‘It’s been burned from our servers’
Mafia III is a violent and controversial title. Mixing race politics and the Vietnam war alongside themes of PTSD and urban violence will do that to your open-world adventure. In fact, the game’s original opening was so intense, that it was ultimately removed and digitally “destroyed”, so to speak.
Speaking at the Develop conference in Brighton, UK, yesterday, Mafia III’s director Haden Blackman recalled the canned sequence. “We went back at the eleventh hour,” began Blackman. “added a cold-open to the game that was a really violent prologue which basically shows Lincoln and his friends getting ambushed by the mob. It’s super-violent and Lincoln has to resort to violence to escape. He ends up killing a cop and has to flee to Vietnam”.
Shot and created toward the end of the game’s development, the sequence was removed after much consideration, with Hanger 13 concerned that it came off as excessive, rather than constructive, particularly in the lack of closure it receives when Lincoln finally returns from ‘Nam.
“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,” continues Blackman. “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.”
The scene wasn’t just removed, but was also deleted from the developer’s servers, so don’t expect it to pop up on YouTube anytime soon. Mafia III trod a dangerous path with its portrayal of bigotry on the streets of America, as well as the country’s mishandling of its traumatised youth, returning home from the horrors of war. Despite the removal of this particular opening sequence, Mafia III remains one of the more unflinching games of recent years.