The Godfather II Review
Written : Sunday, April 12, 2009
By: Lee Abrahams (GT: jackanape)
Making a list of cool game characters is not too hard: you just know ninjas would be on there, so would assassins, probably pirates too and, I suspect, mafia wise-guys might just sneak in there too. There is something strangely cool about guys who call their own shots, despite (or maybe because of) the fact they are clearly criminals. In terms of the Godfather you could kind of relate to what the mafia was doing, as regardless of their criminal behaviour, they also lived by a strict, almost honorable code too. Family came first and the rest, well, the rest took a hike. The first Godfather game did a fairly decent job, but it was never going to become Don, so with the sequel now upon us the question remains – can it muscle its way to the top or is it doomed to end up sleeping with the fishes?
You talkin’ to me?
Developed by EA, the game has a lot to live up to, especially considering the fact that it's based on arguably the greatest film of all time (not my personal choice, so no hate mail). With such a rich story and amazing performances to match, it was always going to be a tough ask for the game to even come close to matching the film. However, it should be noted that there is no way to turn the events from the film into an entertaining video game – it was just never going to happen. Artistic license is certainly needed to stay true to the source material while still keeping us glued to our controllers - a tricky ask, but one that games like GTA have pulled off with poise (and they do not have the Godfather title to smack in our faces).
The game follows on from the original and also ties in certain key scenes and characters from the film. The former lead character, Aldo Trapani (who was a New York Don), is killed off at the start of the game so Michael Corleone tasks Dominic (that would be you) with restoring control to the city. From there you have to expand your criminal empire throughout New York, Florida and into Cuba – as well as dealing with the machinations of rival families and corrupt officials. Everything is fairly faithful to the book/film and all of the characters that weave in and out of your story are spot on. Of particular note is the superb voice acting, with everyone sounding like they were pulled straight from the wise guy laden streets of the intended era.
While the voice-work and lip-synching is perfect, the rest of the presentation is markedly less so. The main characters all look like there counterparts from the film (with the exception of some of the most unrealistic hair ever conceived) and the background population are all exceptionally generic baring one or two outfit changes. The same issue surrounds all of the rival gangs who are only distinguishable from each other by the fact they have a different coloured t-shirt on – truly a breathtaking lack of effort. The backdrops are similarly uninspiring; while all the locations you can take over have been lavished with gaudy signposts, improved exteriors and a variety of entrances, the rest of the city is just a barren wasteland of closed doors and flat surfaces. Considering the unique style of fifties America, you can't help but think that it this is a missed opportunity as that character is just not on display here. If that doesn't kill the game's sense of realism, try jumping off a roof and watching your character land flat footed with perfectly straight legs. It looks ridiculous.
The game itself is fun at first but soon gets bogged down in overly repetitive missions. Played from a third person perspective, it has all the familiar elements of many a sandbox game. You can grab guns, cars and engage in a bit of fisticuffs should you so wish. The real difference comes in the form of the "Don View" menu, which shows a map of the city you are currently in and allows you to see which rackets are still there to be taken over, check the status of your family, that of your enemies or check any number of other relevant bits of information that you may need.
I made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.
The main thrust of the game is to wipe out rival families by taking over their rackets and businesses, then heading to the main enemy compound to wipe them out once and for all. As you progress, you can build up a family of made men to help you out in combat or order them to do your dirty work as you see fit, made possible by the the Don View as you can order them to attack rivals or defend key locations. Your team also has certain skills such as demolition, safecracking or being an arsonist which can help you access certain areas whilst opening up new avenues of entry to certain targets. Taking out certain families will progress the story and open up new businesses to take over and cities to visit.
The key to success is controlling as many businesses as you can. Each business on the map can confer a cash income and certain other benefits to the controlling faction (such as improved firepower, better melee attacks or bulletproof vests) assuming that you create a crime ring by running every available version of that type of operation. However, taking over each business follows the same predictable pattern. You rush in there with a few men, kill every mobster in the place and then threaten the owner just enough so they hand over their cash and do not fight back. Then you move onto the next place and repeat the formula. It is pretty straightforward and far too easy. The Don View will show you how many regular guards and rival made men are guarding the place, but the numbers are immaterial as you can pretty much storm any building single handedly which null and voids the the whole strategy element. The ease of this is partly down to the poor enemy A.I as they will often just stand blithely in the open until you kill them.
Once a business is under your control you will then have to assign guards of your own to keep an eye on it as rivals will attack you sporadically. Unfortunately this means that most of the money you earn from taking over rackets is immediately used up on defending them, meaning you have no spare cash to upgrade your skills or those of your family.
Other than attacking businesses and killing off rival families there is really nothing else of note in the game. You can do favors for random people on the street or help out corrupt officials in a similar fashion; both of which usually just means you will end up running off to kill someone, robbing a safe in a certain location or threatening different businesses. The problem here is that there is, again, no variety or challenge to your tasks and none of the rewards are really necessary for you to succeed. If you carry out a favor successfully you may find out the location and weakness of opposing made men, allowing you to track them down and kill them off permanently, otherwise you may get a cash reward or a favor in return (like the ability to instantly repair any of your bombed businesses or stop police pursuit). Other than doing favors and the ability to heist a few banks, which is fun but only gives you a bit more cash, there is nothing really to pique your interest which makes the cities seem rather lifeless and empty.
Probably the worst aspect of the game is the driving, so if you get in a car, you better brace yourself for the most underwhelming experience imaginable. Regardless of the car you are in you barely feel like you are moving and even at slow speeds, you can hardly make it around corners correctly. Do not try to hit reverse either, as the camera will then leap to an awful side on angle leaving you unable to see where you were going which led to me, almost universally, hitting another car each time I tried it. For some reason you cannot enter a car whilst it is on a hill either, and only certain obstacles are destructible while the rest are completely immovable. Not to mention the fact that the cities are not really large enough to justify the use of a car in the first place, as you can easily run from place to place with less trouble.
The combat, at least, provides plenty of fun and novel ideas, as there is a variety of hand to hand attacks and grabs that you can use on your foes, plus throwing them over ledges never gets old. All of the weapons on offer are pretty fun too and you can find souped up versions as you progress. The targeting system lets you drop foes to their knees or knock weapons from their hands should you so wish and you can also pull off a number of graphic, yet unintentionally hilarious, executions on your foes.
The online mode is also throwaway at best, and looks like it was added as more of an afterthought than a serious intent to occupy a gamer's time. Here you can pick only one of your made men from the single player mode and their various experiences will determine the type of game you can play. Mobsters with the safecracker ability will be tasked with opening up safes to earn points, those with the arsonist ability have to set fires or blow up explosive objects, and demolition experts have to blow up key points of their opponent's base. There is also a generic team deathmatch option which soon devolves into a free for all. The one major boon here is that whichever character you use can earn skills and money online to transfer over to your single player game. However, whilst that may be all well and good, it does raise the issue that the solo game is so amazingly short that you will have probably finished it off before you even think of heading online, making this feature kind of redundant.
It’s not personal, it’s business.
You can snag all of the points on offer here in double quick time, and I would be surprised if it took you much more than fifteen hours. While there are a nice mix of story progression tasks, side mission quests and collectables (in the form of safes, executions and weapons) the game stacks far too many points right at the end of the experience. I only had a few hundred points whilst still being 70% of the way through the story, and then they came in a deluge one after the other whilst I was wrapping the game up. The tiles and their titles are in-keeping with the wise-guy ethos but the points are just too easy to come by on the whole.
Unlike the movie sequel, this game really does not improve upon the original in enough ways to make it a viable purchase, and the shortness of the story just adds to the feeling of being let down. Considering you have access to three cities you really do not have enough in the way of interesting tasks to make those locations varied. Instead, you will do just enough to finish off the achievements and then plow through everything else just to get the whole thing over and done with. The plain graphics and boring driving are also a pretty poor reflection on the license and this game will do far better business as a rental then it will at retail. Unless you get strong-armed into buying it, steer clear.
Easily the strongest aspect of the title as the voice work and lip-synching are superb in places. The wise-guy turn of phrase is perfect and pretty much keeps the game afloat in the face of adversity.
Even with multiple locations to tour around you will still end up seeing the same drab buildings and poorly animated villains. A bit more work went into the lead characters but then the odd falling glitch and terrible vehicles destroy the last shred of credibility.
For a few hours this game is a blast, but then you will start to see the same missions over and over again and you will just want it to be over. Thankfully the game is short – but if that was the case then surely there could have been a lot more variation.
Being a Godfather tie-in was always going to ask a lot and this one just does not deliver; the story and voices carry the game along to a point but the drab missions just do not feel right considering the amazing material they had to work with.
A decent list but one that is far too heavily skewed towards the end game – you can easily be 60-70% through the game and still have less than 300 points. A bit more of an even spread and this would have been perfect.
This game is not terrible but, when that is the best you can say about something, that really isn't much to go on. You will have plenty of fun while it lasts but the all too obvious flaws will leap out at you and soon begin to spoil what would otherwise be a fairly enjoyable romp. It was never going to live up to the standards of the film but the real injustice is that it barely lives up to the standards of most games either. Flat, repetitive and short – this one is a rental at best and chances are it will not even register on most people's radars.