E3 2016: There’s a Blood Moon on the Rise in Mafia III
The Gulf Coast is home to some of the most beautiful scenery you'll ever witness. Sunsets just look a little bit more majestic in the southernmost parts of the country, and Hangar 13 has managed to capture that stunning quality quite well for its upcoming action game, Mafia III. Most times, 24-hour day/night cycles in open world games are merely perfunctory displays, with little thought to the vibrancy of nature's palette. Driving on a coastal highway or even through the bayou, it's hard not to stare in awe at the majesty Hangar 13's been able to capture for this sequel.
But beneath those hypnotic heavens lies the darkness of Mafia III's world. New Bordeuax, the stand-in for New Orleans, is a city crackling with crime and corruption. The Italian Mafia, the Dixie Mafia, and the Black Mafia are all fighting for a piece of this world. Whether it's shootouts, murders, drugs or smuggling, all three are leaving bodies and destruction in their wake. At the center of it all is Lincoln Clay, a man who means to extract his vengeance on Sal Marcano, head of the Italian Mafia in the south and the man who killed everyone Lincoln ever cared about.
Mafia III will focus primarily on Lincoln's feud with Marcano, which will involve him taking apart the Italian Mafia's operations piece by piece until he reaches the head of family. Along the way, Lincoln will recruit his own underbosses to maintain control of the portions of New Bordeaux he takes back, including Cassandra (head of a Haitian gang), Burke (a former Marcano heavy), and Vito Scaletta (another man slighted by the Marcano's). Each of these characters offers something different for Lincoln, provided he rewards their loyalty by giving them a part of the city to control while he's out on a revenge binge. You'll be able to call for back-up in a firefight or get access to high-powered weapons earlier and cheaper depending on how your relationship is going. Of course, if you keep forgetting to cut anyone in, they might just tell you to fly a kite and engage you in a turf war as well.
Primarily, the demo shown off at E3 focused on Lincoln chasing down one of Marcano's own lieutenants, Uncle Lou. Now Uncle Lou jumped off the screen at us because he's played by veteran Friday Night Lights and Justified actor Brad Leland (Justified's Erica Tazel also appears as Cassandra in the game). The idea of chasing down Buddy Garrity made these moments a little humorous while watching, but it wasn't long until those smiles turned into painful grimaces. Mafia III doesn't hold back on the violence one bit, and Lincoln has a number of different finishing attacks he can utilize in the heat of battle. These gangland executions are no joke, and had us cringing in our seats due to how hyper violent they were. Not that they shouldn't be at all, but they still elicited a few winces when we knew they were coming.
It all starts by going after one of Uncle Lou's local establishments, a bordello in the French Ward. You can choose to gun in guns blazing at the get-go, or you can choose to sneak through the security to find the pimp running the show. When you take him out, things are going to get loud, but with the help of Lincoln's own underbosses, you can turn the odds back to your favor at nearly any junction. Hitting Uncle Lou's establishment cuts off his money, and the more of money he loses, the more likely he is to be drawn out in the open. The case here finds Uncle Lou holding a fundraiser on a riverboat, which you can invite yourself to in order to finally get your hands on Lou and even more of his money and properties.
The riverboat shootout is rather tense, though Lincoln's combat prowess as a Vietnam veteran gives him a bit of a leg up on the local goons. That said, Mafia III has a hell of a body count. The trailers and promotional materials for the game don't make light of the number of people murdered during Lincoln's blood-soaked quest, even going so far as to call out just how many lives were lost in his feud with Marcano. Just this single section alone had dozens of dead gangsters by the end, so you can only imagine the south will have lost a number of not-so-nice people by the time the game ends. We won't spoil exactly where and how this demo ended, but you can probably imagine things don't end up going so great for ol' Uncle Lou.
Mafia III isn't a drastic departure from the Mafia franchise formula, but there are a lot of intriguing new elements helping it to stand out from the crowd of open-world action games set in the criminal underworld. The southern local of New Bordeaux looks beautiful, even if it has a darker undercurrent, and the narrative appears to be taking us places we haven't seen before in a game. There's more we need to see in action to better understand how all these various gameplay elements work together --- and how well they work --- but at the moment, Mafia III and Lincoln Clay have our attention.
Mafia III will be available on Oct. 7 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC.