Ever since Grand Theft Auto 3 burst onto the scene back in 2001, publishers have been looking to capitalize on its success with their own brand of open world mayhem. A handful of different games have been able to escape from GTA’s shadow by carving out a comfortable niche for themselves; the Saints Row series never takes itself too seriously, the Just Cause franchise delights in the absurdity of its grappling hook-based stunts, and Watch_Dogs uses modern technology to turn an open world sandbox into a hackers playground. With all these different titles shooting for the moon with outlandish stories, productions values, and concepts, it’s refreshing to see 2K Games going in a bit of a different direction with Mafia 3.
Set in a fictionalized version of New Orleans during the tumultuous 1960’s, Mafia 3 has a setting that certainly helps it stand out from a pack of modern day open-world games that seemingly can’t escape from New York. The time period and the locale certainly give Mafia 3 a personality and flavor that hasn’t been seen since Rockstar took players back to the 1940’s in L.A. Noire. Early impressions from members of the games media have been very positive, praising the games sense of style, as well as its protagonist Lincoln Clay. Clay’s ethnicity is sure to play a big part in the game (he’s an African American living in a southern city during the height of the Civil Rights era), and it will be interesting to see how the developers at Hangar 13 and 2K Czech deal with those issues in a medium that is increasingly willing to speak out about topics that were taboo just a few years ago.
Mafia 3 will still feature all the usual trappings of an open world crime game: there will be plenty of driving, shooting, and looting to be had. But it will also tackle subjects and issues that most games steer clear of. Will that be enough to make it stand out in a crowd that seemingly gets larger every year? The world will find out when Mafia 3 is released on October 7th.