Mafia 3 tells the story of Lincoln Clay, Vietnam veteran and career criminal in the New Orleans mob. The story begins with Clay returning home from Vietnam, only to see his surrogate family murdered; he survives, thus kicking off the game's central plot. At one point, there was a much harder cold open that Mafia 3 developer Hangar 13 ultimately cut.
"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," Mafia 3 Director Haden Blackman said Brighton's Develop Conference, according to reporting by Eurogamer. "This cold-open was going to explain why he left for Vietnam. He ends up killing a cop and has to flee to Vietnam."
The problem with this opening, according to Blackman, is it wasn't explained or referenced much in the rest of the game. It was a big moment, but Lincoln himself rarely talks about it and there's no real pay off to the idea. Blackman said he was sad to see the scene go, considering it had been completed.
"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," he explained.
Blackman also stated that Hangar 13 is working on another game. That title won't be Mafia 4 though, as the studio is focusing on a new IP that's more upbeat and uplifting.
"I am incredibly proud of Mafia 3 on every level," said Blackman. "The fact we tackled this really tough subject matter was fantastic. But at the end of the day it's a dark game - it's a violent exploration of damaged people. We want to continue to be able to do character studies and dive into what makes people tick, and universal human truths, but a lot of us on the team also want to do something a little more inspirational and more uplifting, so the tone of this new thing we're working on is a little bit different than Mafia 3, but it has a lot of the same underpinnings in terms of strong characters. It's got weight and heft."
The full report on Blackman's talk at Brighton's Develop Conference is available at the link above.