EAs decision to develop a game based on The Godfather was nothing if not controversial. Basing a game around arguably the greatest film franchise in cinema history takes either guts or arrogance. After movie director Francis Ford Coppola washed his hands of any involvement with the game, there were worries that EA may have been in it just for the easy cash-in. Fortunately, The Godfather proves to be a solid game that makes excellent use of a great license.
The Don of New York
The hook of The Godfather is that youre a background character to the story who works his way up the Corleone crime family. After a brief prologue where your characters old man gets gunned down in the street, Don Vito himself takes the young player aside and instructs him on the virtues of patience and violence. Flash forward and you get to customize your Italian thug to your own personal tastes. Though the customization is welcome, it is a bit limited (understandable, since theres only so many ways an Italian gangster is going to look).
After a few brief tutorial missions with Corleone enforcer Luca Brasi, you are free to either follow the games storyline missions or raise some havoc throughout the boroughs of New York. Like other crime-based sandbox games your actions range from petty crimes like boosting parked cars to rather serious offenses like bombing entire buildings. Your actions do have consequences, however, and high profile crimes will make you the target of either the police or rival families. Doing jobs and completing missions will earn you respect, think experience points. Raising a level gives you a skill point that you can use to raise your health, allow you to run faster, or provide bonuses to combat.
Taking em to the mattresses
EA GamesThe Godfather - screenshot
Combat in The Godfather is an interesting mix of hand-to-hand and gunplay. The hand-to-hand portion is really where the game shines. After locking on to your opponent, use of the thumbsticks allows you to throw a variety of punches and kicks, as well as utilize grabs, chokes and throws. The fighting is dynamic enough to always be interesting, and the game offers you several stylish executions to discover.
The combat translates nicely into the intimidation aspect of the game, where you try to break the resolve of store owners by threatening them or their store. Destroy some parts of the store, beat down a customer or two or point a gun at the store owner and youll see their intimidation bar rise. Get it high enough and theyll fall in line when next you offer them protection. Be careful though, push a character too much and theyll fight back, effectively ending negotiations. Though it can get repetitive at times (youll find that all bakers, barbers and hotel managers not only look alike, but their stores are identical as well), roughing characters up never really gets old. Its a shame the same cant be said about other parts of the game.
Sleeping with the fishes
The second part of combat is the gunplay. Youll find several gun types throughout the course of the game ranging from a snub-nose pistol to a tommy gun and a magnum, all of which can be upgraded. Youll also find throwable weapons such as molatov cocktails and dynamite. Though throwable weapons are limited, once you pick up a gun you keep it for the duration of the game. As long as you have ammo, all your guns will be available: theres no inventory loss on death. This is a very good, because youll be dieing a lot in The Godfather.
The targeting system works well enough. When you immediately target an enemy an aiming reticule will appear, which tells you how accurate your shots will be. Wait a few seconds and the reticule will shrink, allowing you to make precise shots. You can kneecap a guy to knock him down, shoot weapons out of hands or just take them down with a headshot. This is great and all, the problem is that by the time youve got a bead on an enemy, youve already taken a few shots of your own. The enemy AI is pretty ruthless in chasing you down. While this makes them easy targets, the third person camera view often results in you getting flanked by a thug with a shotgun or tommy gun. It aint pretty.
Look howve they massacred my boy
EA GamesThe Godfather - screenshot
What IS pretty is the presentation. Say what you will about EA, but they do bring the bells and whistles. The graphics and animations are very good, about what you would expect from a PS2 this late in the systems life cycle. For some reason, The Godfather has some of the best explosions Ive ever seen in a game. Destroying cars, knocking down lightposts and dynamiting buildings all offer a feast for the eyes. The character models look great, especially in close-ups and the voice acting does not disappoint (watch for adult language). The music is straight out of the movies, though youll likely get tired of most of the ambient music after the first few hours. Im not advocating EA Trax featuring Glen Miller (look him up), but some additional orchestration or period accurate music would have helped.
The controls are serviceable, though as previously mentioned, camera issues can get you killed before you know it. The driving portions of the game do what theyre supposed to do, get you around the map faster with a few driving missions thrown in for flavor. Different cars will offer variations in speed and handling, but dont expect too much from this part of the game and you wont be disappointed.