Mafia III is a more deliberately ugly game than the second title. Not in the sense of “Open World Jank” – though that’s certainly there – but in the sense that the game is set in the American South in not-New Orleans, and with an African-American protagonist, with all the ugly elements of society that go with that.
To the credit of the game, it generally doesn’t flinch from the ugliness of this setting. Over the course of the game, you will hear a lot of racial slurs. Additionally, Mafia III‘s city – New Bordeaux, is segregated – walk into the wrong business and not only will the proprietor tell you off with extreme (racial) prejudice, but the cops will be called on you. There’s even an on-screen indicator to tell you if you have the attention of the police – a feature I would have liked in Watch Dogs 2.
Now, Mafia III has an in-game slider to let you set how aggressive this is, from somewhat passive-aggressive to having the cops called on you if you Drive While Black in the wrong neighborhood. The lowest setting on the slider basically has your protagonist treated like a regular GTA protagonist – but I think doing that misses the point of the choices made with this character, this setting, and this story.
In other respects, Mafia III has given some ground compared to the first two games. Mafia and Mafia II expected you to follow the rules of the road, complete with giving your vehicle limiters preventing them from going all out. Mafia III, on the other hand, lets you adjust the “realism” slider as well, so even if the setting doesn’t treat you like a GTA protagonist, the game will let you drive like one.
This leads to where the Open World Jank comes in. Near as I can tell, at least with playing on an Xbox One X, the game runs into problems when you drive too fast for too long. Once I got behind the wheel of some of the faster cars in the game, I started running into problems with cars spawning inside the road and taking damage (particularly on viaducts and overpasses), or pedestrians trying to dive out of the way of your car by diving into the way of your car.
In Mafia II, your limiter was generally on by default, except for story missions that involved high-speed chases, during which time (I suspect) the game world automatically loaded into memory a stock seed on the map for where things would be in the game world, so the game just knew what to expect on the world map while you try to evade the police. In Mafia III on the other hand, with the game defaulting to “Drive Like Crazy”, and with some extremely fast cars, there are more opportunities for what is causing problems – the player is driving faster than old data can be loaded from memory and new data can be written. I don’t have a definite for that being the cause, but that feels right, given how it happens in play.
Otherwise, the rest of the game is fine – the cover, stealth, and shooting are great. The game gives you a slow-mo mechanic while aiming or driving that allows you to line up headshots and take tight turns (or thread the needle between cars) with ease. The world is also solidly designed enough that I found myself finding landmarks in the game world. It’s just that it stumbles on some of the technical elements behind the scenes.
I had a lot of fun with this game, and I think having an open world to explore and kill white supremacists in is the right game for these times. So, I definitely recommend picking Mafia III up.