After spending more than 10 hours in the world of New Bordeaux I must say that Mafia 3 has one of the best atmospheres and open-world environments in a game to date. The level of attention to detail, from the conversations that passers-by will have about the hostile racial relations to the look that racist white people will give you as you pass them on the street, is amazing. And then, the car that you’re driving decides to suddenly sink into the gravelled road and you break out of your reverie and realise you are still in a game, and an extremely buggy one at that.
As you can surmise from the trailer above, you play a black protagonist Lincoln Clay who is out for revenge. Along the way you encounter a couple of menacing-looking friends who, despite their violent tendencies, have no problems with coloured people, unlike the rest of the church-going folk in New Bordeaux. Mafia 3 explores difficult questions on racism and does not hesitate to depict what the 60s and 70s were like – a time of terrible violence and even worse social behaviour. I went into a restaurant that had the sign No Coloured Allowed and the owner promptly chased me out. When I outstayed my welcome he called the police.
It’s a shame that such brilliant writing, solid shooting and driving mechanics and immersive set-pieces (the amusement park stalk-and-shoot-out was the best palpitating experience I had since The Last of Us) are marred by rather repetitive game-play and glitches galore. In a post-Grand Theft Auto world every game developer feels the need to make his product an open-world concept. But having an environment in which you are allowed to roam freely means nothing if there is absolutely nothing to do anyway except the typical hunt for different types of hidden collectibles.
But the main story is a work of art. A lot of time has been invested into fleshing out each individual main character whom you interact with, and I felt invested in making sure Lincoln Clay got his revenge. Whether that would be motivation enough for you to slog through the buggy mess and game-play that is Mafia 3 is a difficult question to answer. I suggest getting it when it’s on sale and not at full price.
Mafia 3 is on PS4, PC and XBox One. The reviewer played it on PS4.