Electronic Arts' first attempt at recreating The Godfather was, for the most part, a huge success ... and I should know, I went through the game on five different consoles. For whatever reason (mostly having to do with my job), I ended up playing through the game on the PlayStation 2, original Xbox, PSP, Wii and Xbox 360. In fact, the ONLY console I don't own The Godfather on is the PlayStation 3. Deep down there's a part of me that does a double take every time I see a used PS3 copy at a game store.
The Godfather: The Game wasn't a perfect experience, but it did tell a fascinating story, move along at a nice pace and offer an intriguing world that was just different enough from all of the other Grand Theft Auto clones on the market. As silly as it sounds, I had a lot of fun seeing some of the best scenes from the movie from a completely different (and often interactive) point of view. Given the high quality of the first game and the source material (by all accounts a better movie), I was genuinely excited about this sequel. It's rare for me to get excited about a sequel to a movie game, but this was one of those times. Sadly, now I know that I got my hopes up for nothing.
It's as if Electronic Arts decided to take everything that was great about the first game - reliving your favorite moments from the movie, always having a variety of things to do, the unique world to explore - and replaced it with a standard run-and-gun action game that takes place in some awfully familiar locations. The game attempts to fuse a bunch of good ideas together, but due to the game's unfinished feel, sub-par graphics and terrible A.I. helpers, The Godfather II is a deal I'm going to have to pass up.
The game is set in the late 1950s, several years after the events of the first game. You play Dominic, a customizable character who is one of the Dons of New York City. You start out simply taking over other businesses controlled by other gangs, but quickly the story has you traveling from one city to the next, and eventually getting caught up in a whole messy situation that involves the new Cuban government, the U.S. government and all of the mobsters in between. And if that wasn't enough, you still have to worry about those opposing families, each doing whatever it takes you rub you out of the picture.
The game takes place in three different locations, all of them overused by modern day sandbox games. There's New York City, which you may remember from such games as Grand Theft Auto IV and True Crime: New York. There's Florida, which we've seen in everything from Grand Theft Auto: Vice City to Scarface. And finally there's Cuba, which we've seen before in the Driver series. Despite being criminally overused, it isn't impossible to have a unique take on these three diverse locations. Unfortunately that's not the case with The Godfather II. At no point do the developers try and add authentic atmosphere to make you feel like you're in Cuba, New York or Florida. Instead we get a generic map with very little space to explore and even less to do.
Each city has a certain amount of businesses, it is your job to convince the proprietor of each business to side with you and start paying you for protection money. You do this by rushing into a building, guns a blazing, and then slapping the owner around until he agrees to your terms. Then, just to be on the safe side, you hire a bunch of security guards to stand watch just in case the other families try and take back the business. And they will. In fact, the first half of the game is nothing but you trying to balance taking over each business with protecting the ones you already own.
In theory the fun of the game is beating back the bad guys and then making sure they don't take over your land again. The problem with this theory is that it turns into a lot of redundant missions. Even when you hire security, it's common for one of your enemies to take back your businesses. This means that you will have to go back to that same property, kill all of the attackers again, and then, you guessed it, convince the owner to stick with you ... again.
Maybe I'm just a terrible Don, but I found myself repeating the same levels over and over again, enjoying them less each and every time. Not that I enjoyed them to begin with, for the most part these missions are as rudimentary as they come. These businesses (which mostly look the same, for whatever reason) are bland and dull, they are nothing more than big areas to facilitate a bunch of run and gun action. And while the controls aren't bad and the aiming is usually pretty good, the game's redundant back and forth mission structure was enough to turn me off of the game almost immediately.
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