Review by Alyx Jones
Edited by Sam Hughes
Developer: Hangar 13, 2k Czech
Publisher: 2k Games
Composer: Jesse Harlin, Jim Bonney
Audio Director: Matt Bauer
Reviewed on: Playstation 4
A 6 year wait, endured by fans of the highly rated Mafia II, gives us Mafia III, the story of the young Lincoln Clay who moves to take down the Italian Mafia, following his return from war and the proceeding burning down of his Uncle Sammy’s property. A game of murder and revenge, set in 1968 in New Bordeaux, is certainly not for the faint of heart, with a strong focus on the racism that was rife at the time.
Mafia III features a heavy use of licensed music from the 60s, with some bespoke music from Jesse Harlin and Jim Bonney, used in certain situations/cut-scenes and stingers, such as for indicating when the player is in combat or if the player dies. An incredible amount of music from this time period is used as the in-game soundtrack, for example “Bad Moon Rising” plays towards the end of the game, as mob disagreements come to a climax. The music also plays a part as diegetic music, through various radios in characters houses and more noticeably through car radios, with various announcements and current news from the time, often around the theme of “black power” and the “southern union”, after the murder of John F. Kennedy a few years prior to the games events.
Sometimes there are orchestral cues, especially those present when the player is gunned down that sometimes feel out of place, compared to the guitars and other music present in the game. For the first hour or so of hearing this when I died, it stuck out from the trend in the audio, towards more traditional 60s sounds and instruments. However by the time I was 10 hours into the game, it didn’t bother me as much.
With such a massive open-world game, with so many different districts, with their own set of missions, characters and vehicles, it must have been a mammoth sound design job. The variety of weapon and car sounds is great. The change in sounds, coupled with controller vibrations as a vehicle gets damaged makes it feel very lifelike. Of course, game audio design is often about the hyper-real, and it’s difficult not to feel brutal when you stalk and knife to death gangsters, from behind crates. The knife impact and twisting of the blade can really be felt in the audio, but don’t worry, it’s probably just a cabbage!
There is a slight problem, similar to Dishonored 2, in that voices are often heard too loudly, when the radar shows them much further away on the game map. This is particularly evident when people are in other rooms, or floors even with closed doors and windows, that in reality should be at least partially muffled, if not inaudible from more than one floor above. It is a common issue with games, but it also impacts on the experience, especially for those players who want to play in stealth mode, and listening for enemies approaching can be an important part of gameplay.
Alex Hernandez plays the main protagonist Lincoln Clay, a bitter and powerful performance that sees him become the monster, he set out to destroy. It’s an incredibly convincing job done by Hernandez, backed up by Lane Compton as Donovan (the “devil” on his shoulder) and Gordon Greene as Father James, the ever righteous and moral voice encouraging Lincoln away from the violence of the mob.
Mafia III also sees the return of Rick Pasqualone as an older Vito Scaletta, one of our three bosses, who can also go on to run the city (depending on your in-game choices). Erica Tazel also lends her voice to Cassandra, the slightly wacky but equally ruthless leader. The final third of our underdogs is the Irish born Barry O’Rourke, representing Burke, from the Irish mob, who runs a salvage yard, and a whole lot more.
This game is worth playing, even just to hear “All Along the Watchtower” every time you boot it up. It’s also fair to say that it has nothing on Mafia II, so if you’re expecting a similar experience, you may be somewhat disappointed, however the intense experience of what life might have been like as a black male in the 60’s is something unforgettable.
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The Sound Architect