The Godfather Review (PS2)
After a tumultuous development period that lasted nearly three years and reportedly cost around $80 Million, EA have finally released their most ambitious game yet. Questions were asked about just how EA could squeeze Francis Ford Coppola’s epic movie trilogy, itself based on a book by Mario Puzo, into the more interactive form of a videogame. It seemed inevitable that The Godfather would become just another GTA clone, merely set in the Godfather world and featuring ill-fitted missions based around the trilogy’s plots. Critics expected the worst; a product that would tarnish the memory of one of the greatest movie series ever. How wrong they were.
The Godfather is, without a doubt, the best movie tie-in that EA have ever produced. That may not sound such a great compliment when that list contains such monstrosities as Catwoman and Batman Begins but this is definitely one of the better movie to game conversions available to date. While the standard GTA gameplay is, perhaps unavoidably present, the developers have managed to capture the atmosphere of the movies perfectly. The environments really look and feel like 1940s New York; many familiar landmarks from the films are easily recognisable and you are free to explore them at your leisure. Everything from the Cars on show to the people that fill the streets and even buildings look like authentic post-war types and the old newspapers blowing in the wind and the (oddly explosive) barrels that litter the sides of the roads help to create an immersive atmosphere.
With the setting in place it would have been easy enough for EA to just stick the player in control of Michael Corleone and have them complete missions loosely based on the events of the film. As it happens, the game does follow alongside the plot of the movie (Vito Corleone ,played by Marlon Brando, is an aging Mafia Don who is nearly assassinated by rival mafia families, his son Michael Corleone volunteers to kill those responsible and after succeeding, he flees to Sicily. When Vito recovers he tries to bargain with the heads of the other families to allow his son to return and take over as Don.) but instead focuses on a player-created mobster whose Father was killed by one of the opposing Mafia families.
The tools used to design your very own crime lord in training borrow heavily from the Tiger Woods games although you are limited to creating guys that look as if they’re from the time period (No afro-toting, Hawaiian shirt-wearing Maori guys here). It’s a shame that you can’t choose a particular voice for your henchman as well; the masculine sounding tones didn’t quite suit my skinny, red-headed runt during the cut-scenes.
What is impressive though, and it’s probably Godfather’s trump card, is the rest of the voice acting and cut scene presentation in general. EA very publicly secured the services of Marlon Brando to reprise his role as Vito although his involvement was limited due to his diminishing health, but the other big names who have returned to their roles include James Caan and Robert Duvall add real weight to some of the new and recreated scenes. Given the great heritage of the source material it’s good to see that every effort has been made to make the cut-scenes believable and everything from the character models and animation make them amongst the best of this generation.
While the game’s visuals make the grade does the gameplay? It’s a mixed bag with some poor elements typical of this genre sitting alongside some genuine innovation in other areas. The main problems occur when driving around the city; the control of the cars is very loose, meaning you’ll probably be sliding around corners a little too often. This coupled with some dreadful collision detection means driving around can get very frustrating. There’s also a lot of pop up, not just with background buildings but even cars pop up out of nowhere when you turn a corner.
As soon as you get out of the car, however, the game actually plays quite well. You’ll spot plenty of buildings around the city, which you can enter and possibly terrorise until they agree to your ‘protection’ for a fee of course. Each shop owner has a pressure point which you can reach either by talking or by showing how handy you are with your fists. They all have weak spots you can exploit however which could be anything from you brandishing a gun to you smashing their favourite cupboard. You’ll often find rival mafia gangs run to their aid and it’s then you whip out your Tommy gun or just use your fists to show them whose boss. The control scheme used for fighting is similar to that used in Fight Night, where the left analogue stick moves your character, or allows you to drag your hapless opponent around, and the right stick controls your punches or kicks; hold it back for a moment to charge it up or press R2 at the right moment to use an execution move.
Seeing as The Godfather takes a mission route with more in common with Sony’s The Getaway, with more focus on on-foot missions rather than in cars the poorer elements don’t detract from the experience as a whole. But when the rest of the game has seen a lot of polish, it’s annoying to see such problems occur when they really should have been fixed during testing.
If you haven’t seen the film or are getting a bit sick of games of this genre you probably won’t find as much here to interest you but it’s certainly worth a play if you can look past the driving issues. If you loved the film however, you will find this an enjoyable and authentic look at the Corleone’s world.