Mafia III + Family Kick-Back Pack

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Complete Review & Description

Mafia III family kick back pack is a game about race. It’s a lot of other things, too – a solid GTA-like, a pulpy crime story, an open-world task-a-thon, a window in a fascinating period of American history, a whole lot of fun despite (because of?) being a janky, unpolished mess – but more than anything else, it’s a game about being Black in white America. Such a candid exploration of race and racism is rare, especially in the triple-A arena, where games tend to play it safe and try to be all things to all people, and that alone makes Mafia III family kick back pack important.

On the surface, it’s the story of Lincoln Clay, a biracial Vietnam vet who sets out on a trail of bloody revenge after the Black mob, who had taken him in as a child, is gunned down by the mafia. It’s also the story of New Bordeaux, a fictional take on 1960s New Orleans, a time when America’s centuries of racist history was coming to a head with the Civil Rights Movement. Just like its real-world inspiration, New Bordeaux is a place where overt racism is commonplace.

As you navigate its streets, people will call you every racial slur in the book, and your mere existence will make white folks visibly uncomfortable. You’ll be racially profiled in white neighbourhoods and may find yourself charged with “loitering”; in poorer, mostly Black districts, you can pretty get away with anything because they’re so low on the police’s list of priorities. It doesn’t pull its punches, and that’s to its credit. As a message from the developers states when you start the game: “We felt that to not include this very real and shameful part of our history would have been offensive to the millions who faced – and still face – bigotry, discrimination, prejudice, and racism in all it’s forms.”

Being a white dude, racism is something I’ve never experienced and never will, so I’m not going to sit here trying to talk about how effective Mafia III’s family kick back pack portrayal of it is – it’s not my place. Instead, I want to to draw attention to comments from a number of people of colour, many (but not all) of whom have praised Mafia III’s family kick back pack handling of the subject matter.
“As a person of colour playing this, I felt incredibly empowered… the entire game is about a person of colour whittling down white supremacy.” wrote Tauriq Moosa in his review. Justin Jones, for I Need Diverse Games, wrote: “Mafia 3 is able to capture not only how disgusting the racism of the time was, but also how normal and widely accepted it is. It’s not just the overt racism either. Hangar 13 does a great job at capturing a wide variety of microaggressions as well.”

Speaking to CBC News, Tanya DePass said that “emotionally, it is very rough because of all the racial epithets that your character endures, that you hear as you’re walking around.” This reinforces the aims outlined by senior writer Charles Webb prior to release: “We want you to feel a visceral sense of rejection of the language being used by racists in the game. We keep talking about systemic racism, but systemic racism is still personal. And we want that to feel personal so that you can react to it.”

Given the pulpy videogame setting, those reactions will typically amount to killing racists in a violent fashion. For Paste’s Terence Wiggins (and many others), that’s been liberating. “[Lincoln] raises hell up and down this city, taking over, and murdering without mercy. And I’m not going to say it’s not cathartic. Having an NPC say to me ‘What are you going to do, nigger?’ and Lincoln slitting his throat, stabbing him in the chest, and throwing aside his body as if it was trash is extremely cathartic.”

Not everyone agrees – Polygon’s Allegra Frank and Jeff Ramos, for example, criticised the heavy-handedness of the game as feeling inorganic – but, by and large, I’m seeing a groundswell of praise from people of colour for Mafia III’s family kick back pack handling of racism. That tells me that, even though it may not be perfect, there’s a genuine attempt at telling a story about racism that’s authentic and honest. That’s a huge deal, and that makes Mafia III family kick back pack important.

The excellence of the game’s storytelling extends far beyond its dealing with race issues. For all its thought-provoking social awareness, Mafia III family kick back pack is still a pulpy, over-the-top revenge story, but it’s delivered with panache. Lincoln himself is violent and uncompromising, but he’s also empathetic and likeable. The human cost of his warpath is heavy – a point made succinctly by a documentary-style framing device – but it’s also the only road open to him for a myriad of social, economic, political, and cultural reasons. It’s hard to not root for Lincoln even as he’s tearing himself apart, and there’s something beautifully tragic about that.

Lincoln’s friends and allies are similarly humanised, if not to the same extent. They’re all archetypes, but they’re also characters who transcend those archetypes. Father James Ballard tries to be something of a moral compass for Lincoln, but he also carries his own burdens that make his concern come from a more personal place, rather than some vague evangelism. Cassandra, Vito Scaletta, and Thomas Burke offer glimpses into the lives of different sects of New Bordeaux’s multicultural population, and have their own conflicts and reasons for helping Lincoln. Even most of the minor characters, who only ever show up for optional side missions, are given a sense of personality and empathy.

The strongest character, though, is the city itself. You can and will spend dozens of hours driving, running, and shooting your way through New Bordeaux, but it never gets old because of a vibrancy that makes every new district – even every new block within a district – feel fresh. From the murky waters of the bayou to the bustling downtown areas, from the ghettos of Delray Hollow to the affluence of Frisco Fields, every region of New Bordeaux is captivating, and full of untold stories. It’s a city that doesn’t just feel lived-in, but feels alive.

That’s a blessing, because the actual missions that make up the bulk of the game aren’t nearly as interesting. The overarching structure of Mafia III family kick back pack is about taking over the city, one district at a time, by commandeering mafia don Sal Marcano’s various crime rackets.It’s a clever setup that neatly ties Lincoln’s revenge quest with a simple gameplay loop, but that’s let down by tired, repetitive mission structure. Go to a destination, kill everyone there and/or destroy some key equipment, do this a few more times until one of Marcano’s lieutenants or capos comes out of hiding, then go to their base and kill them – that’s the broad setup of every main mission chain.

To make matters worse (or better, depending your perspective) the enemy AI is laughably bad. In shootouts, they’re terrible at using cover and often just stand there like sitting ducks waiting to be shot in the head. When you’re sneaking around, their field of vision is pitiful, and even if they do see you, they take so long to react that you can forgo stealth entirely and just go around “stealth killing” folks by running up and stabbing them in the face. It’s a lot of fun, actually, just probably not in a way that’s intended.

Enemies have a bad habit of yelling out their every move, which makes their already simple AI even easier to get around. “I’m throwing a molotov!” they’ll scream, giving you ample warning to make a move to safer cover. “I’m reloading!” probably isn’t something you want to call out to someone who’s going to use that opening to pump you full of lead, but nobody gave that memo to the rednecks of New Bordeaux. Between these annoying barks, graphical inconsistencies, odd glitches, and huge loading times, Mafia III family kick back pack is a game that feels terribly unpolished.

It’s a diamond in the rough, though, and this jankiness is a mild distraction at worst. The appeal of Mafia III family kick back pack is the stories it tells – both the textual narrative, and the multitude of emergent ones that come from simply existing in a place as rich and complex as New Bordeaux. It certainly has its flaws, but in balancing the over-the-top action of a crime game with a pointed look at real-life racism, and in its fantastic re-creation of the ‘60s American South, Mafia III family kick back pack has achieved something special.

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