The Godfather is renowned as being one of the greatest and most beloved movie franchises in the world. EA had their work cut out for them with the release of The Godfather in 2006 and expectations were high for such an important franchise. Fortunately, EA delivered a decent experience. In 2009 we get another offering, but is it an offer we can’t refuse?
The Godfather II puts us in the shoes of Dominic, a member of the Corleone family who through an unfortunate event is given control of the New York family by Don Michael Corleone himself. After a small introduction scene you are taken to the player creation scene, where you can choose such attributes as hair, eyes, face and so forth. The choices are limited, but should offer you enough to create your very own version of Dominic that you will be happy with for the duration of the game.
The Godfather II isn’t your classic sandbox title such as Grand Theft Auto or Saints Row. It has a more strategic mode of gameplay and while it can be daunting at first, it offers a rather in-depth gameplay experience. In order to take over the city you will be required to take over “rackets” in different fields. These include prostitution rackets, gun smuggling rackets, chop shop rackets and many more that are on offer. By running a racket you will be controlling sections of the city, while bringing in money and respect for your family.
To maximise profits gained you are going to need to take control of “Fronts”. Fronts are legitimate businesses that you will cut deals with to launder your money. To take over a front you will need to shakedown the owner and intimated them to their breaking point to get them to give in to your demands. It’s an interesting concept, with the intimidation breaking point monitored by a gauge on the top right of the HUD. Go too far, they could fight back, or even worse, wind up dead. It is certainly a welcome change to similar games, yet after you’ve gained control of your first front you’ll know exactly what to do. Walk in and bust up the premises, hustle the customers and then move onto physical violence on the shopkeeper. The situations aren’t varied at all, and many gamers will find it laughable to thing they could ever go past the breaking point, the game makes it simply too easy.
Of course to take over these rackets and fronts you are going to need muscle. You can hire members of your family, each with a special skill to bring to the table. Choose your family members wisely, as each specialty will come in handy somewhere down the road. You can level up your members equipment and skills as you acquire more money throughout the course of the game. Once a raquet has been taken over you can hire guards to protect it from other families who may try to take it over. Unfortunately this is let down by sub-par AI, both on your own side and the enemies. The AI seem to react on a simple premise of causing a fist fight, before moving to weapons. Each situation is the same, and the only trouble the AI is going to give you is if they outnumber you twenty to one.
This is where the “Don’s Eye” comes in to play. At a first glance it may just seem like a world map ala Grand Theft Auto, but the Don’s Eye is a hub for controlling your operations within the game. By pressing the start button you are taken to a overview of the city. From here you can see what rackets and fronts you currently control, which you need to take over, as well as threats coming from the other families. You can also check the books to see how much income and expenses you are incurring each day. This will give you a chance to save some cash to upgrade your families skills, hire guards to protect your establishments and so forth. It is a great management system that is easy to use, but offers enough depth that the hardcore player could spend some serious time setting their family up just the way the want to. This has been advertised as a pretty massive feature. You need to go in to more depth. The navigation and menus are all fantastic, with easy to learn concepts that really have the chance to make or break the experience. The only criticism I have for this system is that it may seem a little too daunting for casual or first time gamers. Unlike a simple map system like the GTA series, the Don’s Eye is a complex tool that monitors every aspect of your family as you progress through the game. Thankfully if you stick with it, it will be remembered as one of the most inutuitive and accessible management systems in a game to date.
The controls in the Godfather II are slick and intuitive. Hand to hand combat is a pleasure, right and left triggers control your fists respectively, and can be used to create a combo of hooks and jabs. Holding both together will grab your enemy, and by using the right stick, you can headbutt, slam them into a wall and knee them. It’s a fun system that works well, and builds on the already excellent hand to hand combat skills from the first title.
Gunplay is also slick and well put together. Using the left trigger to lock onto a target, the right stick changes whether you are going for a torso, head of leg shot. It comes in handy when firing from behind cover, and is a much better system than the one offer in the first title.
Unfortunately while the Godfather II features some truly interesting gameplay elements, it also has some seriously major shortcomings. First of all is the city itself. The layout is simple and boring, and most of all small. We have been spoilt for choice with titles such as Grand Theft Auto IV and Saints Row 2, but even by normal standards the gameplay map simply does not cut it this late into the current generation of games. The streets are filled with the same cars, the same pedestrians who simply seem to walk an invisible path. The city almost feels lethargic and doesn’t have much to offer or immerse the player into the game world.
Graphically the Godfather II looks like a polished Wii Game on the PS3 and Xbox 360 version. Player models are simple and not detailed. The streets and building lack any real textures, explosions and fire look rather bland, and the cars are lacking so much detail they simply look like boxes on wheels. To have such poor graphical presentation on a title that offers some unique gameplay mechanics is simply disappointing.
Audio presentation is solid, with some great sound effects coming from the weapons based on guns from the 1950’s. Voice acting is top notch featuring some fantastic performances. Music on the other hand takes a back seat to the rest of the game, and more often than not you won’t even notice it is there.