It's no secret that The Godfather was coming to the Xbox 360. Back when Electronic Arts first announced the project they mentioned that it would be on every game system under the sun. Yet here we are half a year after the game was released on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox finally getting a next generation port of The Godfather. The good news is that this version of the game is just as good as it was on the other systems; it's a solid action game that is well worth going through at least once. Unfortunately it's not much of a next generation title, it may look and sound a little better but outside of a few cosmetic differences there are no reasons to pick this game up over the older, cheaper versions.
If you somehow missed the PS2 and Xbox originals (or simply do not own one of those systems) then prepare yourself for a great action game set in an interesting world full memorable characters. As you have probably guessed already from the title, this is the video game adaptation of the 1972 classic movie directed by Francis Ford Coppola. It combines 1940s New York City with the tried and true Grand Theft Auto style of game play.
Instead of playing as one of the movie's central characters, you have a chance to experience life as a brand new player that does not appear in any of the films. From the very start you have a chance to create your character in the same way you might in one of EA's sports titles (such as the Tiger Woods series). You start out as nothing more than a grunt, the type of character everybody bosses around; but soon enough you'll be climbing your way up the ladder to eventually become the Don of New York City.
Despite the appearance of this new character, The Godfather: The Game manages to stay surprisingly close to the source material. Your character (which you get to name whatever you want) finds himself with a front row seat for just about every key moments in Francis Ford Coppola's epic. In most cases you'll be the one actually performing the tasks that lead to everything from the famous horse head scene to all of the death sequences that gave the movie its edge. Although EA did take a few liberties, if you're one of the many fans of the movie chances are you'll have a great time living this interactive version.
At first you'll be asked to do simple tasks, usually involving you beating somebody up or delivering something from point A to point B. The hand to hand combat is a welcome surprise, instead of using the face buttons to jab and punch you use the right analog stick for all of your attacks(similar to how you control your fighters in EA's popular Fight Night series). This keeps the combat interesting, allowing you to perform a number of powerful attacks that are a lot of fun to control. Along with the standard hand to hand fighting you can also strangle enemies and even push them off of tall buildings.
On the other end of the spectrum is the gun play, which is easily the worst part of The Godfather. In a lot of ways The Godfather's aim mechanics are similar to Rockstar Games' Grand Theft Auto series, except that here they are considerably worse. You hold one of the shoulder buttons to aim and then you hope that the auto aimer points to the correct enemy. More times that not you will accidentally aim at the wrong guy which leaves you open to all kinds of cheap hits. Switching between the enemies is also extremely difficult, something that gets in the way of the fun late in the game when the difficulty is ratcheted up.
The biggest problem with the gun controls is that if you don't actually aim at something you will shoot your gun straight down at the ground. In a lot of action games if you aren't aiming at something you just shoot straight forward at whatever angle your character is facing, but not in The Godfather. There were more than a few times where I thought I had targeted something but quickly discovered that I was doing nothing more than wasting my bullets by shooting at my feet. Thankfully you can switch to a manual aim mode. This mode actually makes the game feel more like a traditional first-person shooter, which ended up being something I found extremely useful. But even with the manual aim, The Godfather's gun controls just aren't as good as they should be. It's a shame EA wasn't able to address these problems by the time they released it on the Xbox 360.
Along with the disappointing aiming you may also find that there aren't as many weapons as you might have hoped for. There is your standard fare, such as a tommy gun and a shotgun, as well as a few alternate weapons, like a baseball bat and Molotov cocktails. When these weapons stop being as effective as they should you can hit up the back-alley arms dealer and upgrade them a couple of times. There may be fewer guns to play with, but in a lot of ways you can still cause the type of chaos that made games like Grand Theft Auto so popular.
Speaking of Grand Theft Auto, a lot of people are going to compare The Godfather: The Game to Rockstar's best-selling 3D 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 see what is going on. 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 video game 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.
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. The good news is that in this Xbox 360 version you can substitute the repeating music with the tunes you keep on your hard drive or computer. While it's fun to listen to your own music, chances are you don't have a lot of MP3s that fit the overall atmosphere of a game like The Godfather.
As you complete the missions you will be given experience points, which allows you to level up and increase your character's stats. Each time you level up you will be given a couple of points to put wherever you want, such as your fighting skills, proficiency with the gun, speed, health and so on. Getting your character to a high level will make him extremely difficult to kill, especially if you've upgraded your weapons and have mastered the control. That won't mean you won't die from a direct shotgun blast to the face, but it curbs those unfortunate situations quite a bit.
Don't worry too much about dying, though. Although it's a blow to your confidence, chances are you're going to be dying a lot while playing through The Godfather. But that's okay, because if you do run out of health you will be revived at the nearest hospital for a nominal fee. Best of all you get to keep your weapons and just try again. Better yet, if you die in the middle of a mission you will only have to start over at the checkpoint, which can make things a lot easier. As the game winds down you will probably pass on more than you would like, but only after the game decides to go from normal difficulty to hard (and cheap). Still, The Godfather is never too frustrating and can easily be beaten if you have the patience and can put up with a few frustrating game play hiccups.
The most noticeable improvement to this Xbox 360 version of The Godfather is the graphics. While the game looked pretty good on the PS2 and Xbox, this Xbox 360 port manages to look substantially better. The game's graphics are nowhere near as impressive as those found in Ghost Recon or Gears of War, but they certainly look a lot cleaner and more detailed than they did six months ago on those other consoles. The Godfather ends up falling into all of the traps so common to next generation ports of current generation games. Like so many ports that came before it, The Godfather's graphics look pretty good when you're playing it, but it's hard not to be a little disappointed that it wasn't built from the ground up. Had this originally been an Xbox 360 game I can only imagine how much better it would have looked, but that's not the case and instead we're stuck playing a game that isn't terrible looking, but won't impress your friends looking to see what all the fuss about the "next generation" is all about.
Sadly there aren't a lot of incentives to pick up this Xbox 360 version over the versions released six months ago. The game does come with a bunch of achievement points, including a few that require a lot of time and effort on your part. On top of the points you can also upload your stats to an online leader board, something I didn't find to be all that exciting. There's also some downloadable content you can buy on the Xbox Live Marketplace. While there isn't a large selection of stuff to purchase, you can pick up game cheats and upgraded guns not found on the $60 disc.
Believe or not, this is the third time I've gone through The Godfather. I feel it's a solid action game that is well worth playing regardless of what system you own. But when it comes down to it this Xbox 360 version is a tough sell. This version of the game is going for a steep $60, a good twenty dollars more than it is on all of the other systems. There's a good time to be had here, but I can't help but feel like this is a bad deal. If you don't mind spending the money then you'll have a lot of fun beating people up, getting chased by the cops and becoming the Don of New York City. Everybody else should just check out the cheaper current generation version that packs the same content with slightly worse graphics.