Mafia III is not a very good game. It’s almost a good game, but it never quite manages to wrench itself out of mediocrity. This is a pity considering the game’s location and time period. You play as Lincoln Clay, an African American returning home to New Orleans after doing service in Vietnam. Upon returning home to his adopted family, the New Orleans black mob, Lincoln crosses paths with the Marcano mafia family. As can be expected, things soon go belly up and Lincoln is thrust into a revenge narrative that treads familiar video game grounds.
It’s 1968, so New Orleans is a muggy pot of racism and crime. The game is prefaced by a big warning that it contains all sorts of racism in order to remain authentic to this particular period in American Deep South history. You can expect copious derogatory words for basically any character that isn’t a white American. Sadly, there’s never really any deeper tackling of race issues, and even protagonist Lincoln Clay remains obstinately in the one-dimensional, revenge-fuelled character camp. It’s a great pity, because I can count on one hand the amount of times we’ve been presented with a AAA title with a person of colour as the lead character. There’s this enormous space to tell a story with thematic layers of racial identity and prejudice, but Mafia III never seems brave enough to jump in with both feet; it sort of splashes around the shallow end, never getting itself completely immersed in sensitive subject matter that would have quite successfully buoyed the game up and out of the “just another GTA clone” realms of thought.