The Godfather II Review

godfatherIIThe Godfather II [Available on Xbox 360, PS3, PC]
ESRB Rated: M
Number of Players: 1-16
Genre: Action
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA Redwood
Release Date: April 7th, 2009

It feels bittersweet that I was introduced to the ProjectCOE fanbase via a glowing review of The Godfather: Blackhand Edition, only to be less-than-thrilled with its successor.  The Godfather II wasn’t even published for Nintendo’s little white box, but that’s a positive considering the game is whacked by a mess of issues.  I often refer to them as “ankle-biters”, like your neighbor’s ridiculously annoying, football-sized dog, and unfortunately all the little nibbles bring this sequel to its knees.  It doesn’t matter that Godfather II wasn’t dealt a deathblow as a result; this game isn’t what fans expected or deserved.

First and foremost, this is one of those releases that beg constant questioning, which begins now.   What possessed topless women to wander about the catwalks of a warehouse equipped with an industrial-size furnace?  Why didn’t the travel agent find me suspicious booking a flight wearing a bulletproof vest and ammo belt?  What was the point of an option for small talk with side mission NPCs if I could just skip the BS and respond with a simple, yet hilarious “Yes.”?  Didn’t anyone think it was strange to be able to instantly transport family members to a city 1500 miles away just because a rival group was assaulting one of your rackets?   Why, after being arrested, did I still complete a mission that called for the theft of documents from NY’s federal building, just because I managed to breach the safe containing them?  Was there nothing written in the technical design to allow the local law enforcement to clean out my pockets? These are but a handful of the curious thoughts that came to mind as I took over New York, Florida and Cuba as a Don appointed by Michael Corleone, and I sadly never encountered a single answer.

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After that brief rant, I pray that you haven’t forgotten The Godfather II’s is a sequel, which means to expect more of the previous game.  If you played any version of The Godfather last generation, you’d feel instantly at home here, though that’s also either great or terrible news.  This author accepted the repeat gameplay, despite its borderline exasperating nature.  You employ brute force on local crime fronts, such as drug and prostitution rings, to rake in a share of the operating profits.  However, G2 is a mirror opposite of its older brother in that you start as a Don in the Corleone family, instead of working your way up to that esteem.  The character creation hasn’t disappeared nonetheless, as you still customize a mafia protagonist; it’s a merely underwhelming package.  It’s interesting however to witness the plot unfold from this perspective.  The events are faithful to film, but this game won’t replace watching it.  For all intents of purposes no less, you’re playing The Godfather with a few noteworthy mechanics thrown on top.

Before I talk remaining gameplay though, I’ll as might as well knock off the rest of the presentation.  Sadly, the visual engine doesn’t impress, even if the quality isn’t too bad.  The characters at times off as plastic dolls, the frame rate is horrendous during heavy action, and failed optimization makes the cities look like they’re being built as you explore them.  Typically games are affected by texture pop-in and screen tear, but not G2.  Anywhere you travel, you literally see the environment streaming in, as if the buildings, cars and their respective interiors are being drawn right there.  The source material integration is appealing and all, but the delivery is overshadowed by the many glitches.  Really, it’s sad when the best aspect of a game’s visuals is the 3D map.  I like how clean and organized the interface is.  Even the Don’s View, while a pain to access because of the need for incessant pausing, keeps your information conveniently filed away.  It’s too bad the more important execution couldn’t bear similar results.

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The sound design fares better, but not by much.  I thought significant dialogue was decidedly laughable due to poorly-written lines and awkward delivery.  The mafia representatives’ interactions prove most authentic thanks to the film material (with the exception of Hyman Roth, who sounded like a painfully monotone David Paymer), but everything else is off.  G2 actually made me pity the citizens’ mental problems because so many don’t bat an eye asking you to bust up your own rackets, kill somebody, or commit arson.  The latter is also plain dumb.  Sure it yields the highest monetary reward of a favor ($10,000), but then you temporarily forfeit a crime ring bonus.  Plus, I was never desperate for a quick payday, so leave your fronts alone.  The rest of the audio is pleasing.  The weapons all sound their part, especially what I always pay attention to, the shotgun *grin*.  The music is also mafia-appropriate, but it’s nothing you’d hum the day after.  It’s a crying shame no less than the theme for the ending credits turned out to be the catchiest for the entire game; that’s a no-no.

Now the gameplay, which is comprised of: gun fights, building your family, racket takeovers, doing favors and driving.  I ordered those purposefully as well, to emphasize from most entertaining, to sheer annoying.  Let’s start with the juicy details eh?  Driving in The Godfather II is about as fun as stabbing yourself in the eye.  No stable human being would ever do that; henceforth I never anticipated commanding a vehicle with a smile.  The variety is pitiful, the cars feel ridiculously stiff, and most of all, you run into crap…a lot.  Need I say more?  I hope not.  Moving along, favors are OK for the occasional distraction from completing missions and taking over businesses.  The pocket cash is nice, but going out of your way for it is rather pointless.  I eventually avoided them altogether unless a mission took me in their direction.  To be fair, the idea is taken further in that you can pocket corrupt law and political officials, but the game isn’t challenging enough to ever make them necessary.  I think I called off the police and requested rapid recovery for my two Capos once each.  Otherwise, I could’ve cared less about who was waiting on a street corner or in a secluded alleyway to offer their services.

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Forcing business owners to give you a cut of their dough is where the joy begins.  On the G2 map, you see various buildings marked by a number of logos.  These range from dice, women hanging on poles (gee, wonder what those are), and money symbols.  Each represent a racket type, and it’s to your benefit to ultimately command every one.  They’re all initially controlled by rival families, and exacting your total persuasion unlocks the main compound where the respective Don and his remaining made men await.  Underbosses, Capos and Soldiers can be eliminated before that’s even an option however, as one of the rewards for satisfying favors is information on how to specifically whack a made man in each family hierarchy.  Fulfill the condition (melee execution, strangle to death, a bullet between the eyes, etc.), then that character is pacified forever.  If any are left standing prior to assaulting a compound, they’ll be there serving as a last line of defense.  It’s not hard though.  In fact, it’s mysteriously tougher to kill made men away from the compounds.  Even so, it’s all fun because of the entertaining weapon arsenal.  It includes a shotgun, pistol, sniper rifle, and the mafia staple Tommy Gun.  Upgrades are available for each; they simply must be found throughout the rackets.

I use fun loosely nevertheless, because even the combat is plagued with problems.  For one, the auto-targeting doesn’t always help like it’s meant to.  If three or more enemies are nearby and spread out, it’s to make the engine focus.  It’s especially annoying to try to pinpoint someone within a few feet, only to see your reticule attach to a foe that’s making a run for it, leaving you open to imminent pain.  Couple this with a cover system that also fails to cooperate, and you have a recipe for making the player just want to run ‘n gun, which I often did.  You’re hardly discouraged to take the risk either, since the threat of death if embarrassingly low.  Fist-fighting is to cause environmental havoc a hassle too.  When you don’t have a melee weapon to break some crap, you’re sure to encounter horrible collision detection.  Well you’re not training for the next Rocky match, so the non-contact fist-pumping looks dumb.  Before I detail family building, I wish to complain about the inability to jump.  I really don’t understand why so many action titles prevent you from doing so.  Human legs aren’t just for running!  Once again, need I say more?

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Your family tree is occupied by your created Don, one Underboss, two Capos and four Soldiers.  These are your made men, who can be an immense help when they’re not behaving like absolute r’tards.  Yes, I just referenced a World of Warcraft parody, deal with it.  Anyway, potential recruits eventually hang around your compounds, rackets, and what have you.  They also bear combat specialties, such as: demolitions, engineering, safe-cracking, healing and arson.  Well, actually that’s all of them, and each is handy when you’re out and about taking over crime fronts.  Demolitions men create valuable holes, arsonists set buildings ablaze, engineers chop up fences and cut a building power (enemies can’t call for backup), safe-cracking is self-explanatory, and…healing is too.  When their specialties aren’t an immediate need, your crew can also aid in gun fights.  I don’t want to be harsh about this because it’s life-saving sometimes, but I can’t ignore a couple pitfalls.  One, you can tell these guys where to go and where to use their trade, but there isn’t a darn thing you can say in respect to holding fire or being weapons-free.  Not only that, but family members often try to play the tough guy/hero and take on multiple enemies by themselves.  Later in the campaign, it’s not much of a problem.  At the beginning, it is, so you end up not only providing the offense, but defending these morons as well.

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The campaign effectively ends when each rival family is gone, which equates to owning every racket.  After an estimated ten hours, you can choose to quit completely, pursue still-locked achievements/trophies, or head online to compete for honor points that can improve your made men.  It’s an interesting concept, but wholly unnecessary because your family becomes strong enough as you progress through the plot.  It’s neat to control one of your men, but that’s about it.  The service supports 16 people across a handful of modes like Team Deathmatch and Safecracking, but unless you don’t play Call of Duty, Halo, Killzone 2, etc, there’s little point in participating.  Plus, lock-on is disabled, not to mention The Godfather II’s gunplay wasn’t exactly designed for player vs. player battle.  I recommend sticking to the aforementioned shooters that do the competitive scene well.

It’s no surprise that EA formally told us a while back that a third game tie-in would not be developed.  Unless they sell off the license to someone else, we can kiss The Godfather good-bye.  I wish this weren’t the case, because the previous game laid a solid foundation and was a rocking good time.  I especially don’t understand how so many hitches, glitches and whatever else you could term here made it in the final product.  Team wasn’t rushed to meet the second movie’s release, considering that happened decades ago.  Oh well, The Godfather II is a passable action game, and can be blown through with a weekend rental.  If you’re a serious fan of the films, this could be worth your cash, but don’t say I didn’t point out the blemishes.  I had my fill, and don’t plan on ever going back.  Rest in peace Corleones.

Scoreboard:

Story: 6/10

Gameplay: 7/10

Controls: 7/10

Graphics: 7/10

Sound: 7/10

Value: 6/10

Overall (Not an average): 6.8/10

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