E3 2016–Mafia III is about keeping your friends close, and your enemies deeper in the ground

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Lincoln Clay struggles to make friends. Although in a world where racism is rife, gang violence is a way of life and anybody is willing to stab you in the back for a quick buck, it’s a little understandable. The angry yet focused protagonist in the upcoming Mafia sequel is just as strong as the links that keep his syndication of New Orleans together, but it’s when these links start breaking that Mafia III starts making radical shifts in narrative.

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That was one of the biggest takeaways I picked up on at E3 this week, after being treated to a full 30 minutes of hands-off gameplay of the upcoming game from Hanger 13. We’ve seen Lincoln shoot, stab and brutalise his way through the Italian mob before, so it was nice to see some of the more business orientated operations that you’ll have to undertake to keep New Orleans hunkered down. Rackets, syndication and laundering are all par for the course, with even more risqué dealings such as prostitution and gambling falling under the organised crime umbrella.

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Many of these operations are determined by the distinct districts Mafia III us split up into, but they’re not run by Lincoln himself. As the demo showed, once a region was liberated from its Italian capo, the operations within it would have to be assigned to one of Lincoln’s three associates: The loyal but headstrong Cassandra, the brash and irrational Burke and the collected and returning face of the Mafia franchise, Vito Scaletta.

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This was demonstrated first with a brief shootout sequence involving Lincoln and said Capo aboard a classic Mississippi ferry, where a politician was celebrating his not so clean re-election to state. Lincoln was seeking to manipulate the politics in the region, and effortlessly mowed down countless Italian mob forces in his wake while working his way towards his target. The same systems we’ve seen on display before were all here, with mixes of stealth and cover-based shooting, peppered with brutal executions and gore to match.

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Once off the ferry (thanks to an explosion that caused the aforementioned politician to burn to a crisp), Lincoln set out in the bayou to hunt his target with only a knife in hand. The cinematic sequence was brief but powerful, with Lincoln eventually able to sneak up behind the capo and slice his throat open in across the water. With the capo disposed of, the region was now ripe for the picking, leaving Lincoln with a choice between his three cohorts.

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The standard progression systems are tied into this decision, such as certain perks, monetary gains and abilities being tied to different choices. What made the sequence in particular a little more compelling was its impact on the narrative. Aside from looking out for himself, Lincoln would have to balance the relationships he has with his allies. Give too much land to one party, and the other two will slowly start turning on you. And in the demo at hand, that’s exactly that happened after Burke broke his allegiance to Lincoln after Vito managed to get the region over him.

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This presents a fork in the road for the narrative, not only because Burke is such an important character but that Lincoln would now have to deal with him and the hostility a new gang on the streets would present. The consequences of this choice in the long term weren’t explored (there’s no indication of how this affects the story, whether it branches heavily and what it means for missions going forward), but seeing Lincoln forcibly taking on a former friend was powerful all the same.

It’s another layer on the Mafia III cake that just goes to enhance what is already a great looking title, packed tight with location and time-based storytelling and a protagonist with a massive revenge-fuelled vendetta against the mob. Having to micro-manage things in amongst that might not be to everyone’s liking, but it certainly makes the game feel a lot more real.

Last Updated: June 17, 2016

Alessandro Barbosa

You can all call me Sandy until I figure out how to edit this thing, which is probably never. Sandy not good enough? Call me xXx_J0k3R_360degreeN0Sc0pe_xXx. Also, Geoff's a bastard.

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