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How Mafia 3 and GTA V are Similar or Completely Different

I’ve made a usual habit of reading my newsfeed on a daily basis immediately after waking up. Sipping coffee and skimming through article titles is usually short work for the most part, but one article that piqued my interest contained a heading that had both ‘GTA V’ and ‘Mafia 3’ in the same sentence.

The very rare occasion of me dwelling deeper and putting down my coffee on the table triggered, as I scanned through the body of texts. Apparently, Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick took a disliking to a certain question that was asked during an earnings call.

It was a loose comparison between GTA V and Mafia 3, and whether or not Take-Two had been swapping technical information with Rockstar.

The reply had a taste of defensiveness, with Mr. Zelnick stating that Mafia 3 is a completely different experience that deserves no comparison. What struck me more though was him stating that there was no ‘tech-sharing environment’ in the company.

Well, that’s strange. As far as I know, sharing technology that has proven to be successful is extremely important in videogame and software development, specifically if the trades are internal (as Rockstar is basically owned by Take-Two).

Anyway, what on earth made anyone compare Mafia to Grand Theft Auto in the first place? Yes, both are open world, but does that justify any sort of comparison? Grand Theft Auto since its entrance into the three dimensional world has always been a sandbox styled game. The world is living, breathing, dynamic, and you can interact with it.

Hell, the sole purpose of the game is you to interact with the world in your own way; the side missions and campaign are only there to facilitate this very fundamental yet essential gameplay philosophy.

Mafia on the other hand has always been about the Mafia, the people, the story. It’s a story-oriented franchise that puts the plot development ahead of the player-world interaction.

Just because it is set in an open-world environment does not make it comparable to an open-world sandbox title like GTA V.

The Mafia experience is true story-telling, and inspired greatly by classic Godfather-esque plots of betrayal, misfortune, and high-level crime. The gameplay and world is there to actually facilitate the story instead of the other way around.

If you were to forcefully demand some comparisons, the only one I could think of at the top of my head are the driving and open-world mechanics, and that’s just about it.

True, the way the player is controlled is similar as well, but whole is greater than the sum of its parts in this scenario, and holistically the Mafia franchise has always stood out as a story-oriented game that despite its open-world environment will encourage linear gameplay.

That’s not to say linear gameplay is a bad thing though. A game that tends to mix up heavy narrative with excess exploration can seem out of sync with itself and disjointed, which is why I feel Mafia – despite its criticism – has always been a fantastic formula.

Now excuse me while I go back to finishing my coffee and skimming through my newsfeed.