We don’t normally do this kind of post here at Words About Games. We’re not the kind of site that rushes to get impressions of games out as fast as possible. We play games and we review them when we’re ready to pass final judgement on them, not a moment before.
However, with Mafia III being in the state it’s currently in, a review-in-progress seems apt – if only to try and stop people from buying a game that clearly was not ready to be launched. So consider this our Mafia III review-in-progress. We promise not to make a habit out of it.
Mafia III released last week to some controversy. At least the PC version did. Just after the game was made available it was discovered that the PC port was capped at 30fps. I understand why this upset PC gamers, as the whole reason for gaming on PC is to have more options and a better graphical experience than on consoles.
I personally wasn’t too fussed with going above 30fps. Hangar 13 promised (and delivered) a patch to unlock the framerate over the weekend. While I’m not a big fan of the developer of publisher withholding that information from its customers before the game was released.
As it turns out, a lack of framerates has been the least of my problems.
Mafia III on PC is a technical mess. Nevermind going above 30fps, during the driving sections of the opening mission the framerate regularly stuttered and hitched – I couldn’t even get the game running at a stable 30fps. No matter what settings I changed the game continued to chug.
That wasn’t even the worst thing I noticed about Mafia III during that opening drive, as you will have seen if you clicked play on the YouTube video embedded above. The AI simply can’t handle driving. Cars would constantly drive around in circles with no idea which way they were supposed to go. They also keep crashing into each other.
And that’s if they even manage to hit one another in the first place. Mafia III also comes with some severe clipping issues. Cars phase through each other and other objects in the environment seemingly at random. One moment a car is a solid object, the next it’s not. In the above video one car drives into another, passing into it as though it were a ghost car, then the game suddenly remembers how the laws of physics work and both cars explode.
It wasn’t a confidence-inspiring opening to the game. The AI truly could not handle driving, something that it has managed in other open-world games dating back a decade and more. This has continued throughout my play time with Mafia III
The sound in the opening section also stuttered quite badly. Hence why there is no sound in the above video.
The AI does not seem particularly competent during on-foot sections of the game either. During the first mission my enemies in open combat kept walking slowly towards me, allowing my the perfect time to shoot them in the head. That was when they even bothered with me at all.
A badass wielding a shotgun was, I assume, supposed to be the high point of that levels challenge. Except instead of providing any sort of difficulty, he simply walked into the room with his shotgun extended, ignoring me completely despite the fact that I was stood out in the open, having rushed forward to grab a new weapon.
What should have ended with a shotgun blast to the back was simply an awkward, immersion shattering moment. It’s also worth noting that the targeting reticule is off centre, not even pointing at the same place protagonist Lincoln Clay points his gun.
The framerate continued to chug. Mafia III’s PC port seems incredibly poorly optimised. Even with settings turned down and locked at 30fps the framerate is an issue, whether in smaller environments or out in the open world.
Forums are being littered with other users reporting similar problems. The first patch, it seems, was simply deployed to allow users to unlock the games framerate – regardless of the fact that the game can’t manage a stable FPS anyway.
Clipping issues have also continued throughout my play time. Aside from the aforementioned vehicles that occasionally ignore solid objects, takedown animations sometimes glitch out – Lincoln will sometimes phase through his enemy and attack thin air while the bad guy reacts as though he has been hit.
There are more bugs being reported than I have outlined here, these are just the ones I have personally experienced. If you want to see more, check out this YouTube compilation (credit to CrowbCat):
From a gameplay perspective, Mafia III doesn’t feel great to play. Aiming feels sluggish and fairly unresponsive (not helped by a wonky targeting reticule). Stealth feels unintuitive – you can snap to cover with a single-button press, but when you emerge from cover or finish a takedown you’ll be left standing rather than crouching, which has messed me up a couple of times.
It’s worth taking my gameplay impressions with a grain of salt, however, as I’ve only played the game for a couple of hours. Similarly, the city of New Bordeaux hasn’t opened up to me very much, so I won’t comment on the open-world just yet.
What is keeping me going through this bug-infested, AAA release is the games story. The story of Lincoln Clay is, at this point, fascinating and extremely well presented. It’s framed as a documentary – with the action of the actual game interspersed with interviews from historical experts and older versions of characters actually present in the story itself. Coupled with some excellent vocal performances and a ridiculously strong soundtrack, the narrative and general presentation is incredibly strong.
It’s a shame that it’s all being brought down by terrible optimisation. Mafia III’s PC port is an absolute shambles and best avoided right now. While I can’t speak for the console versions of the game, it’s painfully obvious that this game was not ready for release.
I’m going to soldier on through the game and hope for a patch that fixes the issues I’m experiencing. I’m not sure when we’ll have a full review for the game ready, but I intend to play as much as possible before Thursday’s PSVR launch, so we’ll hopefully have something by the end of the week.
Sooner, if the games myriad of technical issues continues to get worse…