Speaking of Grand Theft Auto, a lot of people are going to compare The Godfather: Blackhand Edition to Rockstar's best-selling 3D action/adventure series. But The Godfather is less about the open-ended game play and more about the overall story that takes you up the ranks. In a lot of ways The Godfather is more like the 2002 game, Mafia, than the Grand Theft Auto series. Along with the game's similar look and feel, many of the game's missions will feel instantly familiar to anybody who played through Mafia.
From the very beginning New York City is open for you to explore either by foot or car, which means you can get out there and extort businesses and hunt down people who your bosses want you to whack. These mini games are pretty simple (usually requiring you to do nothing more than beat somebody up or take over their business), but they go a long way in helping you earn enough money to afford whatever you want. Like many of the other open-ended games of recent years you can do just about anything you want (such as carjacking, beating innocent people up, and running from the cops), but don't expect to spend as much time completing these mini games as you might in one of the Grand Theft Auto titles.
The look of New York City is straight out of the movie. This is a perfect recreation of 1940s New York, complete with old cars, appropriate attire, and even a few classic songs from the era. You can drive around any of the city's five areas -- Little Italy, Brooklyn, Midtown, Hell's Kitchen, and New Jersey -- with no loading times, which gives you a chance to check out some of the key sites and find all of those hidden items. Not only that, but you are also able to go inside of many of the buildings and search out people and just see what is up. Sadly, most of the interiors are repeated more than you would like so after awhile the thrill of running through a motel killing people will subside and leave you wondering if you've been here before.
But enough about the buildings and city, it's the story that most people are going to be excited about ... and for good reason. Many of the biggest names from the movie make an appearance, which means that we get fine work from first-time voice actors like James Caan, Robert Duvall, and Abe Vigoda. The Godfather: The Game also marks one of the final performances by Hollywood legend Marlon Brando, who manages to add a lot of credibility to the Don Corleone character. It's a shame that not everybody came back to reprise their roles (the most disappointing being the lack of Al Pacino), but you'll hardly notice thanks to some otherwise amazing voice work.
Although there are a lot of different missions to complete, most of them seem to follow the same general theme. A typical mission has you driving to a location, shooting the place up, getting back in your car and then driving back to where you started. There are a few exceptions to this structure, including some stealth missions and a few car chases, but for the most part The Godfather doesn't deviate from these simple missions. That's not to say that these tasks are bad, in fact some of them are a whole lot of fun. The problem is that by the end of the game you kind of feel like you've played a certain type of mission a whole lot of times. Thankfully the game is fairly short and by the time you've noticed that your basically doing the same thing over and over you will be far too busy trying to outrun the cops and other gangsters.
Speaking of car chases, the vehicles in The Godfather feel pretty natural, which makes for some pretty exciting chase sequences. Sadly there aren't a lot of cars to choose from in the game. Perhaps that has more to do with the era than the game's design, but it's still noticeable when you've carjacked the same vehicle for the two-hundredth time. It's also worth noting that most of the cars (and occasional trucks) are extremely sluggish, to the point where it's sometimes not fun to drive them. To be fair, there are a couple cars that have fast top speeds, but this is not the type of game where you'll be raving about how fun it is to run from the cops and motor around the city. The good news is that the Wii's nunchuk control makes driving these cars a breeze; it definitely gives me confidence that this open-ended style of game can be done well on Nintendo's newest console.
Unfortunately none of the cars in The Godfather have radios, which means you will be forced to listen to the same incidental music for the entirety of the game. By no means is the music bad, but it won't take long before you start hating that Godfather theme. The fact that it plays ad nauseum while you're driving is enough to make you want to turn the music all the way down. In other versions of the game you could substitute your own music giving some variety to the soundtrack, sadly that is not available in the Wii port.
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