A montage constructed in a manner reminiscent of documentaries opens Hangar 13’s Mafia 3. Allies and enemies of lead character Lincoln Clay recall their history with him, setting the stage for the story. We learn about an abandoned boy of mixed race who finds comfort in an orphanage before eventually joining the military. Upon returning from the line of duty, racism in the fictional southern city of New Bordeaux holds Lincoln’s identity hostage. Unable to obtain sufficient work, he teams with the local Black Mob. Tragedy strikes and a lust for vengeance sets in motions the events that transpire in Mafia 3. Interestingly, this is not the first iteration of the game’s cold open. Mafia 3’s original first few moments were so controversial that Hangar 13 erased all traces of them.
During Brighton’s Develop Conference, executive producer Andrew Wilson spoke on the sensitive nature of the original prologue. Fear of it ever leaking compelled the studio to scrub the scene in its entirety. Wilson reveals, “That whole cold open has been burned from our servers. It literally does not exist. Because if ever that had come out without any context in any form it would have looked terrible, because disconnected from the game it’s obviously even more shocking.”
Haden Blackman, Mafia 3’s game director, detailed exactly what the opening contained.
We’ve never really talked about this anywhere. We went back at the eleventh hour and added a cold-open to the game that was a really violent prologue which basically shows Lincoln and a couple of his friends getting ambushed by the mob. It’s super-violent and Lincoln has to resort to violence to escape. This cold open was going to explain why he left for Vietnam. He ends up killing a cop and has to flee to Vietnam.
Lincoln never really talks about it. I think we added one scene where he has a conversation with this Priest, Father James, and they talk about it a little bit, but we never really paid off on it. There were characters involved in it who he encounters later but doesn’t really acknowledge.
Blackman admits the prologue as it was originally designed felt “exploitive.” The opening didn’t imbue observers of the story with a feeling of fear for Lincoln. Contrarily, it may have provoked fear of him. Blackman added, “It felt exploitative instead of something that really grabbed you and put you in Lincoln’s shoes and made you afraid for him and want to help him, so we ended up cutting it because of the feedback, which was super-painful for me personally because it was something I’d pushed forward and championed, and I ended up directing that day’s mocap shoot because it was such sensitive subject matter, and we worked on it for a couple of months. But it was absolutely the right thing to do in hindsight.”
Mafia 3’s racially charged subject matter dropped players into a world unlike anything gaming has touched upon. In a 1968 Louisiana town, a black man of mixed race battles mob threats, a criminal element, and the police force. The KKK plays a vital role in a few of the story’s harrowing beats, words aren’t minced, actions play out in a horrifying fashion, speaking volumes to a time that existed merely five decades past. It’s no wonder Hangar 13 struggled with getting the prologue just right.
With regards to gameplay, the game has it own set of problems. Story and character, however, is where it excels. Unfortunately, due to layoffs and a new project, Hangar 13 is unlikely to follow up Mafia 3 with a fourth entry in the series anytime soon.