A lack of review codes and a dreaded frame rate cap cast a rather large shade over Mafia III’s launch last week, and I’m still working my way through the game for our review, which you’ll be able to read in a few days. Now that it’s received its first patch, and the 30fps limit has been removed, I’ve at least been able to put it through its paces enough to render judgement over its PC port chops.
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Things are not great in New Bordeaux.
Tested on an Intel i5-3570K @3.40 GHz, 8 GB of RAM, GeForce GTX 970, Windows 10.
The seething rage that Mafia III’s 30fps cap was greeted with sort of made the whole fiasco look silly, but the oversight does not really inspire confidence. It’s not just because 60fps is the standard target, but the fact that these caps always result in a lot of pissed off, vocal players. It’s just courting trouble. So while it was changed over the weekend, it’s just the first in what is a rather large list of reasons why Mafia III’s PC port doesn’t feel quite ready yet.
So! Mafia III can finally be played at 60fps, or the frame rate can be unlocked entirely. Lamentably, this has revealed a new issue: it doesn’t remotely seem like Mafia III has been optimised. With the cap, the game was smooth if sluggish. I confess that I eventually forgot all about the low frame rate, thanks to the fact that it was at least consistent. I miss those days. I might cap it at 30 again, in fact.
But before we delve into the performance problems, let’s spend some time digging around the game’s settings. Mafia III looks dated, and there’s nothing you can do about that. Low resolution textures, terrible vaseline-like anti-aliasing, cars that look like cheap, plastic toys, and low quality lighting paint a less than pretty picture. With the persistent haze and low view distance, you don’t see all that much, anyway.
Mafia III’s graphics settings menu is a brief list of things that don’t make a lot of difference, visually or in terms of performance, beyond the anti-aliasing and reflection quality. Aside from expected elements like texture quality and AF, the absolute basics can be tweaked, choosing between low, medium and high variations. A field of view setting is undoubtedly a welcome addition, but the surprise only serves as a reminder of how slim the options are.
This is as good as it gets. Ok, that’s perhaps not fair. I could have picked a nicer spot than a burning portacabin in a parking lot. Indeed, Mafia III can even look rather pretty during its bold sunsets, or when you’re cruising through the lit up city at night.
Given that it’s hardly setting any bars, I didn’t expect any real performance problems. But I forgot the ancient mantra: just because you can run The Witcher 3 or GTA V on very high settings and still get 60fps, it won’t stop Mafia III running like crap. Yes, it’s a very, very specific mantra. I wonder if a proprietary engine was the wrong way for Hangar 13 to go. The result, on high, is an inconsistent, often poor, performance that doesn’t seem justified. The frame rate fluctuates, sometimes pretty erratically, between 30-50fps. On foot, it wavers around the 40 mark, while driving reduces it to the 30s. There’s also some noticeable stuttering, while car crashes or high-speed turns and the like can make the frame rate plummet.
It’s hardly a dramatic difference, but on the medium settings you can spot some loss of small details, like the dirt on Lincoln's trousers, as well as the disappearance of some objects in the distance. However, some of the changes are a boon. Notably, the reduction in AA lessens the vaseline effect.
Unexpectedly, performance isn’t improved significantly. The game bounces between 40-50fps while walking around, though driving fast reduces this to between 35-40. The last time I saw such poor performance on medium settings on a triple-A game, it was Arkham Knight.
On the lowest settings, the game is not worlds apart from the others. Absent texture quality options, and indeed a lot of others, there’s simply not very much to change, resulting in only minor differences that are hard to spot whether you’re standing around doing nothing, or speeding through the city in a car.
Finally, on the lowest settings, I managed to get a mostly consistent frame rate of 60fps. Incredibly, however, the stuttering persists while driving fast, and the frame rate can tank, sinking to 40fps. On the lowest settings.
In terms of both performance and customisation, Mafia III is pretty poor. There are only a few options that have any real impact on performance, so if you’re having issues, there’s not a whole lot you can do about it. And judging by my experience, as well as those with flashier and beefier rigs, there’s a good chance you’ll encounter problems, even if you’re sporting a GTX 980.
When the frame rate unlock patch landed, I realised that the 30fps limit wasn’t the only thing making Mafia III feel sluggish: it was the control settings as well. The default sensitivity makes controlling Lincoln feel like you’re driving a tank. Thankfully, this can be tweaked. You can rebind the keys, too, but not the controller layout. Lamentably, there are only two layouts to choose between.
The bad news continues as we get to the HUD, which frequently gets in the way, and can’t be altered at all. The game also has a tendency to stop you to give you a tutorial that you’ve read several times already, that isn’t even relevant to the situation you’re in. You just have so little control over the game. And any time you want to change something that you actually can tweak, you must navigate through a slow slideshow of menus that hide a smaller slideshow of menus. Fantastic!
Although Hangar 13 were quick to fire out a patch that added new frame rate options, they’ve only revealed more of Mafia III’s shortcomings. Until more patches roll out, this one is best avoided.
Been getting involved in Mafia III on PC? Let us know what you think it our user review.