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Some spoilers for story points in Mafia 3

Butch:

Ok, so with Nugget being a middle child this week and being a homeowner and all sorts of other shit, I have a rather high level of ambient frustration, so we gotta talk bout Alvarez.

Feminina:

I just did that too! I took over the gambling racket, then rescued Alvarez. I liked how it said “optional: take Alvarez’ car.” I was like, “well, I’ll take it, but I don’t know if you really want me to, dude. I’m probably going to wreck it in the first two minutes.”

So I took it, and wrecked it during the first combat with the hit squads as we were driving off. Meh. He had to be smuggled out of the city anyway, it’s not like he could take it with him.

Butch:

My story: So, decided to do Alvarez.

Got distracted and finally got Emmanuel some weed. Now my Zemis explode. WAY ahead of you, game.

But got to Alvarez. And now I’m at “escape with Alvarez.” Which is why we have to talk about ambient frustration.

So I saw that it was optional to take his car, so I took it. Well, I sorta went BONZAI! and got to it, and got in, and said “Wait, shit, WHAT? 3900…units?” and floored it, and then a red car came at me, and hit me, and, like, 451827893 guys got out and I died.

And was back at the lighthouse.

And I said “Oh HELL no. I have to do this ever time I die? And it’s 3900 units away? And there’s gonna be cars all the time? I’m NEVER going to do it! EVER!”

I mean, it’s 3900 units of trying not to hit cars? Where, if you crash, you get swarmed and die? REALLY????????

Cuz I’m not sure I can do that.

Or can I wait until all the baddies show up, kill them in a nice, civil way, then just drive to where I have to go? Cuz I got, like, 20 units before I crashed and died and had to start over. If there’s a red car every 20 units, that’s it. I don’t think I can do the mission.

Feminina:

Oh dude, no. No. That’s not the mission. That would be horrible.

I think I had two waves of hit squads in red cars came after me right as I was driving away from the lighthouse. Deal with them, and it’s just 3900 units of calm, peaceful driving.

I didn’t even do them as car combat, because I wrecked Alvarez’ car almost immediately, but I wrecked it sort of halfway up a hill, near a post I could hide behind, and I just jumped out, skulked behind the post and/or the wrecked car, shot, threw grenades, and healed like hell. Explosive zemis are probably good too!

It’s probably also possible to just lurk in the garage or on the grounds and wait for the hit squads to come down and look for you, although I didn’t try that–there were some hairy moments that I only made it through with hasty adrenaline shots, but I didn’t have to reload from that point, so I didn’t try anything different.

Mercifully, Alvarez can handle himself, so it’s not one of those “you must also protect this fragile ally who keeps throwing himself face-first into danger” deals.

So no. Take heart! You do not have to face a red car every 20 units. Man, that would be awful. There are a couple of hit squads, but just handle them, and you’re golden.

I didn’t do anything else we can talk about, but I did something about Tommy. Something we WILL talk about. Later.

On a driving-related note, are we agreed that we are ignoring the hell out of that racetrack in the bayou, where we could go to race cars if we liked driving in games a LOT more than we do? I seriously could not ignore that any harder unless it were possible to literally erase it from the map.

I have some concern that eventually we’ll HAVE to race in order to complete a mission, but until then, I’m not going near it.

Butch:

Ok, good. You’re right. That wasn’t the mission. Just did the mission. Cuz I would’ve lost sleep. Over a game. It happens.

I did take a couple of tries. First, I got ran off the road. Alvarez got out. Would NOT get back in. Then I died.

Then, I decided to call in my own car, the armored one, before I left. So I did. And got in. And Alvarez, for some reason, got into one of those 1930’s hillbilly trucks instead. He tried to follow me. Went poorly. Died.

Then I rigged up some C4 to anticipate the baddies! Blew them up! But damaged my car. Then saw the roadblock. Died.

Tried again. Killed all the hit guys at the bridge. Car was damaged, but I had time, so I called Burke to get a new, flashy, awesome, undamaged car to jump the roadblock. Guy brought it. On the other side of the pile of wreckage on the bridge. Reloaded.

Decided “fuck this,” decided to go in whatever direction the white line WASN’T, hoping to confuse everyone and avoid the roadblock.

This worked like a charm.

Once again, getting past a level in some other way. Sorry, people who worked on the roadblock.

Drove back into town, etc.

Feminina:

Nice!

I kind of liked the time limit on getting him to Father James. It wasn’t really a difficult limit–I made it with a minute and a half to spare–but it was enough to say “hey, maybe don’t be stopping to pick up fuses right now.” It was just enough urgency to add some energy to the mission, and not such a tight limit that it actually became a frustrating driving challenge trying to beat the clock, you know?

And then I talked to Father James, who said “You’re a good man, Lincoln. I know it’s hard to hear, with all the things you’ve done, but it’s true.”

I thought that was very interesting phrasing. Not, “I know it’s hard to BELIEVE,” but “I know it’s hard to HEAR.” We usually think of things that are hard to hear as being unpleasant, tough truths that have to be faced, right?

“I know you don’t want to hear this, but you’re acting like a jackass,” or whatever. So when James says it’s hard for Lincoln to hear that he’s a good man, it means that he’s not pleading with him to believe he can be good, he’s challenging him to live up to the fact that he’s good.

“You’re a good man” isn’t exoneration (you’ve done bad things, but you’re still good at heart), it’s a responsibility (you don’t want to accept this, but you’re good, and you need to start acting like it). I thought that was interesting, and a great character moment for James, speaking very much as a priest as well as a friend. Whether or not it will actually have an impact on Lincoln, only time will tell, but it’s nice that we see there’s some depth to the relationships in his life.

Oh, and before that, when he reluctantly agrees to get Alvarez out of the city and Lincoln says “thank you for this” with his hand on James’ shoulder, and James just kind of gives him this eye? Like “don’t be acting like we’re buddies here, man.”

That was pretty awesome. James is a great character.

Oh, and of course there was the line about how Lincoln needs to be careful because in pursuing Sal so ruthlessly he risks becoming Sal. That was by-the-book, “monster-hunters risk becoming monsters themselves” theme, but nonetheless true. There was a lot in there, for a two-minute conversation cutscene.

Butch:

Indeed. My heart fucking stopped when I saw that time limit. But then the only time it was relevant was when I was thinking “How can I get that car across that bridge in time….fuck it.”

The James bit was pretty great. And I think we’ll have a say in how it impacts Lincoln, as James also says “So what will you do when there’s no one in your way?” after he talks about how Sal became Sal, and Lincoln says “Don’t know yet.” I have a feeling he will know when we get to push some buttons to make him know.

And that’s so true: it’s not an exoneration. Because the other absolute he says is “Sammy was a criminal. YOU’RE a criminal.” Criminal, here, is not something you can just un-be. Lincoln is a criminal. Pure and simple. But a good one.

And I think Lincoln is using the fact that he is a criminal to avoid thinking of any consequences. “It’s hard to hear” because then he can’t just shrug and be all “whatever. I’m a killer. Killers kill.”

So, too, for the player. We’ve said many times: this game, when it’s challenging Lincoln, is challenging us. Can we be “good criminals?” We do it all the time in games. But what IS that? Is it even a thing?

And that side-eye was a great game moment, because, often in games, when you’ve finished a mission by taking a dude to a helper, that helper is usually “Of COURSE my hero! I shall aid you in every way I can!” Not “Really? REALLY? Here? You bring him here? Dude….” When the latter is probably what would happen.

James is a great character. The game has lots of them. Which is why it’s so annoying they’re all scattered across the city, locked in their little places, so fucking hard to find and talk to.

There is a lot in that scene. This game, in THESE missions, these “really move the story ahead” missions, is really, really good. So good.

And if I say what you know I’m thinking, I’ll be as repetitive as the game.

Feminina:

Such a good conversation with James. And good point, too, that he also acknowledges the Sammy was, and Lincoln is, a criminal. Which again seems very much a priest’s take, doesn’t it? Everyone is a sinner/criminal: everyone, also, is beloved by God/is good.

And in that context, it’s interesting that he doesn’t specifically urge Lincoln to confess or repent or anything, which might be assumed to be his priestly job, but which wouldn’t respect his relationship with Lincoln as a person. He knows he’s not going to get anywhere with “you need to fall to your knees and pray, son!” so he goes with “man, THINK about what you’re doing,” trying to reach him the way he’s most likely to be reached. And possibly being successful.

And speaking of there being good in people–how about the fact that Lincoln went to the trouble of saving Alvarez? As Alvarez points out, Lincoln could have just killed him and it would have been the same blow to Sal’s plans. Certainly we’ve just killed dozens of other people who served some useful role in rackets: drug dealers, enforcers, smugglers, etc. They were people doing a job, and we killed them specifically because if they weren’t there to do their jobs, the racket would fall apart.

And Lincoln says “it just didn’t sit right,” and “you never did anything to me.” Which…is more an emotional reason than a logical one, right? Plenty of those people we killed never did anything to Lincoln, personally, and we have no idea what terrible things Alvarez might have done to other people (though given his sort of nerdy presentation I think we’re meant to assume he was a harmless, bookworm type who PROBABLY doesn’t murder hundreds of dudes on a regular basis like some people we know).

But Lincoln felt bad about Alvarez, and went to considerable trouble (and put Father James to considerable trouble) to save him rather than just tossing his body to the gulls, which would have been super easy. And that works interestingly in the narrative because this comes after that other moment, when he felt kind of bad about Pagani. This whole storyline is Lincoln kind of feeling a little bit bad about things and questioning the idea that getting the Marcanos dead is the only thing that matters and no price is too high.

And after Pagani, Donovan pushed him back into vengeance mode, but after Alvarez, James pushes him to question. Once again, those two play the good and bad spirits on Lincoln’s shoulders.

And, as you say, there may well be a final moment of choice where we get to decide how to play it, and to what extent this questioning will ultimately matter to him. Which will be interesting.

Butch:

Very true about the priest perspective. But an usually sharp indictment from a game. Games often have things like “You’re flawed,” or “you’ve done things that should make you feel guilty.” But “criminal,” that’s a pretty big sting.

Indeed, James isn’t trying to reach him through explicit religion. Even the “repent” magazines are in there to be cheeky, I think. “Collect these for a chuckle.” Repent. Ha. Funny.

(Speaking of collectibles, found, here in the late game, the first black playmate of the month. In the late game, as suspected. With a profile of the playmate! That means we have three “playmate profiles” provided: Her, the Asian centerfold (“China Lee,” which I’m SURE was her real name), and one who was, like “The pride of Georgia,” who was blond and blue eyed. Gotta be intentional. Not sure what they meant by it.)

Alvarez might have seemed weedy, but he still could handle a gun, though. Damn.

And yes on the theme! You HAD to have done Pagani to get here. It came right after Pagani, who said “I’ve never done anything to you.” Lincoln is parroting Pagani’s own words.

Cool stuff.

I’m SURE there’s gonna be a final moment of choice.

But on Donovan…..

We talked a ways back about maybe Donovan’s motivation might be a deep hatred of Communism, hatred of the Marcanos for supporting it, etc. But in these Congressional hearings, he doesn’t seem all that perturbed about Alvarez ALSO helping Castro. When the Senator points out Alvarez was, let’s face it, helping a communist government, Donovan is rather blase, all, “Hey, everyone does it, even our friends.” You’d expect him to be more “Yeah, Lincoln should’ve killed that commie bastard.” But he didn’t say that, did he?

Hmm.

Feminina:

Very true! For a guy possibly motivated entirely by hatred of communism, he was remarkably chill about the possibility that a communist country was counterfeiting US money.

“No biggie, our allies do it too!” is not the response you’d expect from someone truly committed to the cause of crushing communism by any means necessary.

It just goes to highlight that we don’t really know what the heck Donovan’s deal is.

I also appreciate you looking at the Playboys and reporting the key findings. I have not actually looked at any of the collectibles in a while. Grab it, toss it in my Bag of Collectibles Holding, forget about it, that’s my approach. Thankfully, your thoughtful and measured approach reveals the key facts I’ve missed, like which Playmates get profiles, and the article by Eldridge Cleaver (which I forgot to comment on when you mentioned it, but which is legitimately an interesting inclusion on the game’s part…way to lure people in with nudity and then drop some social and historical context on them!).

Butch:

Not only did they have that, the Native Son about that was right after I, uh, read the article. I’m not sure that was coincidence. I think that playboy triggered the rant by Duvall. Which is cool stuff if that’s the case.

We do not know what Donovan’s deal is, but I guess we can rule out the idea that he’s using Lincoln to slaughter anyone who helps the communists. Otherwise Alvarez would be exactly the kind of dude he’d want to see slaughtered.

Whatever his deal is, certainly whatever “Weighty Moral Choice” we’re going to get will not involve “kill Donovan cuz he’s been using you.” Whatever his deal may be, he survives the events of the game.

We shall see. But I was surprised by his tone in that scene.

Feminina:

I don’t even know if I have that Playboy. I’d say I’ll check, but knowing me, it could be weeks before I remember.

Sadly, my collection is incomplete anyway…did you get the one under the middle of the roundabout in Downtown? I couldn’t figure out how to get to that one. There’s another one that seems to be in a building around there somewhere that I also couldn’t figure out.

And an album cover somewhere underground that I missed. I know there are about 800 tunnels under the city, so it’s just a matter of finding the right entrance, but…someday.

Or never. Time will tell.

Butch:

There are tunnels? Oh…there’s that one I found by accident, wondered where it went, gave up.

Wonder why they’re there.

Yeah, the collection will remain incomplete. And that says something about collectibles. I can’t even be bothered when nudity is the collectible.

If I ain’t filling out this collection, ain’t filling out any collection.

Feminina:

I’ve found a few collectibles by going into the tunnels. Also, they’re good for hiding out from the cops and/or the mob. Or there was that time we had to race a boat through them.

But yeah, for the most part they don’t seem to be critically important.

Butch:

So a game that has me doing the same thing over and over, wants me to run through empty tunnels to get nudie mags.

Yup. Makes sense.

I’ll pass.

Feminina:

It’s not the SAME thing! It’s a new environment!

And it’s not just nudie mags! I think there was an album down there.

Credit where it’s due, man.

Butch:

I’m guessing, though, that the tunnels all look….the same!

Feminina:

Well, I suppose that speaking purely from a visual standpoint, if you want to talk about the impression they make on the eyes…they are substantially similar in appearance.

I suppose.

Butch:

Much like the playmates of the 1960s.

Just sayin.

Feminina:

But not the Hot Rods and the album covers! Maybe. I never look at those either.

But it’s not the game’s fault you only focus on a subset of the collectibles they so generously make available to you. There’s probably a whole world of variety and wonder in the different hot rods.

Butch:

Yes. Wonder.

All those naked cars.

I best see myself out.