The Godfather was a breakout title of sorts for Electronic Arts. It wasn’t a franchise that made a name for the company; Madden NFL and The Sims had done that years ago. It wasn’t the first big-name movie license EA snagged for development; The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and countless other films earned that status long before. Instead, it was the first game from EA that tackled a decades-old classic and introduced a cool new gameplay mechanic called the Blackhand, which let players truly exercise their inner goon by testing the limits of their rouging-up victims, sometimes pushing them past the breaking point and botching the extortion job in the process. Such is the life of a Made Man.
With The Godfather 2, EA ups the ante somewhat, taking the sequel past the on-the-streets aspects and pushing players into a more Don-like role. The story opens as before, with players creating a custom character with all the sliders expected from an EA games. After a five-family deal breaks down in Cuba, undoing every possibility that they can cooperate and live in peace, the playable character named Dominic returns to New York to start their own family under the guise of the Corleones. And we all know what starting a family means: violence.
All the Blackhand mechanics are back in The Godfather 2, along with the need to extort businesses for income and run varying types of rackets. Different rackets are comprised of different crime rings, including prostitution and gambling, and depending on the number and type of rings you control, you get various bonuses like bullet proof armor. As before, depending on how far you push your victim via the Blackhand, you earn more or less of an income bonus — or none at all, if you push them too far. In a nice touch, the PS3 version even allows you to wiggle/slam/push the DualShock 3 controller in any direction to throw your target around. Talk about visceral and morbidly rewarding…. Fortunately, unlike the original Godfather, if you push someone too far, that business doesn’t simply shun you forever. Simply wait a day/night cycle and come back again to test it out. It’s a nice change from a playability standpoint, but it does remove a bit of the apprehension about really pushing the limits, since there’s no true consequence.
You won’t just be doing these jobs alone, though. Remember, you’re starting your own family. Before the first mission even begins, Dominic must choose one of three NPCs to recruit (and eventually promote) for his family. New recruits eventually surface at the business over which you gain control, and you can have up to three Made Men at any time in your crew. Think of it as Mass Effect or KOTOR, in a sense, where different Made Men have different capabilities (medics, muscle, arsonists, safecrackers, engineers and demolitions), and some can learn more than one skill. With each visit back home, players can choose which Men they want to bring along on specific jobs, while the rest hang out at the compound doing their nails.
Actually, they do anything but sit on their laurels. As you gain control over rackets and businesses, the non-party Men in your family are used to defend, take over or bomb rival families’ businesses. How do you know how to assign them? Through the biggest addition to The Godfather 2: the Don’s View. In this view, players can step back and take a 10,000-foot view at the city, almost like a real-time strategy game. The Energy RC-Micro home theater system delivered the sound for this review.This view gives players a snapshot of their controlled territory, their businesses and the obstacles in their way to total domination. The goal is to take over every racket and every business, but once they’re under your control, competing families will try to regain their territory and proactively take over Dominic’s. The key is recruiting new Made Men and assigning security guards to defend them, plus making sure Dominic controls enough businesses to be able to pay those guards, who each demand $100/day (players can assign as many guards as they want to each facility). This strategic element gives The Godfather 2 a much more “mature” feeling, because it’s not entirely based on Blackhand action, but mixes the strategic elements with third-person action. The farther you progress in the game, more of the city opens up for players to explore, dominate and manage.
There are a few hiccups in The Godfather 2, but none that’s really a deal-breaker. Navigation in the world can be a bit trying, even with the minimap, because there’s no routing system a la GTA IV (and it’s a virtual necessity for a sandbox game). It’s a mixed blessing, then, that the city — even as it expands — still feels a bit small at times, although that may have been intentional to show gamers just how “cozy” one family likes to get with another. The game also doesn’t seem to have the same level of production values, although the graphics are improved and the voice acting is less stilted. Improved AI for your “squad” goons would’ve been appreciated as well, and although the addition of a KOTOR- or Mass Effect-like dialogue system is nice, it would’ve been even nicer if players’ dialogue decisions actually had an impact on your reputation or options. Finally, while the gunplay feels more refined, with a targeting system that lets you target specific parts and enables freedom of movement while targeting or under cover, the driving elements have taken a step backwards, which is too bad considering the amount of driving you have to do to travel from racket to racket.
Combine these little flaws with the eventually repetitive nature of the game in the later stages, and The Godfather 2 doesn’t have the same wow factor as the original. The addition of the Don’s view is an intriguing touch, and it’s understandable that adding that mode to a sandbox action game took time and resources away from other elements. But I’d rather have a game that did one or two things very well than have one that tried to tackle so many things that they all suffer somewhat, even if just a little. If there’s a Godfather 3, EA will likely improve on the elements introduced in this sequel, but it still seems like EA should quit trying to create its own Don in the sandbox genre and leave that role to Rockstar.
- Score: 7.3
- EA introduces some new gameplay elements and injects some variety, but it’s not enough to keep the game from getting repetitive, and the overall polish isn’t as high as it was in the original.
— Jonas Allen