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The Godfather II Review
PIV 2800, 1GB RAM, 8GB HDD, 256MB video card
|ESRB rating: M
release date: Apr 07, 09 (released)
|» All About The Godfather II on ActionTrip|
You cannot talk about modern-day cinema without reflecting on masterpieces such as Francis Ford Coppola's 'The Godfather' trilogy. Electronic Arts didn't have a lot of success when bringing such a story closer to gaming audiences. Coppola openly criticizing the game before launch didn't help much either. The well-known director, producer and screenwriter basically disapproved of the game and admitted EA never consulted him on the project. Ironically, the game managed to encapsulate some of the movie magic, despite Coppola's explicit indifference and the absence of crucial characters from the movie. Even with its apparent GTA-like outer shell, The Godfather could stand on its own two feet as a good action adventure with a decent story, not to mention the fact that you had to battle rivaling families over rackets and businesses.
Much of this is preserved in the sequel, with EA making an obvious effort to improve gameplay, as well as make up for some of the original's shortcomings.
In The Godfather II gives you an opportunity to play a serious part in reestablishing the influence and power of Don Michael Corleone. You'll start with a modest family, which you may expand upon later in the game. Several other families are going to want a piece of the action, so it's your responsibility to keep businesses well-protected at all times. This is easier said than done, given how many people will be after your blood.
Generally, the narrative works just fine. Of course, listening to characters as they unravel the plot bit by bit will never be as engrossing as the work of Puzo and Coppola. The story presentation never reaches the appropriate cinematic tone, which we've all come to admire thanks to games like Mass Effect and, yes, GTA IV. The central character interacts with NPCs via the game's dialogue tree (again, similar to Mass Effect). Still, on a few rare occasions you have to be careful what you say to other characters, but in the end none of that will affect the outcome of the main storyline. Which in certain situations, when a respected family member is about to do something stupid, players don't have an alternative but to play along, instead of doing things their way. It does get a bit frustrating, unlike GTA IV, which allows you to define the relationship with each character in the game any way you see fit.
The Godfather II is a very straightforward game. At the outset, being a Don might seem slightly overwhelming, but you'll soon figure out it boils down to a simple recipe: kill, extort, defend and then repeat. The system is easy to get into, but somehow makes the game dreary after a while. You move up the mafia ladder by killing or scaring the crap out of influential people and important crime figures, eventually assuming control of different businesses and making sure they are guarded. Once I completed the main campaign (I'd say it should take anywhere between 8 and 10 hours), I realized that the whole experience could've used a bit more diversity. You can hunt down various members of enemy families individually or you can take over all their businesses. Players are offered a variety of optional side-missions, which sometimes make a nice break from the monotony of racketeering (never thought racketeering could become monotonous). These give you a chance to earn cash to hire additional goons or upgrade key family members.
So, where does it end? Well, it goes all the way, until you're sitting on top of the most powerful crime organization in the country. Getting there was fun, I must confess. Sadly, there's little to single out in terms of gameplay. Altogether, there are three cities where players may roam freely and claim their turf. This puts tactics into play and that's one of the most appealing features of the game. It won't be long before you conquer all businesses. Opposing families will attempt to reclaim their territory quite often, but if you keep sending soldiers to defend critical locations, chances are they'll always be victorious against any attackers. Regardless, I did enjoy the aspect of building my on family and personally promoting loyal 'soldiers' and sending them on various errands. You determine everything, from their physical appearance, attire, skills and equipment. The game offers a pretty solid selection of firearms and each family member (including you) can specialize in wielding a particular weapon.
Now, we honestly did not except to encounter so many technical cock-ups. Gunfights are certainly the most common pastime when you're a prosperous mobster. However, the moment you begin shooting your way through crowded enemy alleyways and local gangster-infested nightclubs, you'll notice one blunder after another. The cover system, for one, isn't very intuitive and it gets really frustrating when the game doesn't allow you to get behind specific objects or surfaces. There's also the annoying 'vault' issue. The character can, for instance, avoid obstacles along the way, such as low walls, by pressing the 'E' button and simply vaulting over. For some inexplicable reason, you cannot jump over obstacles that could easily be avoided in real life; which means you take the long way around and that poses a rather exasperating problem when you're in the middle of a shootout.
The Godfather II needs some serious work in the graphics department. Although, overall, there's nothing wrong with the game's ambiance. It's clear that some work went into conveying the authenticity of that particular era. Even so, it all looks too damn retro - poor texture patterns, recurring car models, etc. Also, the damage model could've been way better. Brutally smashing cars leads to nothing but puny chassis damage, scratched paint and a busted tale light at best. We've experienced sudden framerate drops on solid rigs, which doesn't say much for the PC version (knew I should've played the 360 edition). What's more, at one point in the game, you'll be driving through a different version of virtual NYC - one that's deprived of all street traffic (!?!).
Give it a chance and it can turn into an okay action game provided you can forgive the absence of iconic characters like Michael Corleone, upgrading your family members is fun, weapon variety, watching pixelated topless chicks;
Serious technical problems, graphics are behind the times, relies too heavily on recurring gameplay mechanics, needs better characterization, weird AI behavior.