The Godfather II
For a licence of such stature and magnitude, there’s something vital missing in The Godfather II. Thrown into a seedy world of gritty gang violence and ‘family outings’, the premise of becoming an influential Don is somewhat appealing to those who fancy themselves as an arse-kicking, face-stomping virtual drug-lord who just loves to flirt with streams of big-breasted, even bigger mouthed women. Unfortunately in reality, such exciting affairs need to be left to the film cast of such an influential gangster trilogy, as The Godfather II game arrives with the depth and repetition of sitting next to your absent-minded Nan at Christmas.
After a brief Cuban based introduction to your character Dom, you’ll be hurled into New York City to head a faltering Corleone empire, set with the task of building a force that has the strength to overpower the other families looking for total domination. Within this, you’ll witness key events from the film (which we won’t spoil), albeit from the perspective of your wannabe made-man. With plenty of others willing to do the dirty work so you can sit back and reap the rewards, stripping The Godfather II down to its bare-bones reveals that, beneath the ‘50s swagger and bland visuals, you have an unforgivably masked attack and defence title. Although entertaining to begin with, repetition sets in after only a few hours of play, as you lead your men into building after warehouse after building to overcome the seemingly possible odds of your minutely brained enemies.
Don’t get us wrong, we love breaking into banks and profitable strip-clubs to overrun them by force, but when the designs of such locations are mind-numbingly worn-out and incredibly predictable, we begin to feel as if we shouldn’t have bothered. Many buildings act as mazes that strive to keep you inside for as long as possible, with design choices seemingly coming from an inspirational child who can scribble on a piece of paper. Throw the dumbest AI on the current generation into the mix and you have yourself a title that wants to remind you that it’s going to follow the movie-tie-in check list at all possible points. With your enemies often running away from cover in favour of sapping bullets like a human sponge and your allies becoming seemingly baffled with how to enter a car properly, EA have published a remarkably slapstick rendition of Coppola’s dark tale.
Once out of New York, you’ll have the chance to escape to Florida and eventually, the authority-infested nastiness of Cuba. All three maps are relatively small and confusing, but it’s the Cuban area in particular that’ll have you wishing you had stayed on American shores. With identical, tight, twisting roads that are full of roadblocks and policing presence, the poor car handling that was previously pardonable now serves as the game’s biggest frustration, as you strive to stay away from unwanted attention. Unfortunately, the tiniest mistake is punished in Cuba even when you’re not on a mission to take out one of the continent’s most dangerous ringleaders. It’s a shame that one of the more memorable missions is a scripted jeep chase through this section, as it underlines how the title fails to successfully utilise a change of pace at any time.
With all this said, The Godfather II does have an excellent mapping system that allows you to trawl across a 3D blueprint of each area’s skyline. Any vital action is also marked, as you can send your squad of suit wearing, cigar-toting minions to tackle the threat before you arrive. As you’re forced to handpick these guys yourself, it’s important that you find followers who have a variety of skills, as it opens up a set of very limited, albeit progressive ways of making your business attacks easier. It’s up to you to find those who are best equipped in gun-fights, at cracking safes, cutting through fences and even the invaluable medic. Any money you earn can be used to upgrade each individual (and place a greater set of guards on your property), as your offensive actions will often initiate a string of reactions from rival gangs, meaning you need back-up to cover your backside when things get alarmingly dirty. As the leader of the pack, it’s your job to spot weaknesses in your side and, if necessary, eliminate them before they become a thorn in the side of a growing power.
Although this squad-focused system sounds great, it came as a surprise that I found a way round the limitations of only have three men by my side at any one time. Rather significantly, by rolling up to a target with a trio, then disbanding them and equipping three alternative followers allows you to have twice the force and twice the cannon fodder. The guys you originally had in place tag along for the hell of it, meaning any potential threat is eliminated without any problem whatsoever. It’s these little niggles that hold The Godfather II back, forcing it to nervously look at old sandbox competition like Crackdown with infantile admiration.
For hardcore fans that could stomach the endless repetition, lifeless city and universal blandness, there should be enough here to keep you interested. The game’s ferociously brutal, allowing you to pull off some truly gruesome and barbaric attacks. The game has its certificate 18 rating for a reason, as you gun-butt eye sockets, bluntly saw necks, and splatter brains across the pavement from point blank range. Often, you’re tasked with taking out a particular Capo or influential individual via a certain attack, with failure to do so leading to them returning from hospital for another bite at the inviting gangster lifestyle. By forcing you to annihilate them in a certain way you’ll get to use a variation of weapons, all of which are pleasingly authentic and powerful enough to satisfy the most sadistic of leaders.
Regrettably, as you unlock the various upgrades and rewards for taking over an entire crime-ring (such as all the strip-clubs or chop shops), the wanting to continue playing this game wilts considerably. It’s undeniably cool having a bulletproof car and matching vest, but we wanted to get a crack at the big guns a lot sooner than we did. Actually, we wanted to be tested in ways other than ‘Go here, attack this,’ that is highlighted over and over again. The best part of the game is undeniably the offence on each rival Don’s compound, which is heavily guarded and tough to break through. Killing your peers is the height of the fun, which sadly only arises a few times after hours of mindless playtime. Still, it’s worth questioning if these minutes of entertainment are worth slogging through the game for, especially when you consider there is an insanely placed stealth section that’ll have any self-respecting gamer pulling out their teeth with disgust. When I said they’ve ticked every possible movie-tie-in cliché earlier, I wasn’t lying.
After experiencing The Godfather II in its entirety, it’s impossible to deny that this is an unfinished, irrational product that fails to capitalise on the license which has been well and truly worn out after two poor iterations. It’s barely worth mentioning the online multiplayer, which plays out like a vagabond’s version of GTA IV. In the end, that’s what makes this title so inexplicably poor; it aims to replicate the luscious life and experience of a Don, and only ever provides the opportunity to become a hit and run chump.