To think that we’re seeing some of the last of this generation of Godfather
games roll through stores, it’s like watching one of the last great crime families pass away. Is it the end of an era? And after a solid year and four
ports, is The Godfather
game experience still significant? Was it ever significant?
Make no mistake, it was a noble (and possibly hopeless) goal to try and turn the classic movies into an equally impressive video game. The Godfather is neither as polished nor powerful as its film and novel predecessors, but motion controls and a full suite of game features make these new versions a worthwhile investment in your cutting-edge consoles.
EA has built postwar New York into an awesome playground: combat is just one option along with extortion, bribery, blackmail, assassination, hijacking, drug trafficking, bank heists and good old-fashioned mayhem. Picture the variety of Saint’s Row with a heavy emphasis on making people cower before you, and eating fine Italian food.
The Godfather is all about making the right relationships with the environment. Extortion, for example, entails finding out what a shopkeeper is afraid of, then using that weakness to get a little cooperation. Combat can be tough on your own, but you can pay the cops to protect you, or even hire a firing squad to follow you around. Though it’s still limited and simplistic, the relationship angle adds some fantastic personality and psychological strategy to the game. I was happy to see that both Don’s Edition and Blackhand Edition added some extra skills to highlight the political side of the world.
The Don’s Edition (PS3) and Blackhand Edition (Wii) expansion packs introduced extra missions, extra finishing moves, and hitmen with two new areas for the PS3. While Blackhand came with the 360 version, Don’s Edition was an additional purchase on Xbox Live; the bonus content as well as the motion control are subtle but much-appreciated enhancements over the earlier Godfathers.
Motion replaces most of the button presses in both versions for hand-to-hand brawling. You swing, shake and clutch the PS3 Sixaxis controller to throw and choke suckers, while the Wiimote-Nunchuk combo expands into throwing punches and aiming guns. I had an equally fine time with the PS3’s traditional button layout and the Wii’s point-to-aim setups. Previous Godfather titles have been a little vague with the heap of boxing commands, it’s easier to actually swing the controller than rolling fireball motions on analog sticks, and the motion ‘gimmick’ is played just enough to let traditional controls do their work.
The player activity is fantastic, so it’s a shame that the enemy AI is either totally useless or lethal and off-camera. Enemies really need to shout a warning or something before they start shooting; most of your deaths occur before you can even see who’s in the room. It’s an abrupt killjoy and I’m sad to see it remains unfixed. The hack car chase system is just as bad, and driving hasn’t improved since 2006.
The Godfather generally has some of the worst scripting I’ve seen in an open-world game: you work and pay to learn the city and open up resources, then a mission will disable them all or punish you for leaving a tight, stupid path. You’ll follow an ambulance to the hospital, but it will mindlessly loop around every street in Little Italy and force you to follow it. Worst... Ambulance... Ever....
Parts of the game are truly out of control, even the sound design suffers. I’ve had a few conversations spoiled because a police-gang shootout raged around the whole cut scene - is that just realism? And the music seems to schizophrenically change every ten seconds.
The high-fidelity PS3 graphics are great, but you may not want to run the Wii's Blackhand Edition in high definition. I’m impressed that EA squeezed most of the game content on the disk, even weather effects, but most of the Wii visuals look rough and jaggy.
My GR reviewer comrades will probably disagree with me, the plot is a noble attempt but it’s absolutely terrible. I don’t want to get sidetracked on a huge rant about games and story, let’s just say that the movie has all of the good moments and the game gets all the leftovers. The leftovers were not good, ‘nuff said. There are a few high notes but I mostly did the story missions for their huge rewards, most were either forgettable or annoying. The extortion and favor missions were much more natural and enjoyable.
The bad writing was easier to shoulder with all the sterling performances - Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall and James Caan make the material work, and all the little fidgeting animations during conversations bring the world to life.
It may not do the actual Godfather text any justice, but I had a wonderful time when I wandered off the beaten path; it’s a great fix for Wii and PS3 owners who are looking for a solid 30-hour game. Extortions, scandals and corruption? For gameplay like this, I’m willing to dump the story and other problems in a trunk and fuhgeddaboutit.