aren’t ‘fun’ in the traditional sense,
does not negate them from being utterly engaging.
On the other hand, Mafia III’s world may
be yours for the taking, but it comes at the
cost of any reason to care.
So there you have it, my thoughts on why Mafia
III is woefully lacking in comparison to its
Seriously, Mafia II didn’t get nearly as
much attention as it deserved thanks to the
risks it took and I honestly can’t believe
the reviews at the time missed the mark so
I actually wrote an article for VICE Gaming
on the merits of Mafia II’s subversive approach
and I’ll link that in the description if
you want to see more of my thoughts on this
incredible game.
I’d also just like to thank my patrons who
truly make this show possible.
If you’d like your name in the end scroll,
access to scripts and soundtracks, or even
early access to the episodes themselves, please
consider pledging – even small donations
help me out more than you can possibly know.
With all of that said, I’m Hamish Black
and this has been Writing on Games.
Thank you very much for watching and I’ll
see you next time.

82 thoughts on “Mafia III Review: Following Mafia II Ain’t Easy

  1. Really good job on this video, the script and editing really got your points across. Enough examples, you gave out arguments form the other side, then disputed them swiftly, it felt like you where giving a voice to a lot of people that probably did not know how to articulate there dismay with the game. As someone who really liked Mafia two i'm going to link this video to anyone that asks why i did not like mafia three.

  2. If you want an open world sandbox crime game where you play as a boss of something and have so much to do at once, play Saints Row 2 for fuck's sake. Best game in the series.

  3. Good job with review by the the way.With playing mafia 2 and it being one of my favorite games of all time. I found mafia 3 to be a really big disappointment, being one of the most repetitive games I have ever played I found myself only playing the game to finish the story. Mafia 3 = huge disappointment

  4. Can you do a vid on grand theft auto iv? It seems to have a lot of the same themes you praise mafia 2 for. It be great to have an interesting and unique take on a popular series like GTA. It's essentially a better mafia 2.

  5. This game ruined the mafia series this game was horrible the first mission was the best one and then right to repetitive shit they put more into the music then the half assed finish dogshit mafia 3

  6. Great video. Mafia II was the best in my opinion. I think Mafia III is bad because it was made to go along with the current race agenda going on in the states and unfortunately everyone has to suffer. There was no forethought about killing a franchise. The main goal was to make it 'racist' and if there is any time left we'll make a game. The first big strike against this for me was how different it is than the previous Mafia titles. Calling this Mafia III is a stretch and to find out how ridiculously repetitive it is was a huge disappointment. I can deal with bad graphics, bad AI, etc. but there wasn't much thought put into the game. Maybe their next game will be something closer to Mafia II whether it be a prequel or something. I want a game like Mafia II again. Not GTA, and nothing generic.

  7. Hello Writing on Games! I just sent you an email about a business opportunity. Check it out and let me know what you think.

  8. They could of done a 1930/40s game where you actually play as part of the mafia. The world and story would have so much more to offer, esspecially with modern systems. But no they decided to make an uninteresting world set souly so they can force the whole racism theme, with a uninteresting psycopath who motivation is the most unoriginal shit ever. I mean they could of at least let us change his clothes or customise the car.

  9. Great review! It's refreshing to hear someone speak their mind. And i totallly agree with Mafia 2 being very underrated. You got yourself a subscriber.

  10. I have officially lost faith in new current gen games, along with pre ordering. Both are huge letdowns and a waste of money. So disappointed I wasted 60 bucks pre ordering this game. Currently I'm just rushing through the campaign trying to finish this "game" ad never touch it again.

  11. When the majority of games like MGS V, Mad Max and the recent Deus Ex: Mankind Divided are high on gameplay and content but low on narrative chops, Mafia 3 is the complete opposite.

    All they had to do was retain the gripping storytelling style from Mafai 2 (which they did, for the most part) and include more emergent gameplay moments and side content….and yeah Fast Travel.

  12. Even though everyone agrees that mafia3 is shit, "opening up the world" was not the problem with it. It feels almost sad that after neatly packing the major pitfalls of the game in the first half of the video, you then proceed to monotonously construct an argument that impairments of mafia2 somehow made it a better game. And that mafia 3 somehow did wrong by "trying to lift" those impairments. It didn't. And arguably, it didn't even try.

    Mafia 3 has a stale world, a trivial story, a nonexistent extension of story to gameplay, and abysmally stupid mission design. Open world is not a problem, because it's not even there, the game itself is a problem, to a point where everything it tries to achieve, besides what it does wrong, fails to shine in a positive light anyway.

  13. interesting to know you skipped:

    – the division
    – homefront the revolution
    – no man's sky
    – DOOM (for that price, it should have come gold plated!)

    always interesting to know who we are listening to.

    The dumb AI in this game takes away the mundane business of this game. It's not like you are doing 30+ missions. It's more like you do 10 kills, pop pop pop, in short bursts, for like 5 times. So I didn't think the game was anywhere near as repetitive as the division.

    But the reception would have been much better if they just went from the beginning to the end of the game and skipped the middle. Or better yet filled it up with the same quality gameplay.

    Also there are still three story DLC's comming, so they might still make it up in the DLC.

  14. I fully agree man.I've played about 50 hour's of it.crashes etc no 60 fps at launch etc "added" later which puzzled me.Also with the A.I for me they are just the shitest AI ive ever played against in years like WTF was the Tester's doing during this? like there just rubbish!!!!.Mafia 2 is world's ahead and MAfia 3 seem's rushed and not tested propley

  15. Great review 🙂

    2K and Hangar 13 wants to show the fear of rasicsm during the 60's. But they do it in such a bad way. When they say "no blacks are welcome here, only whites". So you just knock them down, take the money and run. After having robbed several shops. I understand why black people are not welcome in some stores!

  16. Fantastic! just fantastic! If only the developers and people fooled by the games mediocrity would realize why the direction they're taking the franchise is the wrong one and that they can't make it into another generic cash grab.

  17. There is a mod called Ultimate Free Ride Mod that totally opens Empire Bay for you, never the less, making it GTA 1951, never the less, still have the same limitations that in the core game, because the police is brutal and you need to gain money if you want to keep playing without calling the attention of the police.

  18. I agree with most of the things you have said i haven't played it though, i really liked Mafia 2 maybe i'll enjoy this?

  19. 2:00 So it takes the "Assassin's Creed 4/Rogue" method of hideout capturing… just kill the ones in charge and all the enemies become your friends!

  20. After a finished Mafia 2 I felt like Is wasted my time. It is actually a routine to play. The gameplay is just so mundane. Although I have to say it does tell story through gameplay really well.

  21. Mafia 3 was gay.They just wanted to make a race game that fucked up the franchise to where people are not going to buy 4

  22. Great review, my man! 😀 I wasn't at all disappointed by "Mafia 3", though I do see your points on the game's flaws, and you're definitely right on "Mafia 2" being a criminally underrated classic, something I was certain the sequel couldn't follow up to. I was heartbroken we couldn't play as Vito Scaletta, as he's one of my favorite crushes in games, but Lincoln Clay served his purpose well and is quite a complex character, as are the others. 😀 This game reeks of Routine, you are right on point, my man! Cassandra is my favorite, no questions asked, and I love where her story goes long after the game is over. ^.^ The "N" word is thrown around so casually with little to no meaning, which is hilarious to be honest. XD While not a perfect, far from it, I still think it's a fun game to play, but that's just my opinion on the matter. Keep up the great work! 😀

  23. I agree with you completely. I also think both Mafia 1 and 2 are better than Mafia 3 in term of story too. Both Tommy Angelo and Vito are likeable. However, when see throughly Lincoln is very much unlikeable at all.

    I mean after seeing all ending for Mafia 3, I think they should do the same as Fallout : New Vegas style ending where there is no best ending. It should not have the best ending for an unlikeable protagonist like Lincoln even if he decide to leave town (you know which one). The asspull car bomb ending is also bad too.

    I think you should do a review on writing of Fallout games too. I like 1,2,New Vegas for superb writing and dislike 3,4 because they are pretty much unroleplayable.

  24. If Mafia4 goes any further to the future it won't be anything more than a GTA clone,a really dissapointing one too.Watch Dogs has its hacking,Saints Row has "unlimited craziness" but what's left for "Mafia"? The game needs to go back to its roots to the early 19s maybe 1930 or 1920 with the old-timer cars from M1,customization and different seasons"winter-summer" from M2 and finally the choices and different endings from M3"only thing I liked in M3".THIS would be the BEST Mafia game ever made.

  25. I don't mind if the world is more open only the missions should be less repetitive and for fucks sake 2K take some lessions from GTA on how to make a story there's something called plot-twits ,something that stops the hero and make his task look impossible to complete it's what every story needs.

  26. I think Mafia 3's problem is the mainstream criticism the second game got for being an open world with little to do in it…which entirely missed the point of Mafia 2.

    It was an open world because it grounded the world and story. The open world served the purpose of contextualizing the narrative beats and you as the player would drive around later and see places that contained intense story scenes or come across seemingly unimportant buildings that would go on to contain significant story elements later on.

    People that criticized Mafia 2 heavily for its lack of stuff to do in the open world missed the point of the game and the developers taking that criticism into account is what butchered Mafia 3's design. It's a case of mainstream media being too stupid to understand the point of a game.

  27. I thought the story, the writing acting and animation, was so excellent that it was enough to make me push through. Also if you beat the game then the documentary clips make sense.
    Shocked one of the best stories ever put in a game was overlooked by a channel called writingongames

  28. Gamespot and IGN are the worst reviewers. They think that all games are about shooters or power fantasy. They cannot see beyond that.

  29. I hate Mafia 3 with a passion, and your nailing the reasons down pretty darn well. However, I don't understand how a game like Mafia 2 can get so much praise, allthough a lot better than Mafia III, it was the sequel of one of the best games ever made, Mafia 1.

    Mafia 1 gave a much more persistent and clear view into the inner workings of the Mafia, and it had a lot more weight. I found Mafia 2 to be a bigger dissappointment than 3 was, simply for having higher expectations from it. It had it's moments, sure. But it was far from as developed as Mafia 1 was.

    No more speeding tickets in 3 too, I remember how much of an impression those left when I first played Mafia. It's the only game I've ever bothered to try to keep with traffic.

  30. Would you play a persona game where instead of going to dungeons you were just a mafia member like in 2?

  31. very well written review/analysis. I managed to finish the game, and enjoyed it well enough, but it's by no means a good game.. that AI is incredibly bad. One thing that stuck with me though, is at the start of the game, Lincoln survives a bullet to the head at point blank range, and says something along the lines of "my skull stopped it, the head is the worst place to shoot someone". I thought that was a nice nod to a myth in gaming (always go for headshots! even with low calibre weapons)…. but then the gameplay requires you to shoot at heads in order to kill someone in a single shot with any gun.

  32. Mafia III is terribly told, the world is too bland, the actions you need to take are too repetitive, and the AI is absolutely broken. It's a long, cold, angering, repetitive, broken slog. I loved Mafia II, but III is terrible and a waste of money.

  33. i liked the first 2 mafia games, really loved the second one, I see it as a masterpiece but I haven't touched the third one and may never bother…..I can't believe they thought this would be a good followup…..

  34. Mafia 1 was much better than 2. The engine was great mafias were not open word the world was just a background same as in l.a. noire.
    If it comes to Mafia 3 I agree I’m bored same over and over again plus reuse of assets the stores are the same with their surroundings just copy pasted.

  35. Fantastic video! I agree with every point you made. As someone’s who has beaten Mafia 2 close to 30 times, I wish you could’ve seen the disappointment on my face when I beat Mafia 3.

  36. I feel like mafia 3 is a game that was released while it was in beta probably due to a rushed development. Its almost like they were not finished with all the games main story missions so they made the side missions its main missions. Imagine if Far cry 3”s main missions were taking over the outposts or Gta san andreas gang wars were that games main missions well that’s exactly what playing mafia 3 is like.

  37. I actually don't think Mafia 3 is all that bad. I played Mafia 2 and I didn't find myself enjoying it as much.

    Mafia 3 let me down but I still install it off and on and enjoy the combat and the driving for what it's worth.

  38. So they shoehorned in a story and themes that were completely out of place in a game about Mafia life.

    That story and theme could well be worthy of their own game. But taking another established and successful series and shoehorning an unrelated story into it smacks of agenda.

  39. So nobody is going to make comparisons with The Godfather III and Mafia III and how both of them sucked 😅. Ok!

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