A special preview of Mafia III took centre stage at EB Expo on Friday morning, with a live demonstration of the game ahead of its release in a few short days. Seeing it play out on a big screen, the greatest takeaway is that Mafia III has a tremendous amount of detail in every scene.
Every slice of New Bordeaux is fleshed out, with the scuff marks and filled clear fridges pushing the realism of the New Orleans stand in. Every character looks and acts like a person, even background characters that get a few seconds from their fifteen minutes on a fake newsreel.
The presentation opened with some canned footage of the game featuring protagonist Lincoln Clay cruising across alligator-filled waterways. The setting is 1968, and Lincoln has returned from the war in Vietnam to his surrogate family, the Black Mafia.
Instead of a peaceful homecoming, a betrayal by the Italian Mafia brings him to a new war – one that will engulf the bayou-side city of New Bordeaux.
The introduction is a lead-in to the live demo, taking place early in the game, but with Lincoln’s war against the Italian Mafia in full swing. This mission brings him to the valuable target of Tony Derazio.
The game presents the events in an unusual way, using the media of the day to frame what took place, which allows it to embellish its own authenticity as a thing of truth. Whether this was for the sake of the presentation or part of how the game frames each mission is currently unclear.
It opened with a judicial hearing into the affairs of the Italian Mafia, giving the game a way to introduce the character of Tony Derazio properly, his ties to that organisation and place in its hierarchy. It proceeds with the habits of Derazio and the circumstances leading up to the mission, which provide a vital piece of intel for how the mission can be beaten.
The presentation was the first showing of Mafia III over the public days of EB Expo, with the booth on the show floor staying closed until well after the doors open. Full credit to the presenter whose name escapes me, but who had supernatural control of the controller as he played before a live audience.
The first task was to nab Derazio’s car, then use it to gain access to the building he was in. From there he moved up the building, floor by floor, until finally reaching Derazio’s office.
Given that the game is Mafia III, none of this passes without incident. From taking the car, entering the building, and the way through to the confrontation with Derazio, bullets and shells are the order of the day, dressed with close combat, explosives and a steady supply of carnage from beginning to end.
The entry to the final office takes the action to another cinematic, showing Lincoln in an elevator while Derazio speaks on the phone. The return to gameplay blasts off like a rocket, with a rocket launched right at Lincoln. A final firefight fills the floor with a flurry of bullets, ending in an opportune moment for Lincoln when Derazio is forced to reload, and Lincoln takes the opening.
Another cutscene plays with Lincoln making sure Derazio’s death has the impact it needs to, and then to complete the media lens, an in-game news report talks to the mission’s events, and the reaction of New Bordeaux locals.
The city itself is split into several boroughs, each with distinct feels and flavours – from the misty Bayou through to Downtown and beyond, the personality of the city shines through, whether in your face at Mardi Gras, or rich and vibrant when pushing a solid gold soundtrack through the radio.
Some details around other gameplay elements were shown, but after seeing the story come to life with such richness, set in a period of racial tension that’s not as divorced from the world today as it ought to be, this game that’s been relatively under the radar for us is one to watch – and might even be the best outing that 2016 has to offer.