Sometimes slapping a new coat of paint makes a world of difference.
The Godfather on Xbox 360 goes against the usual M.O. for Electronic Arts next-gen titles. Instead of simply porting the game to the next-gen, like Need for Speed for instance, or subtracting gameplay options in favor of enhance graphics, like the 06 Sports titles, EA Redwood Shores took a little extra time to package everything they wanted in the next-gen Godfather. The result is a game that addresses some of the issues from before while raising problems of its own. While it is flawed in many ways, it still manages to be a much more compelling title than the previous release.
You’ve heard the story, either in my previous review of the PSP version, or in one of the previous reviews we’ve done. Players get to place themselves in the fiction, watching their character become an integral piece of the Godfather. The movie and the game don’t match up exactly, but many of the scenes and lines are used in interesting ways to integrate your nameless character into the rest of the story. Much of the original actors return, including Robert Duvall as Tom Hagen and James Caan as Sonny Corleone, not to mention the late Marlon Brando, who recorded lines new dialog for the game before his passing. The most important character to the story, Michael Corleone, is not voiced by its original actor. In fact, Al Pacino’s character even looks different than in the film.
All of this, of course, isn’t new. What is new are the three or four new story missions that have been added to flesh out the plot a little. The most notable inclusion happens towards the beginning of the game after you hear of Tom Hagen’s kidnapping. In the original version, Tom Hagen “talks his way out” of the situation and returns unharmed. Here, in the 360 version, the player follows Clemenza to rescue Hagen instead. Adding a mission such as this helps to involve the player deeper into the fiction and fleshes out the experience more than before. Favors, which are essentially side-missions that you can perform for the Corleone family, also add a little variety and flavor that was lacking before.
EA has gone to great lengths to push the additional content found in the 360 version, and for good reason. The additional content in the 360 version would be akin to an expansion pack in a PC game. Aside from the added story missions and Favors mentioned before, this version sports five more hit contracts, four new vehicles, six new melee weapons, and 25 new execution styles for players to discover and perform. Most of this content simply adds more of the same that we’ve seen before, but fulfilling the “All Executions” is a blast. Just as before, executions are graphic and chilling, making it one of the games greatest draws.
Besides the new hits and weapons, there have been completely new additions to the gameplay model itself, ensuring that the play experience isn’t the same as before. Enter the hirable soldiers, a mechanic that feels so right that it would be impossible to play the Godfather without it. When you become a part of the family you can pay a fellow footsoldier to follow you on your raids and extortions to watch your back. When you are hassling a shop keeper, your hired gun will be watching the door for the eminent threat of rival mobsters crashing on you. The best is using your hitman in drive-bys. Pulling up to a warehouse or hub and having your bodyguard shooting a tommy-gun from the back seat is an awesome way to start a raid.
As cool as all this sounds, there are tons of flaws to the actual mechanics involved. The AI that handles your ally is as flawed as the enemies, meaning it will waste tons of time shooting at a wall instead of positioning for a better shot, leave its back turned to an open door where an enemy may pop up, and stand right next to high-explosives instead of shooting them from afar. There are tons of horror stories I could tell about my idiot Capo partners that have let me die, but the best is during a warehouse raid late in the game. After reloading my Street Sweeper and taking a solid shotgun blast to the chest (thanks for the cover buddy) I noticed another guy up the stairs behind a whole mess of high-explosive boxes. I noticed too late, however, because before I could turn and run away from an almost guaranteed AI-caused explosion, my buddy blasted the closest box to the enemy, causing the entire corridor, including myself, blow sky high. The hired guns aren’t always as bad a liability as this, but paying an AI five-grand doesn’t guarantee your safety as it should.
Aiming and controls remain vastly unchanged, at least from what I can tell. Whether it be running from car to car with the Assassin Pistol picking off thugs one at a time as you approach a complex or running and gunning with a Street Sweeper as you enter the complex’s buildings, the controls are closer to Killswitch than Grand Theft Auto. One thing that I noticed while playing was that the computer was deathly accurate at blind shooting with machine guns and shotguns, while you can’t do the same. I would have been nice to see a blind-shot of some sort added to the wall-cover mechanics. Blind spots are still a problem that hasn’t been fully addressed. While rare, there were times in warehouses where I couldn’t lock on to someone standing in plain sight. The situation was frustrating, but switching to free-aim is a semi-reliable option when the lock-on feature fails.
Starting with the opening scene’s of the game and the character creation, the enhanced graphics make their mark on what was originally an average looking game. The very first thing that you may notice is the game’s variable weather, which is pretty much a standard fare for other games. Facial animations have been enhanced a little, particularly in the main characters. From Tom Hagen’s stoic stance and expression to Sonny’s loose and free mannerisms, the game does just about everything imaginable to remain faithful to the source material. These are during cut-scenes of course, and the in-game animations aren’t as neat or faithful, relying on the overused “tough-guy” stances for Sonny or the shoulder wiggles for Hagen. As an overall visual package, slowdown during heated gun-fights or chases hurts what would otherwise be an impressive looking game.
The greatest appeal for this title during my time with it was the sense of purpose and accomplishment I felt while completing the game’s many different side missions. Conquering New York systematically requires a player to juggle straight shootouts with tactful negotiations. San Andreas, which sports a larger play area and more side-missions, never struck the same chord with me. And for that matter, neither did the recently released Saint’s Row. For players that are hankering for some mob action, even if they had played it before during its previous release, they could do worse than to take the Godfather for a ride. Just remember that negotiations with cash are usually not as effective as negotiations with a boom-stick.
“I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse.” We’ve all done it. We’ve all wondered what it would be like to be a mob boss. Money, power and respect. Every time you sit down in an Italian restaurant, you look around and pretend that someone has a hit out on you. You eat your veal picatta, sip your wine, you keep an eye open waiting for the hit. Out of the corner of your eye, you see a strange, shadowy fellow slowly standing up with a napkin draped over his hand. Slowly he makes his way towards you, while checking to make sure the coast is clear. You kick your table up to reveal your tommy gun, and you go to town on your would be assailant. “EAT LEAD” you scream over the hail of bullets. Of course, this is all just going through your head because we will never be in those situations as times have changed. But wouldn’t it be great!? The danger! Excitement! Lucky for us Electronic Arts is churning out The Godfather: The Game, which will allow us all to live out our mob boss fantasies in one of the most visually realistic looking games I’ve seen to date.
New York 1945, you’ve just been accepted in the Corleone Family; one of the largest and most respected mob families in New York. However, you do not play as one of the famous Corleones. Rather as a mobster you create. The Create A Mobster feature is fairly limited. After all, women had very small and limited roles in the mob, and most guys wore suits. You pretty much create your own 1940’s Sicilian “New Yorka!” And just like in any good mob family, you start at the bottom, the very bottom.
The Godfather is held in a “living world”, very much like the Grand Theft Auto series or Spider-Man 2, so you go around and pick up little jobs to increase your rep on the street. The higher your reputation, the better jobs you’re given. Jobs can have a lot of different dimensions to them. One of the first jobs in the game is to visit a local grocer, who is under the protection of the Corleone family. After visiting, the grocer gives you some information about a new cop, who needs some “attention”, a butcher who needs to know how things are run in your town, and a new comer who’s causing trouble with the locals. This is where some nifty features come in. You can go and bribe the cop to keep him away from anything wrong you may be doing. You then get to go visit your new butcher friend. He isn’t exactly sure how things are run in the town, and you offer the protection of the Corleones. Of course the butcher will not be too keen on the idea, but you’re Sicilian, and you’re going to make him an offer he can’t refuse. This is where the games Extort feature comes in. It works very much like The Punisher’s interrogation feature, where by the push of a button you pressure your subject into doing your bidding.
When you begin your extortion, you are given the control to either apply more pressure on the subject, which usually means more force and violent behavior, or if you have a lot of respect you can ease off the subject. The respect comes into play and determines how people will view you. If you tend to use more brute force to get what you want, people will begin the view you as a monster and you may have to speak with the Don and be told to tone it down. If you tend to go lighter on people, especially opposing families then you’ll be viewed as weak and walked all over. But either way, speaking with the Don would be one of the biggest treats of the game, as Marlon Brando returns to his immortal role for one of his last performances ever.
The voice-overs really add to the game as famous Godfather actors such as Robert Duvall, James Caan and Marlon Brando lent their voices and likenesses to the game. The sound will be top notch with not only the actors but also the original motion picture score by Godfather composer Nino Rota. The Godfather also delivers some of the most stunning and realistic visuals that I have personally ever seen in a game. The character models are so incredibly detailed from the way their hair is parted to their five o’clock shadow to the stitching on their clothing. The city itself is an amazing sight as every NPC has incredible detail; with drunks staggering into the street, paperboys shouting the top headlines, and steam from the manhole covers adding to the noir feel of the film.
EA put a lot of effort into the Godfather to make it a game not based on the movie, but a realistic experience as to what it would be like to be a part of the story. The Godfather will be a sight to see, and I’m hoping, will not disappoint.