Oh dear. By now you’ve probably heard all about Mafia 3‘s issues on the PC. I mostly hadn’t: I’d at least partly kept myself in the dark because I knew I’d be writing this and wanted to experience things for myself, but I’m afraid the outlook is a bit bleak.
I should note that, as with everyone else, we’ve yet to receive review code. I bought into the Mafia 3 life with Actual Money (not acquired through racketeering), what with the UK release being slightly earlier than the US, but PC Invasion caporegime Peter’s the one who’s opted into a life of crime with a full review when/if code actually comes in. Me? I’m just dabbling, for now.
First things first, there is a launcher, and it has options:
The launcher is actually fairly inconsequential, if only because Mafia 3 does in fact contain full in-game settings, which are rather more detailed than this. I suppose it might be worthwhile if you set it to some sort of impossible resolution and need to change things because it just won’t load anymore, mind you. I will note that the resolution goes past 1920×1080, but I haven’t tried that out because I don’t have a monitor that supports it.
Meanwhile, the in-game options:
Arguably, there isn’t a huge difference between the two. The in-game options let you adjust brightness and turn off depth of field, as well as futz with the field of view – always a welcome option, although I actually didn’t set it much higher than the default.
The remaining options are pretty sparse, generally only allowing you to swap between Low/Medium/High, or On/Off. If you’re looking to carefully tweak everything to your exact liking, this is not the game for you.
The non-graphical options are nothing special, either, but hardly offensive. I’m pleased that there’s the option to minimise or remove aim assist; driving can be set to “realistic” if you fancy it; and there’s the usual smattering of audio adjustments, subtitles, and the like.
Let’s have a quick look at the controls:
Not much to say about this, not least because everything is in sub-menus, but everything is rebindable. The default controls aren’t too bad, although a few choices are a little odd, and there some things that don’t really work on mouse and keyboard. Swapping between grenades by holding middle-mouse button (to bring up the weapon wheel) and then tapping Z (to actually swap) is just weird, for instance, and I haven’t found a way to change this. Tapping Z by itself might work, but I’ve had more than enough issues with grenades already that I can’t say for sure. Like, uh, I’ve never been able to throw one.
Also, for the record, I don’t like the fact that the way you’ve set the options is hidden until you highlight the option itself. It’s stylish, yes, but it’s not very useful for figuring out what you want to adjust.
So, Mafia 3 itself. It runs at pretty-much-maximum (everything turned up to full, but with Motion Blur and usually Depth of Field turned off) at the maximum framerate on my i7-3820, 16 GB RAM, GeForce GTX 970 system. The first time I tried this the framerate occasionally dropped a little, but it’s been completely fine ever since. That initial scene may have just been particularly intensive.
The downside: that maximum framerate is 30 frames-per-second.
I’m going to say that again, in bold, because I think it’s important. The maximum framerate is 30 frames-per-second.
Often, I’ll give a bit of leeway to PC ports. With games designed for older systems, which are ported to the PC years after their initial launch, I can forgive that they’re not running at 60 FPS. With quirky, low-budget Japanese games – sure. I can live with it.
But for a triple-A fast-paced action/driving game, I can’t say I have much sympathy. That might be unfair of me considering big multi-platform launches involve juggling an awful lot of balls, but big multi-platform launches also come with pretty high expectations.
Now, this is apparently due to change. A patch to uncap the framerate (or at least raise it to 60) is in the works, as are “additional post-launch options” to tinker with the game’s graphical settings even further. Credit for that, and I suspect that the decision to delay 60 FPS was very last-minute. Unfortunately, I’m not doing a technical review from the future. I’m doing one now, and right now, that 30 FPS cap hurts.
It’s playable, certainly, but not in a particularly good way. In a fast-paced game in which I’m doing a lot of driving and a lot of shooting, halving the framerate honestly hurts.
This might be slightly more forgivable if Mafia 3 looked spectacular, but it falters there, too. There’s a frankly ludicrous amount of bloom, textures of incredibly disparate quality, and a general muddy, grey look to the entire game. Some of it’s nice, but for the most part it’s incredibly underwhelming. At a glance it looks alright, but up close it doesn’t really hold up. Let’s have a few screenshots, shall we? And for what it’s worth, the top two are on the highest graphical settings. Be sure to click for bigger versions.
Oh, and I’ve also hit a few bugs and other issues in the first hour or two of play. Other than my inability to throw grenades (which may, I’ll concede, be down to me not understanding how it’s meant to work) there’ve been graphical and behavioural issues.
Graphics first. There’s a rear-view mirror when driving, which is an excellent touch. Unfortunately, the rear-view mirror appears to be running at significantly lower visual quality than the rest of the game. Have a look at this:
Now that I’ve noticed this, I cannot unsee it. The rear-view mirror is dead to me.
As for behavioural issues, on my second proper driving bit in the game, I pulled up to an intersection right as a truck plowed into a car. The truck then began spinning like a top on its bumper, defying pretty much every physical law there is, and occasionally flipped around like a beached fish, and as far as I can tell nothing was ramming it. Meanwhile, an unconcerned pedestrian tried to walk through it.
To be fair, once again, this might be a one-off and I just got very unlucky… but when I see stuff like that within 30 minutes of starting the game, I get more than a little worried about the quality of the product as a whole.
Which is a shame, because buried somewhere within this incredibly depressing PC port, I suspect there’s a decent game. The soundtrack is excellent (anything that has me listen to All Along the Watchtower; Ring of Fire; Hold On, I’m Comin’; and One is the Loneliest Number within about an hour of starting it up deserves some sort of credit). The plot, detailing Lincoln Clay’s descent from slightly amoral Vietnam veteran to (presumably) vicious gang lord, appeals. The framing device, with the game stylised as a modern-day documentary charting Lincoln Clay’s life, is wonderful. I’ve been enjoying the shooting and the driving. If it opens up a bit more before long – which isn’t really a guarantee, as Mafia games tend to be a lot more linear than expected – I’ll probably be hooked.
“Probably” being the key word, because right now, I’m really not sure I want to play Mafia 3. If the game is indeed as good as I hope then it deserves a hell of a lot better than this, and I almost don’t want to ruin it for myself by playing what feels like a crippled, buggy, not-quite-finished version of the game. Which, unfortunately, describes the feel of this release to a tee. I don’t know how it holds up on console, but on PC I get the sense that it was made just about good enough and then pushed out, likely because time and budget didn’t allow for the final level of polish.
I’m hopeful for patches that’ll fix all of this stuff sooner rather than later, but until then, Mafia 3 is an offer you should probably refuse.