It’s after midnight on Wednesday morning, and I can’t sleep. In less than eight hours, I’ll be handing a controller to a member of the press to let her play Mafia III for the first time. And it won’t be just a fifteen minute glimpse, but 2.5 hours of gameplay that will take her down the busy streets and into the back alleys of New Bordeaux’s Downtown district as Lincoln Clay attempts to take over one of the mob’s lucrative rackets. It will all culminate in an assault on a sham construction site, followed by an attempt to kill the Mafia lieutenant running this part of the city, and finally a sitdown with Lincoln’s three underbosses, who are all vying for control of Downtown.
And she won’t be the only journalist to play the game today. Over the course of nearly thirteen hours, twenty-three journalists from around the world will collectively spend nearly sixty hours exploring New Bordeaux – our New Orleans-inspired city.
I’ll be the tour guide for five of these play sessions. But right now, I can’t sleep. Not because I’m nervous – though, that’s certainly true. I can’t sleep because, as my dad might say, I’m “all keyed up.” I’m excited to watch people who have never stepped into our world, never walked in Lincoln Clay’s boots, do it for the first time. I’m excited to see them drive any of Lincoln’s fleet of signature vehicles and hear some of the iconic music from 1968; get into their first gunfights; execute a takedown on a mobster; and buy weapons and gear from the back of the gun dealer’s van.
I’m also excited for them meet our cast of characters:
Donovan, the elite East Coast CIA operative Lincoln worked alongside in Vietnam, who arrives in New Bordeaux to help Lincoln plan a war against the Italian Mob; Cassandra, leader of the city’s Haitian gang, who hates the Italian mob almost as much as Lincoln does; Volatile Thomas Burke, an unpredictable Irish mobster out for his own little piece of revenge; Vito Scaletta, who wants nothing more than to stick it to the Mafia leaders who sidelined him down in the ass-end of New Bordeaux; and, of course, Lincoln Clay himself – orphan, Vietnam vet, mobster…
But most of all, I’m excited to see which choices each player makes. How will they interrogate Jimmy Cavar’s foreman? Will they shoot him in the kneecap to keep him from running while gunning down his mobster pals, sneak up behind him and drag him into the shadows, or push him into the passenger seat of his own car and threaten to drag his body all over the streets of New Bordeaux? Once they get the information they need, will they kill or spare the informant?
How will they kill Geezer Cruzat, the mob enforcer who likes to beat up protesters? Will they lure him into the open with a voodoo doll rigged up to scream and spew smoke, and then hit him and his buddies with a Molotov? Will they snipe him from the building across from his hang out? Will they call on Vito’s Italian muscle to storm in and blast everything to hell?
How will they deal with Jimmy Cavar, who runs the construction fraud racket for the mob? Will they stalk their way to the top of the sham construction site, relying on stealth kills or Lincoln’s silenced pistol? Will they drive a car through the front gate, and leap out with machine gun rattling? Will they cross the collapsed crane, which Lincoln brought down with explosives earlier in the game, and headshot the mob lookout before he can call in reinforcements?
How will they find their way into Tony Derazio’s penthouse? Will they steal the bagman’s car and sneak into the underground garage? Lob grenades into the front lobby and bust their way into the elevator? And once Tony is dead, will they fight their way out, or slip out a back door?
I can’t sleep because I can’t wait to see what happens when these new players take over the Italian Mob’s construction fraud racket and kill the cold and calculating Tony Derazio. Who will they choose to run all of Downtown, knowing that their choice might anger or alienate the other two? Will greed or loyalty win out?
I’ll find out in just a few hours…
It’s now Thursday morning, and the question to “What choices will players make?” has been answered: All of them. And then some that I never even anticipated. A player ran down the bagman in his own car; another systematically goaded enemies out of the construction yard to kill them in the street; another became a thief, focusing on just stealing mob cash until Jimmy Cavar had no choice but to come out of hiding…
And that’s the best part about working on Mafia III – the player is a co-author in the experience. All day long, these new players surprised us, and there’s nothing more exciting than that.