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Platform

Xbox

 

Genre

Action

 

Publisher

Electronic Arts

 

Developer

EA Redwood Shores

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

Q1 2006

 

 

- Completely copies Grand Theft Auto, but at least it does it in a complimentary way
- Does a great job of using the source material and creating a really good gaming experience – something many (most?) licensed games fail to do

 

 

- Fighting controls aren’t as easy to use as they should be
- Hope you like driving, because there’s a lot of it to get to each area of the game
- Missing the “bonus” activities (taxi and ambulance driving for bonuses) that are present in Grand Theft Auto

 

 

Review: The Godfather: Part II (360)

Review: The Godfather (PS2)

Review: Grand Theft Auto Double-Pack (Xbox)

Review: Grand Theft Auto San Andreas (Xbox)

 

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The Godfather

Score: 8.7 / 10

 

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Grand Theft Auto is certainly the godfather of the sandbox action game starring an anti-hero leading character. Many have challenged its genre domain, but with no success. But with the release of The Godfather from Electronic Arts, there’s a new don in the sandbox genre, and surprisingly is a worthy competitor for control of the mighty empire GTA has ruled.

Based on the Oscar-winning The Godfather film along with the original Mario Puzo novel, EA’s The Godfather welcomes you to the “family” as you join the Corleone clan as a lowly mob gopher and work your way up the ranks to Don himself in New York City in the era of 1945-1955.

It’s totally apparent that EA completely copied the gameplay and game design from Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto sandbox franchise. But what really makes The Godfather a success as a game is the brilliant and masterful use of the Puzo novel

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and the film’s source material.

This isn’t just a flimsy attempt on cashing in on The Godfather name. No, the developers made such a concerted effort to integrate with care and diligence the world of the Corleones into the gameplay and storyline that I dare to say that The Godfather game itself has a worthy place in the lore of The Godfather world so brilliantly conceived

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in word by Puzo and onscreen by Francis Ford Coppola. Bringing it even more closely tied to the movie is the use of actual actors from the film as voices in the game. Robert Duvall, James Caan and even the late, great Marlon Brando are in the game, lending both their likeness and voice to the game. Overall, the game features better than average voice work.

While the background of the game is straight from the book and movie, The Godfather game spins it into a well-woven plot with plenty of mafia twists and turns (and a heaping helping of gunplay and bloodshed) that leads you down the path from lowly street thug to ascension to the ultimate king of the streets in charge of the Corleone cartel itself as it battles rival mobs in the War of the Five Families for control of New York City.

But while the story is highly original despite being borrowed from a 37-year-old book and a 34-year-old movie, the gameplay is straight from the streets of San Andreas and Vice City. Yes, The Godfather is nearly identical to GTA in gameplay, giving you “sandbox” autonomy in how you go about moving up the mob ladder. The easy way to start climbing is by undertaking “missions” from higher-ups (like whacking enemies). In addition, your best way of gaining more cash and respect is by taking control of “businesses” in various neighborhoods that will “pay” for “protection” if you can eliminate the current “protection” with not-so-gentle “persuasion” tactics (damn, that’s a lot of ironic quotations in one sentence!)

To take over, you’ll have to use the game’s fighting and shooting controls to threaten and rough up business owners that aren’t in the quickest hurry to pay for protection and relinquish to Corleone control of their business. You’ll also need to shoot/kill business “protectors” on the premises from rival mafia families. Most aren’t too hard to defeat, although some businesses or operations are defended to the hilt with gun-toting gangster goons.

 

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Once you clear out the guns, its time for a little “discussion” with the owner. Usually after choking, smacking or punching him or her around a bit, they usually relent, and you’ll get a weekly take of “protection” money. This in spite of the fact that the “BlackHand” gaming controls you’ll use to do that choking, smacking and punching are not exactly tight, being a bit unreliable and unpredictable in their responsiveness. Shooting controls work much better, and that’s necessary, since you’ll be faced with plenty of gun battles that require a steady shooting control in order for you to defeat those returning gunfire with similar intent that you have towards them – namely, killing you. Searching around the basement, back rooms or upstairs usually reveals a hidden illegal racket such as a brothel or gambling joint. These are much easier to take over, and lead to even more extra cash.

The goal is to take control of as many of the operations around New York and New Jersey that you can to build the Corleone (and eventually yours) empire by overtaking each of the other mafia factions and their respective business operations. This certainly a huge, expansive gaming world you’ll be traveling to expand that empire too. While in reality in may or may not be, The Godfather sure seems to be a much bigger world than in San Andreas or Vice City.

Although it’s amazing that the developers have created such a wonderfully spacious gaming environment, that comes at the cost of having to do a lot of driving in order to travel to the four corners of The Godfather’s gaming realm. But they’re not just for driving excursions. Cars can come in real handy while you’re trying to clear out the protection of a targeted business. Instead of engaging in risky gunfights, you can simply mow them down with your vehicle. However, you’ve got to be careful and calculated in your intended vehicular murderous driving, because the gangsters simply don’t stand around waiting for you to plow them down. They act smart with reactionary A.I., dodging your vehicle with hair-trigger evasive moves. You have to really be one step ahead of them to use your car to run them over. And at the same time paying attention to the damage their weapons inflict on your vehicle. Enough shots to your vehicle, and it will explode and cause you a ton of damage or even death if you don’t get out of the fiery wreckage in time.

Fans of GTA will absolutely love The Godfather, although they might be just slightly disappointed with the lack of GTA “bonus” missions such as taxi and ambulance driving (and there are taxis you can carjack if you need a vehicle). Graphically, the Xbox version outshines the PS2 version, but in general, the game is visually done well. It even is a touch above the quality of GTA: San Andreas. One aspect I wish was around was the inclusion of a large and diverse soundtrack and radio station selection, as in the GTA franchise. You’ll get to hear the orchestral melodic tune of The Godfather theme song, but that’s it. Think how great it would be to hear some classic 40s and 50s music on a car radio, from big band to Frank Sinatra to Ella Fitzgerald to the beginnings of the rock & roll age. Sad to say, it’s not here in any form, unless you think listening over and over to The Godfather theme song is a wondrous experience.

Yes, it’s a blatant rip-off of Grand Theft Auto. So were a lot of other games – but at least The Godfather is a good rip-off of the genre setter, unlike some embarrassingly awful games (the putrid Driver 3 and equally dreadful 25 to Life come to mind). And The Godfather even goes a step farther by being a very good movie-licensed game. Thinking about buying a movie-licensed game is usually akin to thinking about buying one of Uwe Boll’s video-game movies (you know, those great, Oscar-worthy films like Alone in the Dark, BloodRayne or House of the Dead) on DVD – not a very good way to spend your cash. But The Godfather puts to great use the magnificent films as its source material and actually creates an engaging, entertaining GTA clone that increases the sandbox game choice to something more than just GTA itself.

- Lee Cieniawa
lcieniawa@armchairempire.com

(May 8, 2006)

 

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