Mafia III’s Sign of the Times DLC pack is out today. It’s the final chunk of the game’s promised season pass content. It’s got the usual stuff like new weapons to buy, more cars to collect, a couple of new outfits to play dress-up with, and some new story content. This time, Lincoln Clay goes up against a religious cult, as if 1960’s prejudice and the mob weren’t enough.
Beyond the normal DLC content, Sign of the Times offers players the opportunity to reverse a wrong. The DLC gives players a chance to rebuild Sammy’s bar. In the main game, the bar is mostly depicted as a burnt-out husk of tumbledown rafters and ashes, while somehow serving as Lincoln Clay’s living quarters. It’s an odd choice for a man that eventually comes to own everything in the city. He may not be able to impact racism or tear down any “No Colored Allowed” signs, but Clay can finally relax in his own pub.
Lincoln Clay is wanted by the Italian mafia, his adopted family has been massacred, and he’s a black man in the southern United States during the late 1960’s. In his hometown of New Bordeaux there are businesses that proudly display “no colored allowed” signs in their windows. There are whole neighborhoods that Lincoln Clay cannot be in without getting the side-eye from white citizens while walking by. The police will always watch him, call him “boy” and will open fire on Clay if he commits any crimes in their vicinity. To everyone else, he is defined by the color of his skin; a man barely qualified to supply menial labor for his supposed betters. Despite all this, Lincoln Clay will shortly own everything in New Bordeaux because he is the star of Mafia III and whatever social commentary the game has will be lost in an open-world grind.
Mafia III has a torture scene. It’s the cool thing in open-world games, it seems. Grand Theft Auto V had it and so did Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. In both of those games, the violence came with controversy. In Grand Theft Auto V’s case, the in-your-face requirement of being the torturer upset some players and made them recoil. In Metal Gear Solid V’s scene, the violence was slightly removed since it was in a cut-scene, but the victim was an important focal point of some people’s negative opinion.
In the latest preview video from publisher 2K, the torture scene in Mafia III is even more disconnected from the player because the torturer is a non-player buddy character. The player’s avatar, Lincoln Clay, stands idly by while pliers are judiciously applied to the victim. From the brief snippet in the trailer, torture is just a story beat. A violent example of how badass and Scorsese the fictional mob of New Bordeaux can be. It might be more substantial in the full game. Consider this a trigger warning for those disturbed by videogame torture.
Publisher 2K Games probably wants you to think of violent crime epics like The Godfather or Goodfellas when you watch this live-action trailer for Mafia III, but you’ll be forgiven if it just reminds you of a perfume commercial. At least until the murdering starts.