During a recent earnings call, Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick discussed Mafia III’s review scores, among other things.
He admitted that the scores were lower than the company had hoped for, but also pointed out that the game is selling well, considering that it had sold more than 4.5 million copies in its first week, setting a new record for 2K Games.
“In terms of the reviews and scores, it was sort of an odd anomaly,” He said. “The scores were lower than we would have liked. But there are a lot of stellar reviews. I think the most prominent reviewers really loved it and recognized that what we’re doing here, from the story, art, character, and excitement perspective is really unmatched in the marketplace. So I think we and our competitors are seeing some anomalies in the review system, but we take them as they are and we don’t argue with it.”
Now, I’m not sure Zelnick’s definition of “stellar reviews”, but here’s how some of the prominent and popular reviewers rated Mafia III:
GameSpot — 6/10
“Every aspect of Mafia III’s writing–from the dialogue to the mission descriptions–is excellent. The obvious care and craftsmanship that went into its narrative elements should serve as a model for all other triple-A titles. The gameplay, however, just can’t live up, and repetitive missions and technical problems drag the experience down further, turning a game that could have been truly great into one that has to settle for ‘fair.'”
PC Gamer — 54/100
“It draws too much water from a very shallow well, repeating the same mission types far too often, and wrapping its story around a territory system that just isn’t deep or entertaining enough to support an entire game. Mafia II was criticized by many for being too linear, but I’d take that over this aimless parade of dull any day.” — Andy Kelly
TrustedReviews — 2.5/5
“Mafia III is the biggest disappointment of the year. It’s a game with masses of potential, but unfortunately that potential is wasted on by-the-numbers open-world game design. The first few hours tease the game that could have been if it hadn’t succumbed to the open-world bloat. This is a solid eight-hour game stretched far too thin. Mafia III has an interesting setting and a great cast of characters, but its lack of focus undermines everything it’s trying to do, and that’s a damn shame.” — Kirk McKeand
Polygon — 6/10
Mafia 3‘s goals are ambitious and even laudable, but to tell a serious story about race, especially within the form of an open-world action game, requires heavy lifting. For all of the writing’s attempts to push the genre forward, its game design is trapped in the open-world conventions of five years ago. That stale foundation isn’t strong enough to hold the weight of Mafia 3‘s words — even if they’re words that are worth hearing.
Jimquisition — 6/10
An ambitious premise buried under a thoroughly unambitious game.
Gaming Central also gave Mafia III a 7 out of 10, saying that the game has amazing storytelling and characters, but would’ve played much better with a linear model instead of an open world one. You can read the complete review here.
Indeed, the game was ambitious and had a lot of potential, but most of it was squandered. What Zelnick fails to acknowledge is the part where the game fell short the most – The Gameplay – repetitive missions set in an open world which frankly doesn’t offer a lot after the first few hours are over.
Another thing which I fail to understand is “anomalies in the review system”. Are review sites being undermined here? First Bethesda decides that it doesn’t want to send early review copies, now this guy comes along and says “We made a great game, you just didn’t realize it” ( at least that’s what I think). If Mafia III did, in fact, get such stellar reviews (it didn’t), can someone please shed some light on why it did so poorly in user reviews?
As far as “taking them as they are” without arguing is concerned, I firmly believe that the publishers do not have any other options, unless they start delivering on their promises. Let’s face it, 2016 has seen a lot of promising games which ultimately ended up as huge disappointments. Starting from Homefront: The Revolution to No Man’s Sky to Mafia III, it’s a long list of broken releases, false claims and bad ports. So, instead of turning a blind eye to the problems, if these publishers actually focused on improving the quality of the games, they could be in a position to actually argue with the poor review scores.
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