Being a big fan of the movies, the game with the same name was something I just had to give a chance. Much like Saints Row 2, it was a title that I had heard little about, then pretty much got convinced by xXwastedXx that I should be buying it
The game drops you in Cuba, where one of the game’s main characters, Hyman Roth is celebrating a Birthday and initiating a meeting between the Families, discussing potential business expansion. Its all fancy dress and extravagance until the party is rudely interrupted by the peak of the Cuban Revolution which throws you into chaos and rioting breaks out.
Rushing to the airport, you all attempt to flee back to New York. In the ensuing getaway, one of your comrades, Aldo Trapani loses his life.
Michael Corleone, successor to the Corleone empire, charges you with filling the position of Don in New York, left open by Aldo’s demise. This is where the game really becomes ‘open world’ and the story progression begins.
You’re introduced to building your own empire, controlling business and ‘Rackets’. And eventually Crime Rings, pivotal to function in Godfather II.
Godfather II’s story hinges around making a name for yourself, becoming someone of merit and doing so by taking over everything possible and killing everyone who stands in your way.
Out of Cuba… but you will return.
Despite initial impressions, the game play in the Godfather II is quite deep and rewarding. While on face value, its a straight-forward open-world smash and grab type game, it has some impressive – as well as innovative features to keep you interested throughout the story progression.
Initially it feels like Saints Row 2. The driving mechanic, the go anywhere do anything feel, from jacking cars, to punching hookers, to gunning down innocent pedestrians – there’s something for everyone.
Similarly the way the story moves is also up to you. There’s no ‘set’ timeline. You’re not forced to do anything. The story presents you with a new option, but you don’t have to go after it or complete it. You’re just as welcome to go establishing your crime rings before attempting to help your crew escape a bind.
There are encouragements to progress in the story though, besides the original city (New York), Florida and Cuba are only unlocked as you advance through the campaign. And going back to Cuba won’t be an option for probably 8-10 hours of game time. These new cities also have the advantage of unlocking new crime rings available to you, as well as rival Families, special abilities and locations.
All your Rackets are belong to us…
Each city has certain cross-overs. Some Families have presence in one city, their compound in another, their Capo’s in another. So in order to bring down certain Families and control a monopoly of Rackets, you will need to have all cities available.
This doesn’t change the fact that everything in the Godfather II can be done at your own leisure though, so those who prefer to waltz around, driving over peds, attracting cop gunfire and stealing cars will be equally catered for.
Rackets & Crime Rings
The Godfather II is a business game. Sometimes it almost feels like a criminal version of Monopoly.
Every city has a myriad of locations that you can ‘take over’, by way of force. Infiltrate, kill, then convince the shop owner (in a variety of cool quicktime sequences, from strangulations, to dangling them over rooftops) to turn his business protection over to you – and you start skimming an income from their racket. This Mafioso mentality is key to establishing your business empire, making a name for yourself and advancing in the ranks. As well as adding crew to your own Family.
There are a variety of Rackets you can delve into. These include Construction, Drugs, Adult Entertainment, Arms Smuggling, Chop Shops, Diamond Smuggling, Prostitution, Gambling and Gun Running. Mostly they have 3-4 ‘fronts’, meaning there are a few different locations – sometimes over different cities – that contribute to each complete “Crime Ring”.
The Adult Entertainment crime ring.. a personal favourite
Controlling ALL of the Rackets within a Crime Ring gains you a monopoly over that particular ring – and in turn earns you a special ability. So focusing on one single group of rackets and subsequent crime ring early on is particularly beneficial, rather than spreading your resources and time over numerous criminal investments.
The special abilities vary greatly and can be financial or combat-oriented. For example, owning all Rackets within the Drug Crime Ring nets you the “Double Crime Ring Income” perk. Doubling your total income across all business with money laundering. Another personal favourite, the Diamond Smuggling Crime Ring nets you the “Bulletproof Vests” perk. You and your crew receive only 50% damage from firearm attacks.
Controlling these Rackets and Crime Rings is pivotal to your Family. They allow you to spend elsewhere, buy weapons, upgrade your abilities and expand the criminal empire. So protecting them is absolutely imperative.
After taking over a Racket, you don’t just simply own that Racket forever. Its not over. If you want to maintain the benefits you receive from it, you also have to protect and defend it. Rival Families WILL try to take Rackets back – and they will attempt this at any time and by any means necessary.
So you can be in the middle of a mission, even attacking a new Racket, while a rival Family will send their grunts to raid another of your recently acquired Rackets. All of this becomes quite clever – and you are forced to manage the way in which your Rackets operate when you’re not around to defend them.
Newly acquired compound..
One option is presented right after acquiring a new business. You can appoint Guards to that particular property. Depending on the size of the property and importance of it within its respective Crime Ring, you can assign anywhere between 6 and about 30 Guards to defend the business while you’re away. At a cost of course. So it becomes a mini-game of financial management in the early stages of the game. Profit versus protection.
Guards will do a decent job of defending your position, but if a rival Family decide to send a good gang, including some of their high level Capos and Underbosses, your Guards may find themselves outmatched – meaning either you’ll need to get your butt over there to help them, or you’ll need to send more of your high-level men in to assist.
If everything is becoming too much and you want to quickly cripple a rival Family racket, you can go in and Bomb the property. This not only destroys all the rival forces inside, but also renders the Racket unusable for a certain period of time. Meaning that all rewards gained are null and void. No income is gained and no special abilities (even if the rival Family still ‘own’ all the Rackets within a Crime Ring), Bombing one of them renders the entire monopoly broken. Beware though, the rival Families can Bomb your Rackets too to the same effect.
Nudity is just another card in the Godfather II deck!
All this sounds quite complex – but there’s an incredibly innovative aspect of the Godfather II that helps in these situations.
Easily the most rewarding, innovative and functional piece of the Godfather II’s deck of cards is the 3D ‘Don View’.
Basically representing the cities in a Sim City-esque top-down God view, you can gain an extremely quick overview of your own Rackets, rival Family Rackets and locations as well as various other points of interest. Its an interactive map of sorts. Brilliantly managed, broken down into various sections, including Family, Finance and more, you can control every aspect of the game from this top-down control view. In fact, if you wanted to, you could essentially play the entire game from here – if you don’t want to get your hands dirty.
The map displays your Crime Rings and Rackets, red for your own and a variety of colours for rival Families. When your property is under attack, the map shows you in detail, and gunfire can be heard while zooming around it.
From the Don View, you can send reinforcements (Defenders) to assist in the battle, chosen from your Family Tree, or if the Racket is taken over before you can get a chance, you can send in your Family to attempt to take the business back over, or just send them in to Bomb the hell out of it.
Similarly, a bombed building is represented by a plume of thick smoke billowing from the roof – and eventually the building appears torn to its foundations in a process of rebuilding. No action can be appointed and no Guards can be assigned while a building is in the “bombed” state.
Don View also gives you an overview of other available actions within the cities. Banks (bank robbery), Special Favours and currently accepted Favour targets are all easily and quickly selectable, with overviews and actions available from within the View. You can set waypoints and see action requirements all from here.
Without a doubt, the Don View is key to managing your expanding criminal empire. Especially when it becomes apparent that your presence needs to be in more than once place at the same time.
Part of any good Mafia story is your Family. You head up the Family of course, as Don Dominic. From there though, the rest of your Family Tree is entirely up to you to decide and customise.
Early in the story, you can only recruit ‘Soldier’ Class members. While they have all the upgrades available, they are the lowest-tier members of your Family and only have one or two ‘special abilities’.
Advancing through the story however, allows you to promote these Soldiers to “Capo” – and in turn, your “Underboss”. These promotions allow extra special abilities to be possessed by each Family member – and opens up the lower-tier spaces to be filled by new recruits.
Special Abilities are extremely important and only your best family members can possess them. Sometimes the path into robbing a bank would be made much easier by cutting the power to the building so the alarm ceases to work. This is where the “Engineer” special ability comes in. Once inside you will find that the vault is locked up tight – this is where the “Safecracker” special ability is required. Making a quick exit might be key, and that crack in the wall over there looks like a great weak spot for a stick of dynamite – which is where the “Demolitions” special ability comes in handy. On the way out, you might get injured or taken down by cops.. and the “Medic” can revive you.
So your crew works as a team. These special abilities can be combined – and often as your crew advance through the ranks, they can possess two, three or even four of these special abilities in the position of Underboss – and with six separate abilities available and only 3 crew spot available to you, the more the merrier.
Sometimes you will happen upon recruits with better suited skills to the job at hand – and not enough available spots left in your Family Tree. So simply make him a Marked Man – and have a hit put out on him, freeing up the spot for your new recruit.
You can further customise and buy what weapons your Family members use, as well as changing the look and attire of each man. Upgrading these statistics increases their chances of success when sent to take over or defend Rackets too.
Weapons, Driving and Physics
You have a variety of weapons to choose from in the Godfather II, from classic pistols to a Tommy Gun and from Baseball Bats to Molotov Cocktails. The majority of these weapons not only deal exceptional damage at a range and can be upgraded with various new weapon types, but they also offer a special, close-combat ‘Execution’ move.
Executions are vivid, graphic, ‘finishing moves’ that can be used at any time when you’ve weakened an opponent enough. When promoted, simply by pressing the analogue stick, you’re greeted with an incredibly satisfying quicktime sequence unique to each weapon type. They can range from street fighter style punch combos to close range Shotgun blasts to the face.
With the variety of weapons available and the Executions always at the forefront of your combat choices, the combat never really gets old in the Godfather II. So raiding Racket after Racket is always fresh and full of option.
Driving is a similar, but familiar activity. Boosting a car, driving at high-speed down the wrong side of a freeway, having your crew hang out of the windows spraying Tommy Gun fire into crowds – its all there, its all possible and generally its pretty good fun.
Cars are great models of classic Godfather-era vehicles, and there’s a bonus here or there (EA have employed Criterions ‘Burnout’ Hunter Cavalry as one the city’s sports cars).
Generally, the vehicle physics are a bit floaty – but they feel very similar to Saints Row 2 – a bit meatier than the GTA IV driving. The only thing missing is getting thrown out of the front windscreen on sudden stops – something incredibly humorous and enjoyable found in it’s competitors.
Fall damage is non-existent too. While the developers have gone to great lengths to put up invisible walls on the tops of buildings and stairwells, there are a few times when you can simply walk off a set of stairs two floors up – to be greeted with the standing running animation as you ‘float’ down to the ground and you’re on your merry way.
Occasionally cars will get wedged on tiny walls or stop dead, crashing into a tiny bit of kerbing or gutter. Its only a minor detail though, doesn’t happen very often and really has no bearing on the game play.
Ultimately, the game play in the Godfather II, while occasionally a little bit glitchy, nails the genre on the head. Its not totally solid, but in the same vein as Saints Row 2, it gets the FUN part right. And that’s what is most important.
Packing a helluva punch.
Graphically, the Godfather II has been crucified, but honestly – unless you’re one of these graphic-junkies, you won’t have a problem with it at all. There’s surprising detail in the face models and characters, and the cars are particularly well modelled for this genre of game, even if colour and texture can be a little ‘flat’ sometimes.
The cities themselves are well detailed – Florida in particular does a great job in attention to detail with palm trees, traffic, pedestrians all coming together to form a living, breathing city. Its more populated than Saints row 2, but less populated than GTA IV.
Fire looks great!
You occasionally see some collision problems, with pedestrians ‘falling’ through desks and such, but these events are few and far between. Half-way through my second play-through and I could count the total occurrences of these events on one hand.
Characters have their own unique look and feel, voice acting compliments this overall diversity too. Strong Italian performance in Family conversation, the pedestrians running and screaming when gunfire breaks out, the sound of a Tommy Gun ripping through a Gentlemans Club – its all quite convincing and certainly satisfying.
The Godfather II also has a very powerful face editor that you can use both to configure your appearance, and also the appearance of your crew. It is very detailed and allows for a multitude of possibilities – from the handsome to the hideously ugly. Hair styles, colours, skin, eyes, underbites, overbites – its all there and ensures no two characters will ever look the same. The only thing missing is the voice selection – but under the circumstances, its perfectly acceptable.
While the Godfather II definitely won’t be remembered as a graphic giant this generation, it does its job well. The frame rate occasionally stutters in large open areas (particularly Florida) littered with a load of NPC’s, cars and vegetation, but is – for the majority – solid.
Its hard to come away from The Godfather II, well over 20 hours under my belt, now on my second play-through with any less than a positive review.
It has been ridiculed for being nothing fresh – but it works on a proven format, on a very bad arse subject matter. And the Don View is probably the most innovative control feature I’ve seen in an open-world game in a long time.
The story is quite long, offers a decent host of surprises and backstabbing likened to similar titles in its genre. Its not going to win awards for its brilliance, sure, but it keeps you compelled and offers enough directional changes to keep you interested and wanting to proceed with the campaign.
I haven’t had the chance to give online a go yet, so I might update the review after I’ve tried this out.
Having enjoyed the game so much though, I was compelled to begin a second play-through almost immediately after.
Trophy-enthusiasts will also love this one. For once its a good Trophy list, no annoying, tedious or unnecessarily time consuming Trophies. Play the game through once, explore all the options and you pretty much can’t miss a Platinum.
Ultimately, while its not a ground-breaking or bombshell title, it’s damn good mindless fun.