‘The Godfather 2’ Xbox 360 Review

August 4, 2009 § Leave a comment

Score: 3 out of 5

As something with the official Don Corleone stamp of approval slapped on top of it, The Godfather 2 is such a horrible bastardisation that fans won’t know whether to laugh or cry at its thinly veiled attempt to keep itself true to the source material.

It’s just a terrible mess. The story is all over the place, in no way in keeping with the plot of the films or of the book; most of the characters sound nothing like their movie counterparts; some of the major characters don’t even look the same as their movie counterparts.

The worst thing, though? When they try to awkwardly insert dialogue from the film verbatim into totally unrelated parts of the game, as if to remind us that we are playing The Godfather 2 video game. You can see why the developers might think we need this nudge, considering that this game is so devoid of what The Godfather was truly all about – family, moral corruption, love, death and betrayal. Rather than explore these themes in any meaningful fashion, it reduces them to banal gameplay objectives. On top of all of this is an art style which is saturated in pastel colours, reminiscent of Grand Theft Auto 3’s, and just further signposting that they’ve reduced The Godfather narrative to the level of a cartoon. In short, it’s a total selling-out of The Godfather licence and, if you’re cynical, exactly what you’d expect.

As a game, though, The Godfather 2 is by no means terrible. It tries valiantly to combine elements from several different genres – third-person shooters, real-time strategy, role-playing games, sandbox games – and it does so with moderate success. It’s actually quite the accomplishment that EA has even attempted to fit all these different aspects together and managed to make it into something that is fairly enjoyable, if a little too simplified and short. As a game, it’s really quite ambitious in what it tries to do, and while The Godfather name is flung around with careless abandon, the game mechanics have clearly been more considered.

As I mentioned before, the gist is that this is a third-person shooter with real-time strategy and role-playing elements. Primarily, the gameplay consists of you taking over rival businesses in a Grand Theft Auto-style open world environment. While you can do this yourself by simply driving over to each business, killing all the goons inside and threatening the company manager, you can also send members of your family to attack and takeover rival turf.

The real-time strategy aspect enters into the way certain acquired businesses or sets of businesses grant specific bonuses to you, your men and your empire – bullet proof vests, larger ammo belts, cheaper guards on your property, etc. – and so you’ve an incentive to pick and choose between weak and strong targets, targets which may reap a larger reward and others that don’t. Further, you have a “family” within which you can promote soldiers, give them additional abilities and increase their stats. Each member of your family has a specialisation – like “Arsonist”, “Bruiser” or “Medic” – and often these skills do end up being essential to a mission’s success or failure.

You'll be spending most of your time in Don's View deciding your next move.

You'll be spending a significant portion of your time in Don's View deciding your next move.

There are also a series of optional sub-missions you can undertake, aside from the story-led missions, and by completing these you are granted favours from the police, politicians and other street-level individuals. Using this method you can also gain information on rival family members, allowing you to find them and kill them in a certain way as to make sure they “sleep with the fishes” on a permanent basis.

While the game works well on a fundamental level, and most of the parts fit together nicely, it’s stretched a little too thinly for its own good. The main issue is that there isn’t much strategy to the strategy side of the game. Simply put, it’s too easy and too straightforward for it to be challenging. While there are half-a-dozen options at your disposal as to how to approach a situation, the basic approach of “throw everything you’ve got” works nearly every time. I won’t deny that it’s not fun – storming massive warehouses, taking on everyone guns-blazing – because it is; the problem lies in that there’s very little risk attached to anything you do, and so the thrill that comes with seizing power away from your enemies starts giving way to feelings of monotony and routine.

When you do "storm of the gates", so to speak, it is balls-to-the-walls fun – at least, at first...

When you do "storm of the gates", so to speak, it is balls-to-the-walls fun – at least, at first...

In a mixed blessing, the game ends pretty quickly after you start it, so you never really get the chance to become truly bored of all the action. However, there’s no incentive to play the single-player game over again once finished, and while you can take to the online arena with your campaign family to level up their abilities, there’s not much reason to do so at that late stage. It comes across to me that in trying to produce something that is accessible and that has broad appeal, EA has made a shallow, fairly insubstantial game not particularly fitting of The Godfather licence.

(834 words.)

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