I never expected Mafia III to be a bad game. The integrity of the series has been concrete throughout the first two titles, and the small amount of the game I saw through trailers convinced me that new developer Hangar 13 was more than capable of delivering a solid Mafia III as their first title. However, the more I heard about the game at E3, the more I was convinced that Hangar 13 may be onto something really special.
Mafia III has a ton of improvements over its predecessors. The deep story, rich cultural exploration, and great style all suggest that this will be conceived as a pretty good title. Still, Mafia III takes it one step further. The implementation of Underbosses within the game, and the choice to make those underbosses act dynamically towards your actions and towards the game world takes open world games in the genre to a whole new level.
Underbosses (for those who don’t know) are people that work under your character (Lincoln Clay) as you fight to build your crime empire. As you take down more bosses of more areas, your roster of controlled locations will grow, and thus, you will need someone to manage them. This is where Underbosses come in.
You have three Underbosses in Mafia III: Cassandra, Burke, and Vito Scoletta. Each of the bosses brings his or her own special skills and traits to the table, some being better with distribution, others being good at “dealing with issues”, etc. As you complete more Shutdowns (the acquisition of territory), you will need to assign each of the locations to an Underboss. There will be pros and cons to each choice as a result of the skills and personalities of the Underbosses themselves.
The choice adds strategy to the acquisition of territory, making not just what area you captured important, but who you set to run it. Traditional strategy elements, like resource management, will be present in Mafia III with Underbosses, a mechanic rarely (if ever) seen in other games in the genre.
Furthermore, Underbosses may not be with you throughout the entire game. One of the most interesting features is having Underbosses turn against you. If you neglect to assign areas to a particular Underboss multiple times in a row, or assign a clearly lesser candidate to certain territories, that Underboss may choose to break off from your crime family and take over territory that you own.
Again, the level of strategy in a game in this genre is unprecedented. The game takes a traditionally dynamic genre and expands that dynamic range in a huge way. The addition of Underbosses changes up the core gameplay of open world titles in the genre, making that open world feel that much more open.
It’s clear that Mafia III aims to be more than just another game in the genre. Hangar 13 aims to push the genre forward and it seems that they have some pretty great ideas about how to do that, not the least of which is the implementation of Underbosses. I’m certainly excited for Mafia III and how Hangar 13’s execution of such unique mechanics will play out. You can look forward to finding out yourself on October 7th.