‘Mafia III’ is like GTA with consequences

2K’s Mafia series of third-person action games has evolved alongside the more rambunctious Grand Theft Auto franchise as an alternative for more historically minded gamers that prefer The Godfather to The Fast and the Furious.

Mafia III, developed by Hangar 13, is the series’ most ambitious entry yet, setting its story of revenge with an African-American protagonist in the charged environment of the American South in the 1960s. We took a hands-off view of the upcoming open-world action title at the recent E3 convention.

You play as Lincoln Clay, a recently returned African-American Vietnam War veteran who arrives in 1968 New Bordeaux, a crime-riddled southern city modeled on New Orleans. Lincoln finds camaraderie among the black mob, but is soon the sole survivor after the Italian mob betrays and murders everyone but Lincoln, who narrowly escapes. He then sets out to form his own criminal organization and take revenge against the Italians, who have solidified their control over the whole city.

Each of the city’s 10 districts has a distinct flavor inspired by various parts of New Orleans and the surrounding area. These range from the rollicking French Quarter to backwater bayous, to palatial plantations. Each of these districts has its own criminal elements, trafficking sex, drugs, weapons, and political influence. Unseating the Italians and their allies and seizing control over these districts provides an an overarching structure to the game.

Each district has a number of available quests and objectives through which you can chip away at the Italians’ control, such as intercepting shipments of contraband, knocking over an orgy, or taking out a lieutenant. Being fundamentally an open-world game, you have a number of options for how to approach each objective, whether you want to sneak around with a low profile, or come in guns blazing. You can call a mobile arms dealer to wherever you are and buy the exact loadout you need for however you want to approach a given objective.

In practice, the gameplay is very similar to a Grand Theft Auto game, revolving around third-person gunplay in an open environment. Lincoln has access to a wide variety of weapons over the course of the game, for causing mayhem in the sweltering streets. The metagame of controlling districts is what separates Mafia III. Once you’ve done sufficient damage to the Italians’ income in a given district, you seize control over it, reaping the profits for yourself.

Taking control of a district leads to a sit-down meeting with your three underbosses (Burke, Cassandra, and Vito), in which you decide who will have control over your new conquest. Each respective underboss, based on their style of management, will lead to a different income and particular bonus from each district.

Beyond just min-maxing the bonuses you want, you have to consider the feelings of your underbosses as well. For instance, in the demonstration we saw, Lincoln awarded a newly captured district to Cassandra. Burke, however, was sick of being passed over for the last few districts, and left the meeting in a huff. This triggered a storyline about Burke betraying Lincoln and needing to be dealt with accordingly. This layer of dynamic storytelling, driven by the strategic metagame of controlling the city, will help to make each play-through of Mafia III unique.

The moment-to-moment gameplay looked very familiar, as Lincoln blasted his way through a riverboat full of thugs. What will separate it from the pack will be whether the strategic layer of controlling the city presents interesting decisions, and if it can all flow together into the sort of gripping, cinematic narrative that the game promises. The politically charged setting leaves us hopeful that the game could offer up an interesting tale, and not just another excuse for killing sprees.

Mafia III is coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on October 7, 2016.

Gaming

Sega Genesis classics now playable on Amazon Fire TV, no retro console required

Sega released the SEGA Classics app for Amazon Fire TV devices, allowing gamers to play Sega Genesis classics without having to buy a retro console. The $15 app contains 25 games, including three remastered Sonic titles.
Gaming

Hey, Sony! If you make a PS2 Classic, it needs these games

158 million PS2 consoles were sold worldwide during its lifecycle, making it the most successful video game console of all time. It was hard, but we narrowed down the PS2's vast library of games. Here are the best PS2 games of all time.
Home Theater

What’s new on Netflix and what’s leaving in January 2019

Our complete list of what's new on Netflix for January 2019 and which titles will be removed will help you catch up on your bingeing, and also ensure you don't miss any titles heading into the streaming ether.
Movies & TV

Sit down and watch some of the best stand-up comedy on Netflix

Feeling a little funny? There are hundreds of hilarious comedy specials out there, and you can't be expected to comb through them all. Lucky for you, we've compiled a list of the best stand-up specials on Netflix.
Gaming

Here's where Xur is and what he has for wares this week in 'Destiny 2: Forsaken'

The weekly vendor in Destiny 2: Forsaken always brings Exotic weapons and armor, some of the toughest loot to find in the game. Here's everything you need to know to track down Xur: Where he is, when he shows up, and what he's stocking.
Gaming

‘Fortnite’ removes the Infinity Blade weapon after player backlash

Following player backlash over the Infinity Blade weapon's inclusion in Fortnite's battle royale mode, Epic Games decided to remove the weapon from the game completely. It was not limited to a special mode.
Gaming

Want every suit in 'Marvel's Spider-Man' for PS4? Here's how to get them all

Marvel's Spider-Man features a whopping 33 different suits for Peter Parker to wear as he swings across New York City knocking out baddies. Here are all the suits and how to unlock them.
Gaming

Everything about 'Red Dead Online', including its new microtransaction store

Red Dead Online will gradually rolled out to Red Dead Redemption 2 players via a beta. We've got all the details about the beta's suite of competitive and cooperative modes, as well as what to expect going forward.
Computing

HDR monitors are beginning to have an impact. Here are the best you can buy

HDR isn't the most common of PC monitor features and is often charged at a premium, but the list of available options is growing. These are the best HDR monitors you can buy right now.
Virtual Reality

Oculus Rift vs. HTC Vive: Prices drop, but our favorite stays the same

The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are the two big names in the virtual reality arena, but most people can only afford one. Our comparison tells you which is best when you pit the Oculus Rift vs. HTC Vive.
Gaming

Xbox One X vs. PS4 Pro: Which console is more powerful?

Far from cooling down, the console wars are only getting more intense. We compare Microsoft's Xbox One X to Sony's PlayStation 4 Pro to help you decide which premium console is right for you.
Gaming

Find the perfect weapon in 'Call of Duty: Black Ops 4' multiplayer with our guide

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 has several different guns to choose from in its multiplayer mode, and they're split across multiple classes. Here's a guide to all of them and when you should use them.
Gaming

New ‘Stardew Valley’ content on the way, as game’s maker freezes next project

Stardew Valley creator Eric Barone said that he will continue working on new content for the indie farming simulator. The developer previously said that he will devote all his time to his next game, but that has been placed on hold for now.
Gaming

Underwater survival game ‘Subnautica’ free on Epic Games’ online store

The award-winning underwater survival game Subnautica is currently available as a free download on the Epic Games store. The Steam challenger looks to attract players with a new free game every two weeks.