When I first reviewed The Godfather
earlier this year I concluded that it was a surprisingly solid action game with a great story and atmosphere. Here we are six months later and a brand new version of EA's crime drama has been released on the Sony PSP, unfortunately it's nowhere near as good as its console counterparts. In fact, I would go as far as to say that The Godfather: Mob Wars
is a downright disappointment, and the PSP is not the system you should be playing this game on.
While it's true that The Godfather: Mob Wars is essentially the same game that was on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox earlier this year, it is riddled with one problem after another. It has horrible control, shallow missions and all of the driving missions completely removed. The story and atmosphere remain intact, but the presentation is not enough to keep you interested in this shoddy port.
On the consoles The Godfather was a Grand Theft Auto clone that did a great job following the movie. This PSP port manages to follow the movie, but for some odd reason Electronic Arts has decided to excise all of the driving in the game. There is not one point in this portable version of the game where you will control a car or explore the world around you. By getting rid of this element you end up having to play disjointed missions that never come off feeling whole. Considering how vehicle-heavy the console versions were, it's downright perplexing to see them left out.
While it may sound trivial, the driving portions of the game actually made up quite a bit of the action. It wasn't just about exploring New York City; it also gave you the feeling like you were part of the action, especially when the police were hot on your tail. In this PSP version you get to watch a lengthy cinema scene, play a short on-foot mission, and then watch another long cinema scene. Each mission starts with you being dropped off mere steps away from your target, which means that you will never have to run too far in order to complain an assignment.
The cinemas look fantastic and tell an interesting story, but they are much too long when compared to the short amount of game play. Some of the cinemas can go on for a good five minutes, which would be okay if the on-foot missions weren't so short. There are more than a few missions that only have two or three minutes of actual game play, which is then followed by yet another long cinema. To make matters worse, you can't skip the cinema even if you wanted to. And don't even get me started on the load times, which feel as long as the cinemas at times.
Thankfully the story is still intact. 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. In the console versions of the game you were allowed to create your own character, but for whatever reason EA has decided to delete that option from this portable version. 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 finds himself with a front row seat for just about every key moment 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.
The action in The Godfather was extremely repetitious with you doing the same kind of mission multiple times. The console version got away with this because it spread out the monotonous foot missions with a lot of driving missions. Unfortunately that is not the case with this PSP version of the game; you will be playing one boring on-foot mission after another, all of which adds up to a whole lot of boring game play.
What makes this game especially heinous is that nearly all of the action in The Godfather: Mob Wars is broken beyond repair. To start with the camera is atrocious, never quite giving you the angle you want. You can look around by holding one of the shoulder buttons, but don't expect to change the camera when you really need to (like when you're running). This is hardly the first PSP game to have this problem with the camera, but for some odd reason it just feels worse in this game.
But the camera isn't the only problem; you are also going to have to put up with what has to be the single worst targeting systems I have ever seen. Auto targeting is nothing new on the PSP (or on any console, for that matter), but for some odd reason it feels like The Godfather goes out of its way to keep you from looking at the right enemy. By holding the left shoulder button you will target one of the enemies … at least, that's the idea. Unfortunately, in practice this rarely works out in your favor. If you do manage to target somebody at all chances are good that it's not the person closest to you. This means that while you are leaving yourself open to the enemies (who don't share your trouble with aiming) you will be hit with way too many cheap shots.
And that's not the worst of it. Sometimes you can be looking in the direction of the enemy and not target anything at all. This is especially frustrating because if you don't have a target you will only shoot down, towards your feet. By holding both the left and right shoulder buttons you will be able to manually aim, but you might as well not even try this because you will never have the camera in a position where this is advantageous. All this leads to dozens of cheap deaths that will have you wondering if it's even worth continuing.
Since EA has (unwisely) decided to excise all of the driving missions, there appears to be no need for a full city. On the console New York City was fleshed out and somewhat interesting, but you won't be seeing any of that in this PSP game. Instead all of the missions take place in identical looking buildings, some of which are repeated several times. There are a few outdoor missions, but even those quickly lead you to an indoor area that will put you to sleep. Perhaps I wouldn't have such a problem with the corridor levels if it wasn't for the terrible camera and aiming, but the narrow passageways only compound the problem.
To make up for the missing driving missions Electronic Arts has decided to give this PSP game an exclusive … card game? In the main hub you will have a choice between the story mode and the Mob Wars mode, which is an odd turn-based card game that has a bit of a learning curve, but proves to be somewhat entertaining. You buy cards, move characters around the board, and even get to play some on-foot missions to steal other territories. This mode is actually pretty deep, and once you've gotten into it Mob Wars can be pretty addicting. Of course, this is when compared to the watered down story mode. As a stand alone product Mob Wars gets old quick, but it's certainly more fun that fighting with the camera in the story mode.
I get the feeling that the developers had a good idea with Mob Wars, but they never quite figured out how to make it work in the confines of the game. This mode, much like the story mode, doesn’t feel very complete, and ends up making you yearn for something more, something that was fun. As it is, neither mode is as much fun as it thinks it is.
One thing The Godfather: Mob Wars does get right is the presentation. 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: Mob Wars 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.
As you complete the missions you will get 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, aim, 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.
The graphics, while adequate, are something of a mixed bag. The Godfather looks great when you're given a close up of the characters, each modeled perfectly from the movie. As you step back, though, you'll be disappointed by the repeating textures, occasionally grainy graphics, and strange animations. This version also has a few hiccups that are exclusive to the PSP. Sometimes when you shoot a character the game will freeze for a second or two for what seems like no reason. While this isn't the worst thing about the game, it does feel like yet another problem in a long line of disappointing setbacks.
After seeing what Rockstar was able to do with Grand Theft Atuo on the PSP it's hard to accept this half-assed port of The Godfather. It seems odd that Electronic Arts decided to take out most of the fun elements of the game and replace them with additions that are barely worth talking about. There is no good reason to own The Godfather: Mob Wars on the PSP, it's a port that should not have been attempted. I hate to say it, but this is an offer that you CAN refuse!