Mafia 3 is on its way ladies and gentlemen. Pegged for a rumoured Q1 release in 2016, its time to start speculating on what 2K may be adding (or improving upon) from 2010’s positively received, Mafia 2. We may only know a small amount about their Vietnam War-stricken protagonist and the seedy underbelly of a racially charged New Orleans we will soon all be playing in, but what I can do is list a bunch of things we’d love to see as 2K move their highly successful Mafia series into its next phase.
- Pre-Game Crossovers
Based on the little references we can gather between Mafia 1 and 2, such as Vito and Joe going to kill your old protagonist in Lost Heavens as ordered by your old boss Mr Salieri, we can be fairly confident that the folks at 2K know how to build an enriched story universe.
Even though the cities and the stories bubbling inside them all remain relatively unconnected, it’s always a thrill to notice small quips and references back to previous events and characters from prequels, or even real world actions. I can only hope that in the next title there will be an even deeper reflection on the antics that happened years prior to Clay’s grimy New Orleans, perhaps even to learn of some of the repercussions of your actions when the credits rolled and you switched off your console after Mafia 2.
Specifically for Mafia 3, we already know that Vito Scaletta will offer up his services and his faction of Italian mobsters to help Clay’s cause, but how much further will it go? Will we come across the quiet echoes of Vito’s old enemies? Once New Orleans’ crime rings have been metaphorically carpet bombed, will Clay set his sights for Lost Heavens or Empire Bay? Now THAT could be good grounds for Mafia 4, if you let me briefly run away with the point of this article…
- Side Mission Exploration
Let’s all be honest here, Mafia 2 was a hell of a lot of fun, but it didn’t really do much outside of the main storyline. Yes, you could crush cars for money and yes, you could go shopping for a fancy new tux – but what else could you really DO to impact the great land of Empire Bay? Spoiler alert: Not bloody much.
Now I expect this to be one of the biggest changes to the franchise as it moves into Title Number 3 especially as mega-gameworld goliaths Grand Theft Auto 5, Fallout 4 and even Skyrim highlighted a style of play that was clearly at the back of 2K’s mind during the production of Mafia 2 – complete and utter narrative procrastination.
Roll on a game that allows you to travel back up the Mafia family but not to ‘take over the city’ as with previous games and become the richest knobs in Empire Bay, but instead to strike the dominating families even harder with your roving gang of racism-fighting ethnic minorities – and you can’t fault me on that description, they’re literally called the ‘Black Mob’.
Let us run our own family businesses and decide who we should whack/interrogate and when, with in-game influences and punishments that may see us gain more heat and notoriety from the Police. For example, look at how Need for Speed handled their ‘Heat’ system. If your car was becoming infamous on the streets for causing mass panic and destruction, the Police would start appearing more and become more forceful regarding the issue of getting you off the road.
Implement this into Mafia 3 and you’ll have a massively sophisticated ‘Mafia Family Tycoon’ game inside a ‘Mafia-Ran Open-World RPG’ that sounds too good to be true.
- Strong Era Feel
2K did a sterling job of recreating the 50’s style and atmosphere back in Mafia 2, and so by that logic, they’re onto a promising start with one of the most iconic cities in the world in one of its darkest historical times: the deep south of New Orleans in the late 1960’s.
With violent, outward racism and the fallout from the Cold War still hovering over the heads of many people, the streets of New Orleans will be far from the pinstriped suits and happy times of the 1950’s. 2K confirmed this grim juxtaposition of economic times by describing our new world as having ‘a cloud of corruption hanging in the air as it becomes a haven for organised crime‘.
Expect to see heavy American muscles cars; the swampy countryside of the South; and a radio station blasting out some of the most iconic musical history to date – The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and The Rolling Stones to name just a few.
Just imagine it: an explosion/torture montage at the very peak of your mafia career set to Louis Armstrong’s ‘What a Wonderful World’ – it’s poetry waiting to happen.
- Mafia Family
It’s undeniable that Mafia’s and the tradition of ‘family’ is going to be a theme that never escapes this particular video game franchise – I hope. However, what would be innovative to see is a newly created ‘Mafia Tree’ you can climb and conquer in your own gruesomely creative ways. Imagine, if you can, a sort of Skill Tree or RPG system that sets the player a list of tasks to complete in order to reach the top of the family. You control your own destiny and the promotion to ‘BIG BOSS’ feels more accomplished than simply being handed it through the natural play of the game.
These tasks can be reached in any way, shape or form: one day you might be extorting shops based on their area of influence or gang control, the next you may need to set up some illegal fronts for your new venture into prostitution. You may even be required to complete the day to day business of collecting your weekly income thats owed to you, dishing out rightful justice to those who dare challenge your family name.
This was done incredibly well in the most recent editions of the Saints Row franchise, in which you were able to get down to the main narrative arc any time you want, but behind all of this you gradually built up your own empire and saw it have knock on effects within the campaign. A cleverly built ‘Mafia Tree’ could send new shockwaves through the gameplay as your free roam time simulates the Butterfly Effect upon your ability to be stealth in certain suburbs of New Orleans should a story mission require you to do so.
- The Protagonist Effect
As mentioned, the protagonist in Mafia 3 comes with a lot of baggage. Introducing Lincoln Clay: a Vietnam veteran faced with racial prejudice, no family and an overwhelming need to overthrow the Italian mob that killed his only friends. He’s going for throats.
Whilst their situations are STRIKINGLY different, my hope for Mafia 3 is that Clay shows the same signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as seen through the horrific struggles of Isaac Clarke ala Dead Space 2. We’ve already had a small hint of his ability to blur the lines between reality and memories as he drives through the swampy outland of New Orleans and instead sees the flora and fauna of ‘Nam.
Keen to see how far Clay’s war-riddled exposition will affect the main storyline, it would be interesting to see how a veteran survives in a world in which his career path only pursues the death and suffering of many, many more civilians. Morbid as it sounds, I’d love to see just how dark 2K can get with their comparison between America’s war on Communism and New Orleans’ war on organised crime.
- Key to the City
Not literally of course, but how amazing would it be to travel completely uninhibited around a city for once in a game?! The only game I’ve felt has got close to this level of exploration was Red Dead Redemption in which their towns weren’t littered with large polygons disguised as buildings, but instead had more shops and saloons than meaningless background decoration.
Now, this isn’t to say that Mafia 2 didn’t do Empire Bay a disservice, because it did a magnificent job of creating a city that was not only alive, but mildly accessible. It oozed 50’s glamour and glitz, but lacked the ability to fully let you become a 50’s housewife or, you know, do more than just switch the water off and on again in your shower.
More customisable clothes, a more robust driving engine and a world that actually opens up when you step towards its front door – that’s all I’m asking for 2K. Please deliver the goods and spread it throughout New Orleans for me to discover and enjoy.
- Freedom (to be a dick)
This needs a bit of explanation on my part. Sure, I just discussed the importance of a video game to be totally open and free when it comes to exploring its world, but it’s also INCREDIBLY important for a Mafia game to let you be a bit of a prick. It’s all well and good going down to your local supermarket and being able to buy some more milk, but what capacity will the game actually allow me to be a truly terrifying mobster?
I want to rob houses. I want to sneak into hospitals or police stations and mess with their resources. I want to be bad even when the game doesn’t call for it. So far, as seen from the Gamescom demo, we know you can interrogate your targets in various different ways – one of which being reckless driving and the endangerment of human life.
But what if you can spot a rival gang member across the street and you know you need to kill/interrogate/terrify that person before they spot you and give you the same treatment? Easy. Grab them, rush them up 10 flights of stairs in the building they were just walking past and dangle them off the roof.
This unlimited approach to gameplay and ways in which you can overthrow power in New Orleans could, potentially, change the player demands of open world games for the better as games such as the Elder Scrolls or even GTA start to create worlds that are even more immersive than the previous generation of consoles could allow.
Whilst this list is about 30% reckless dreaming and approximately 70% complete disregard for the possibilities of developers and consoles to keep up with my imagination, it’s certainly true that the next edition of the Mafia series has a lot to get right. From hyper-realistic play spaces to pure-unadulterated mayhem, I for one can’t wait to see what 2K have to offer us in New Orleans – I just hope to come out in one piece at the end.
Tell me below what you’re keen to see in the next Mafia game!