IGN Review of Godfather 2
Whenever a company attempts to touch a well known and loved property, they tread into particularly dangerous territory. Go too loose with the interpretation, and you'll get roasted by fans and critics for completely abandoning the source material; too close and there's practically no point in making the game version at all. This was the tightrope that Electronic Arts had to walk with The Godfather II, an action title that attempts to follow some key elements of the acclaimed film. Adding in a healthy dose of strategy to aid fledgling Dons with their criminal empire, The Godfather II provides a good dose of entertainment, but the lack of difficulty holds the game back from truly becoming a great crime game.
Forget Robert De Niro and the tales of a young Vito Corleone in New York – The Godfather II focuses on Michael Corleone, starting with the meeting of the families in Havana to divide up Hyman Roth's empire. Unfortunately, the business is never concluded because the Cuban Revolution forces everyone to flee the country. As Dominic, a soldier of Aldo Trapani (the protagonist of the first Godfather game who has risen to run all of the Corleone business in New York), you wind up leading Michael, Fredo and Aldo to the airport in an attempt to flee. However, as you get to the runway, Aldo is shot and killed, prompting Michael to promote you into Aldo's place. The promotion comes with a significant burden, though: you need to re-establish control of New York, then expand to Miami and eventually Cuba to strengthen your family's control. Of course, other families will stand in your way, and it's up to you to eliminate them by any means necessary to aid in your domination of the crime world.
Obviously, there are some liberties taken from the film, as any fan of the movie would tell you (myself included). For example, the designers decide to make Dominic instrumental in breaking Frank Pentangeli during the Senate testimony on the Corleone family. Fredo also has a much larger role within the game than he ever had within the film, acting as a plot device throughout the story of the game and interacting with Michael and the rest of the Corleones thanks to saving him in Cuba. I wasn't too disturbed by much of the artistic license that was used in the title, but there were two elements that were used that just didn't work well. The first is one of the most memorable moments in the second film, when Michael informs Fredo that he knows Fredo betrayed him. Instead of this happening in Cuba, this happens in the study at the Corleone compound in New York after a majority of the game has been completed, which diffuses the strength of that moment.
The other issue, which is more significant, is the introduction of Tom Hagen as your consigliere, which happens around halfway through the game. While I don't have a problem with Hagen advising Dominic at all, his arrival in the middle of the story makes no sense, especially since the game constantly uses an image of Tom to provide information and hints on events going on as you make your moves against your rivals. This is compounded by the fact that Dominic acts as if he's only met Tom once or twice, even though the player has seen Tom's face dozens of times at this point. It would've made more sense to introduce Tom much earlier and have him provide this information as you start to build your empire and kill your rivals, because it just comes across as a weak and confusing plot device.
Speaking of your empire, The Godfather II takes an interesting twist to eliminating your rivals by working elements of strategy in with the guns blazing action that you expect from a crime tale. The strategy comes into play with a feature known as The Don's View, a 3D map that allows you to view your property and that of rival families so you can plan where you want to strike. See, to strengthen your family, you'll need to take over fronts that help launder money as well as the nine crime rings in the game, which provide bonuses to the family that owns it. For example, owning the gun running ring allows you to carry more ammo, while the drug ring doubles your income. However, you can't simply take over a business or ring and not expect a certain amount of retribution. Rivals will send their own made men to bomb or try to wrest control from you, forcing you to use The Don's View to decide when you want to send reinforcements or set up extra defenders to fend off these attacks.
You'll also be able to use this map to track down corrupt officials that you can do tasks for in return for favors that can be called in at any time, which can result in throwing off the police when you're being chased or arresting Mafioso, making an opponent that much more vulnerable. Of course, this is a temporary measure, and if you're going to try to fully eliminate a family, you'll want to track down each individual mobster and put a hit out on them. You'll discover the info on their location by doing favors for people on the street, like demolishing businesses, beating or killing people, or cracking safes. Once you've taken every business of a rival, their entire family (minus any made men that you've "retired") will retreat to their compound which you need to raid and blow up to finally eliminate their existence once and for all.
While you will be able to perform some of the tactical moves for your family, you'll inevitably find yourself deep in the midst of the action with up to three crew members, each with their own skills that will help you in battle. For instance, you can bring along a medic that can heal downed members of your crew, engineers that can cut the power so rivals can't call for reinforcements and demolitions guys that can bomb installations. For the most part, these crewmembers will act autonomously, targeting and taking out enemies as soon as they see them, but you do have the ability to provide minor commands to them to send them to a location, make them follow you or use their skills on certain objects. Of course, Dominic isn't a pushover either, and you'll be able to pummel whoever you want with his fists, choke the life out of them, or blast a kneecap or a shoulder with precise aim. Of course, you can also use the weapons that you acquire to execute enemies like beating them senseless with a golf club or shoving a Tommy gun in their mouth and ventilating the back of their head. Now, if you're finding that you're having trouble with a particular location or fight, you can spend cash to increase the stats of both Dominic and your crewmembers, making them more capable in battle, like healing faster or being more accurate with weapons.
For the most part, the balance of action and strategy is fun – by using the Don's View, you get a sense of the overall battle raging across the three cities that you fight for, and you do have the ability to manipulate aspects of the world solely from this view (like sending soldiers to attack rivals). Similarly, you will definitely get your hands dirty with the action focus, whether that's by robbing banks or blowing away thugs as you personally ensure that your family's territory grows. There is one significant problem with the gameplay, however – it is way too easy for anyone that's played an action or strategy game before. Rival families won't take that many actions against you as you start to take over their fronts and businesses, and if they do, they'll only try to perform one offensive action (like bombing a building or attacking one place of interest that you own) for every five to ten that you pull off. Not only does this allow you to consolidate your empire with a significant amount of guards to repel any incursions, but it weakens them substantially.
What's worse, they won't move like a fellow Don would by sending one made guy to detonate a location, perhaps as a distraction, while another group of capos head out to take a key business for you. On the other hand, I was able to easily send two soldiers to destroy businesses, send another two to protect specific locales and still take a crew of three on different jobs to virtually cripple a family in a matter of minutes. Add to this the fact that you can't ally with a rival family to destroy a much more powerful opponent (before stabbing them in the back, of course) and you'll quickly see that some of the gameplay starts to degenerate into picking off one family. This is especially true because you'll so rarely have to worry about attacks from more than one rival that you can dedicate all of your attention to one group, eliminate them, and move on.
Another issue that pops up is the fact that while you can improve the weapon licenses of your soldiers, allowing them to carry stronger and more powerful weapons that Dominic collects throughout the game (and can wield without any issue), there's practically no reason to do this. Each one is more than capable of eliminating their fair share of thugs and capos with whatever their default weapons happen to be, and since you'll more than likely be commanding them and fighting along side them most of the time, you can help them if they're struggling in any way. Since upgrading the weapon licenses is a part of multiplayer, and you don't necessarily need to play multiplayer to win, it does cast a shadow on the game modes that are included. That's unfortunate, because multiplayer is fun particularly because it's limited to henchmen, and you can earn or lose cash during multiplayer matches that is transferred to the single player campaign.
Apart from the standard Team Deathmatch, there are class specific modes like Demolition Assault, which requires a demo expert to destroy objectives on the map, Fire Starter, which tasks your arsonists with setting blazes to score bonus points, and Safecracker, which obviously involves breaking into a number of safes arrayed around the map. The only other mode (which is available as soon as you connect online) is Don's Control, which lets two players wager cash on the outcome of their teams and then attempt to direct their soldiers to victory. While Deathmatch may seem bland compared to the other modes, multiplayer is rather creative and fun, but you don't need to use it to overcome odds in the single player game.
Single and multiplayer issues aside, The Godfather II provides three very distinct locations in style and environmental details. Whether you go into a building or are simply driving down the street, you really get a sense of each area. All characters within the game move pretty well, whether that's your soldiers fighting against rival thugs or watching as civilians run screaming in terror. This is particularly true when it comes to performing an execution, which looks rather brutal. It's also pretty cool to be able to interact with some characters during intimidation cutscenes, particularly when you've successfully gotten them to hand over their business or front to you. However, there are still some visual issues that crop up within gameplay. For one thing, characters will frequently find themselves stuck on objects or within walls, and while you can sometimes interact with these trapped individuals, this can wind up resulting in failed missions or attempts on locations. You'll also notice a lot of glitches, such as shadows which look horrendous, loads of texture pop-in and rendering issues which stand out like a sore thumb.
Dialogue and line delivery is quite strong within The Godfather II, although it's definitely full of pretty strong language that's appropriate for the characters and their circumstances, but not something that you'll want to play around little kids. But you'll definitely be able to get a sense of the different characters in your crew, thanks to their comments as you drive around or go on missions, which is a nice touch for the game. While there is some music within the game, it's largely forgettable as background elements compared to the dialogue and, of course, the sound effects of weapons being fired, bombs exploding and necks snapping, among other attacks.
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