The Godfather 2
An offer that’s far too easy to refuse
Crime was so much simpler in the old days. The barbaric Vikings had it easiest, when ravaging and pillaging was the standard career choice and groping busty mead-wenches was an acceptable way of ‘unwinding’ after a hard day.
Not much seemed to change between then and the 1950s, when mobsters ran major cities in the US and enjoyed all the booze, broads and bank jobs they desired. All that separated them from their helmeted forefathers of felony were pinstripe suits and Tommy Guns.
Today, though, most facets of the bygone crime era have largely been quelled by an evolved justice system, stricter regulations, and feminist activists who eventually got tired of fetching their husbands’ f***ing slippers.
Forced into a less flagrant and publically-excessive lifestyle, we can only imagine the Dons looking back fondly on their formative days as a time when being an evil crime lord was a far less complicated occupation.
The Godfather II recreates those early years of the mob scene in exactly this fashion, and while it does a decent job of balancing sandbox action, some basic strategy and enough elements of the film to yield a solid game, it makes doing crime as easy as it really was back then, and offers so little challenge that even the most inept gangster-wannabe will find little difficulty in sending rival families to sleep with the fishes.
Fans of Coppola’s masterpiece (which most, including me, will agree is the best of the trilogy) will not be disappointed with this adaptation. While the plot is essentially the same with a few ‘liberties’ taken with some of the finer details, there are a couple of discrepancies that die-hard followers will pick up on, although it’s not enough to warrant a return of the game.
Likewise, it’s not crucial to have watched the film before playing as the story is explained fairly well, though if you’re of sufficient age and have yet to watch this seminal work of genius we highly recommend an emergency trip to the video store before being discovered and shunned by the rest of civilized society.
Dominic Corleone, returning from the first game and now the Don himself, is guided mostly from a third-person viewpoint, although gamers will spend a hefty amount of time in a newly-implemented strategy system called The Don’s View. This 3D representation of the city allows the player to view all the territory under their control as well as that of the various enemy factions. Wiping out these rivals is done by gaining control of all their businesses before ultimately raiding their main compound and killing the family’s big cheese.
The businesses themselves fall into two categories: rackets and crime rings. A racket is usually a smaller establishment used as a front to launder money, whereas crime rings are made up of a series of places which, when all of them are owned, provide Dominic and his cronies with a cool bonus.
So, if all three brothels are owned in the prostitution ring, the family receives a big melee damage upgrade, or if the entire drug ring is under the Corleone’s control then all income is doubled. Only in a perfect world would being a pimp give you knuckles of steel and dealing out drugs give you a salary multiplier. Who said crime doesn’t pay?
Taking over new businesses is where the action side comes in, and Dominic can wander around the various cities in typical GTA-like fashion, jacking cars, doing drive-bys and running from the fuzz. Once guards have been neutralized at a specific location, it’s a simple matter of headbutting the owner until he hands over control of the joint, or dangling him from the roof to milk some extra cash from the deal.
Gamers will also have to use The Don’s View to send guards to their various establishments and to plan future attacks. This is crucial to controlling such a large empire over several cities, and while daunting at first it becomes second nature quite quickly.
There are many other gameplay options that become unlocked as Dominic fights for supremacy, including bribing officials for favours (like quick recovery if a family member is injured, or calling off the cops if they’re becoming a problem) and doing bonus tasks for random strangers to gain information on the higher members of enemy families. While strictly optional, a cunning player will use these to their advantage to ensure smooth takeovers and complete domination of every city.
Adding even more to the mix is an upgrade system where Dominic and his crew can have their guns and attributes boosted, or have special abilities unlocked. Again, these don’t make a huge difference to the gameplay, but is does make it a more engaging experience.
Getting your hands dirty is done with a decent selection of weapons including pistols, rifles, explosives and the classic Tommy Gun, and each features a violent and graphic execution style which is enabled when a foe is near death. Players will enjoy kicking enemy scum to their knees before sticking a Magnum in the fool’s mouth and blowing his head off, or holding down a squealing cop while running a row of bullets up and down his body. These gangsters aren’t messing around.
Although it all sounds very complicated, each of these many aspects work well together and create a phenomenon that we at MyGaming have dubbed “The Diablo Factor”. Remember when you played Diablo (either one) for hours on end, searching for just one more piece of a set of armour, or trying to level up just once more to unlock a new ability, even though it meant hours of repetitive clicking and minion-slaying?
Well, that’s exactly what happens here, and even though things seem monotonous at times there’s a strange desire for power and control that mysteriously drives players further into the game and even further so into the night. Insomniacs, beware.
Unfortunately though, as addictive as the game may be and as fun as being a criminal mastermind is, we need to come back to the beginning of this review and address The Godfather II’s most crippling problem: the whole thing is just too damn easy.
In fact, if a player ends up dying more than twice over the entire course of the game they should probably have their Sixaxis taken away and be given something less demanding like a Wii or a colour-by-numbers book. And yes, we know being a Don means being really powerful and all that, but this is like taking candy from a baby (only it’s at gunpoint and it’s not a particularly brave baby).
As an example, this reviewer once went into an enemy business and singlehandedly killed over twenty goons with nothing but a Magnum and an impressive selection of swear words. And this was only about midway through the game, although it must be mentioned that by this stage players will be so filthy rich that practically every upgrade possible will have been bought and bonuses like double armour and double firepower will be practically standard issue.
Once this level of dominance has been reached it’s a routine plod-along through the rest of the game which is saved only by a desire to see the story through to its conclusion and for getting one’s money’s worth. What could have been a truly thrilling adventure in violence and lawlessness is cut short by a difficulty setting that instead of being ‘Normal’ or even ‘Easy’ falls somewhere between ‘Rudimentary’ and ‘I Am a Chimpanzee’.
Overall it’s an enjoyable title for what it’s worth, and many hours will be wasted by gamers willing to turn to a life of crime and give it a chance. However, much like the short-sighted double-crosser who turns against his own family, The Godfather II stops just short of reaching the top and ends up wearing a disappointed scowl and a bulky pair of concrete shoes at the bottom of the nearest river.
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