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Gaming Gutcheck: Mafia III/ by /

11 Oct

I have a rocky history with the “Open World Crime Sim” genre. I really enjoy Open World in most of it’s manifestations. Crime Sim, however, gives me pause.

As a young man I could easily dismiss the moral ambiguity of these games, but as I age I find myself more & more uneasy with it. This combined with the fact that most of the genre is geared towards a modern Urban Hip-Hop setting left nothing to really hook me. I usually end up referring to any given GTA game as “Sim Douchebag”.

I’ve tried to get into GTA in a couple of manifestations. I’ve told myself to view it through the lens of the hyper-real, Quentin Tarantino-style. I’ve found some enjoyment in the wacky silliness of Saints Row, which most of the time is parodying the very thing it’s trying to represent. Still, there is always a feeling of distaste that nags at me as I try to play. In the end, I always walk away.

Mafia III wouldn’t even have been on my radar were it not for the coverage given to it by Austin Walker of Vice Gaming. Everything I read about it started to intrigue me. Set in a fictional New Orleans. In the 60’s. With a half-Black protagonist. With an eye towards handling the race relations of the era authentically. Huh.

So I dived in, and I’m extremely pleased I did.

Lincoln Clay isn’t a one-note character, and the world he inhabits has a thing that most Open World Crime Sims lack: nuance. There are layers and texture. There are motivations beyond “get money”. Lincoln and this allies are by no means angels — they are, in the end, criminals after all — but Lincoln’s motivations have depth. He wants to make things better for his community. He embodies loyalty, and this is the vehicle that propels us through the fairly standard revenge story that follows.

You turn a human trafficking ring into a neighborhood Jazz club.

You turn a human trafficking ring into a neighborhood Jazz club.

In short, Lincoln has something very few Crime Sim protagonists have: redeeming qualities. He’s a flawed hero, but make no mistake: he *is* a hero.

As a result I’ve been able to engage with the game on a level that I’ve never been able to with any other Crime Sim. Combine this with the beautiful setting and amazing soundtrack, and I think I’ve finally found the one game in the entire genre that I can finally enjoy.

Of course it’s not perfect. It’s a bit glitchy, particularly on PC. As I’m playing on PS4 I haven’t encountered anything game-stopping, but there are hints of AI bugging out and physics that occasionally go bezerk. These are all things that can be addressed in patches, so you may want to wait to pick it up, but if you want one of these types of games with a bit more depth than whatever Rockstar is pumping out, it’s worth your time.

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