With an open-world game, you’ve got to have some sort of gimmick to succeed. There needs to be something that sets you apart from all of the other games that give you a character, some weapons, a means of getting around, and then plop you in a huge expanse with the ability to destroy everything. Mafia III understands that and does two things to address the issue. the first is setting us in a distinct time period that hasn’t been explored too often in games, the 1960’s. The second is giving us New Bordeaux, a city inspired by New Orleans.
Most important, Mafia III gives us Lincoln Clay. This is a nuanced man with a lot of depth. He’s an African American orphan and Vietnam veteran with something to prove. He’s seen things and has a reason to be angry. Even though he’s doing arguably bad things as he sets up his criminal empire, we feel justified rooting for this man who’s really just getting justice in the only way he can. It’s a freeing experience, whether you’re tackling the story or roaming around for fun.