Saturday, April 11, 2009

Would You Help Michael Corleone?

A couple of years ago, EA took on the ambitious task of creating a video game based around the iconic film, The Godfather. While video games based off of films generally turn out to be real stinkers, the developers had some interesting concepts that eventually made the video game adaptation a hit. One major aspect of the first game that was missing was the feeling of actually being a Don and controlling your crime family. EA thought this through, and due to the overwhelming request for a follow up, it was one aspect they couldn’t refuse for the sequel.

The Godfather II takes place during the eve of the Cuban revolution. In the midst of a major mob meeting in Havana, the Don of your family is killed and you take control of your battered organization. Once Michael Corleone is investigated by the Senate Committee on Organized Crime, he calls upon you to gain control and reestablish the New York operation and make an expansion into Miami. To succeed you must hire men, gain loyalty, extort businesses, and if need be, take out a made man or two. As they say, it’s only business.

Admittedly the concepts behind this new game made my mouth water with anticipation. I mean finally I get to be the Don of my own family and take siege of territories. With that said, the actual strategies of the game fare very well. You get to recruit your own members one by one, taking in consideration what strategies will be best suited for each operation. You get to have conversations with each new recruit to see if their lifestyle and goals mesh with your own. Once you have your crew established, it’s time to make some money. You can start off by taking over one business at a time, but most businesses are linked which allow you to quickly organize your own crime ring. To take over businesses you have to intimidate the owners. You don’t wanna go in guns a blazing, that does no one any good, not to mention who wants to own a bullet riddled burlesque house? Each owner can be manipulated by a series of measures, physically, destroying property, it is up to you to find the owner’s weak spot and exploit it to take over a business, and maybe even earn a little extra scratch if you take your time with such actions.

Of course just taking over business isn’t as easy as going in and roughing up the place. You will have rival families to deal with, and not just the ones who own the rackets, but other families who are just as eager to make a name for themselves. You can set up guards to hold down any businesses you control, and if need be, send one of your own family to take care of the business and increase that man’s loyalty to the family. If you find that a particular family is getting too greedy, you can take out a made guy and show that family who is boss. There will be certain circumstances where the made man is too strong to just walk in and execute, so it is up to you to find out the right way to take them out as if not to have the entire family gunning for you.

Here you can find key individuals on the street from civilians who need a favor or even corrupt officials who are on the take. They will not only tell you the location of the made guy in question, but provide clues on how to properly perform the execution.

All these factors can be controlled by looking at the “Don’s View” menu that shows you the entire map and the specific locales and people involved. It is here where you can manage your affairs such as money, how many guards to control areas, where made men hide out, etc. This all sounds good right? Well indeed the whole Don control aspects are the meat of the game and will keep anyone interested from beginning to end. I do have a few certain gripes about the way the A.I. plays out in this portion of the game, such as territories being taken over too quickly, or even retaken over once controlled. So there are a few setbacks that hamper exploration in the game.

Where The Godfather II hurts in implementation is the actual gameplay itself. With a little more polish on visuals, controls, and A.I. The Godfather II could have been something special. Not that the game is unplayable or has major problems, but little things like floaty controls, the inability to jump unless prompted, the less than next generation visuals, and extremely dumb and erratic A.I. keep the game from living up to the expectations of many gamers. All my little nitpicks are vague and if you really enjoy the strategies and aspects of the Godfather II, then you will soon forget about the issues and appreciate what it does best; allows you to finally be the Don. There are many gamers out there who will let the action portions of the game intrude on their enjoyment, which is a shame as the core of the game is very addictive.

The Godfather II offers online play, but at the time of this review (before the game’s official release), it wasn’t yet implemented, so I was unable to be apart of the game’s online experience. You can however, join up and have an all out crew battle with 16 players by taking members of your own family online, raising their ranks, and even transfer cash into the single player campaign.

I for one love what ideas the developers had in store with The Godfather II. The strategy elements were well thought out, implemented nicely, and the game really gives players the feeling of controlling your own family. If a bit more polish and time were given to the game’s action portion, The Godfather II would indeed be one you couldn’t refuse. As is, I can only suggest playing it first to see if you are the kind of gamer who appreciates the game enough to endure the subtle flaws. If you are, you can rest assured you will have a great time going to the mattresses.

Thanks to Brian Peterson

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