A paradise for gangsters, a sprawling city that lives and breathes as your life intertwines with its lavish yet crooked inner-workings. Empire Bay in Mafia II could have been the enchanting, enveloping metropolis that Grand Theft Auto games continue to contain: instead, playing Mafia II was more like racing around a museum of gorgeous paintings, glancing at beauty but never truly experiencing it.
If Mafia III does indeed become a reality, and the fictional Empire Bay continues to be the series’ playground, the key to making the game a success will be to emulate what Rockstar do so well with their cities. 2K Czech – who we have to assume will be the developers behind the next Mafia game – need to breathe life into their city, to give those exploring it far more to experience beyond simply driving around it.
Mafia 3 has been confirmed to be in development, but whether or not we’ll see it in 2015 remains to be seen. I sincerely hope we do, because the PS4 and Xbox One are both consoles which a game like it would suit brilliantly. An explorative narrative-driven action-adventure game like Mafia II deserves a next-gen sequel which builds upon what it did so well, utilising what the new consoles can offer from a technical standpoint.
Mafia 2 was immensely atmospheric at times, a sublime decade-spanning soundtrack complimenting a game which often impressed with wonderfully constructed set-pieces and character development. This is what we should expect as a minimum from Mafia III game, whether or not we remain in the shoes of anti-protagonist Vito Scaletta.
With projects like LA Noire, Boardwalk Empire and Gangster Squad all at least attempting to boast exciting stories set in the 1930s and 40s, we should hope that Mafia III will still feel relevant and fresh when it’s finished and ready for a fickle public’s consumption. 2K Czech may not want to rush things though, especially given that Mafia II was in development for seven years.
Of course, the internet is alive with speculation, as the rumour mill churns furiously. For now, we can only consider the ‘what if’s and ‘if we’re lucky’s… but if you’d like to whet your hype appetite, there’s an extensive wishlist on the Mafia Game Wiki which reads like the checklist for making the perfect Mafia games. If 2K Czech consider introducing things such as an online multiplayer component, the “ability to choose a mafia family” or ever – dare I wish for it myself – “more little missions”.
Empire Bay could be a place teeming with side objectives, with characters by the dozen requiring the services of your protagonist for a plethora of relevant requests. In Mafia II, the extent to which you could stray from the main story and find things to do (beyond simply driving around) amounted to robbing shops and selling stolen cars. Police chases felt like hollow pursuits; one could argue Mafia II is semi-linear, given the distinctive lack of coveted surplus content.
If Mafia III could be a game several times the size of Mafia II – not so much literally in scale, but more in terms of what there is to do within it – then the series will find its true legs and we’ll get to experience something extraordinary. Not that Mafia II game didn’t ever feel extraordinary, it’s just that the enjoyable experience was tainted by the possibilities. 2K Czech made an unfinished masterpiece, and we would love nothing more than to see them finish what they’ve started.