The original Godfather game from EA wasn't exactly a ground-breaking title, it had a few bugs and it was fairly repetitive in design and scope. I enjoyed it though and I felt that it needed a bit more meat on the skeleton. So, now we have Godfather II where there have been a few changes and some new elements added, especially in terms of multiplayer.
Dominic is promoted to Don of New York after a tragic event in Cuba plunging him into a brutal all out war with the other crime families. Godfather II provides a solid story with a great deal of character and style, as usual, we're not going to give any deep details away so you're going to have to play the game to discover it.
It's an open world game set in various cities; the playable area isn't as great as some of EA's competitors out there in sandbox land but it's the game-play that sets the Godfather II apart from the others. It's a standard 3rd person shooter mechanic with the usual set of controls for running on foot or driving, you can get your crew to shoot from a moving vehicle with a press of a button and concentrate on driving. The game allows you to customise your character and outfit them with various suits and so on, change weapons and gain access to new abilities by spending your hard earned (stolen) cash.
What really differentiates the game from the likes of GTA IV and Saints Row 2 is that you have a complete control over your crew, of which you can recruit 3 other members to join you in your escapades. You can customise their clothes, looks, features and weapons just like you can your own player. You can buy them new abilities and get them new weapon licenses as well as making sure your crew is coordinated to match your character's style.
Gunplay is excellent, lock-on works properly and the weapons feel great.
Your Family builds over the course of the game and you can promote your men to the ranks of Capo and Underboss, whilst you as the Don sit at the top of the tree. Story missions will open up more slots for your men and whilst you can only have 3 running with you at any given time, you have quite an expansive family that can be used for other tasks. You can recruit various specialists around the game world; some are good at being brutal brawlers, cracking safes and getting into places through fences. Some just like to blow stuff up or set fire to it. Each crew member should have the skill you require and they can be sent to try and take over rival businesses or blow them up from the meta-map.
The meta-map, aka the Don's view, is the greatest innovation in the game and it provides detailed information on your crime empire. See a business is unguarded, no problems, just spend some cash to buy guards. Under attack, send a few of your crew to help fend the enemy off or pop down a waypoint and do it yourself. There's a bewildering amount of information for the first time player but it's all presented clearly and concisely in this view.
As you progress through the game you'll need to take out rival families, they'll attack your businesses and cause you no end of problems. Complete side missions for the general populace in a very Freelancer kind of way (remember that space sim folks?) and you'll earn information on the rival Made Men. Use this information and go hunting, once you have their kill condition you can take them out of the game and make it much easier to muscle in on the rival families operations.
Each business you own is part of a Crime Ring, it conveys a bonus, lose a business and you'll lose that bonus. Brass Knuckles, Bullet Proof Vests, Armoured Cars and so on - they can be taken away if one of your links in the Crime Ring chain falls. So guard them carefully, likewise you can take an enemies bonus if you pick one of his businesses to bomb or take over. Get all the businesses in a Crime Ring and you get the bonus, it's a simple and tactical mechanic that means you can approach the game how you want to play it, using your own tactical style of play that suits you.
Once you have all the businesses and fronts, the family retreats to their compound. Charge in, take down their guards and finally rig the place to blow. Kill their Don and you win the city. This city can be attacked if other families have turf there so you have to be mindful of the whole picture, not just your current city map. Fortunately the Don's view allows you to send defenders out to defend businesses at the click of a button.
Godfather II also has an expansive hand to hand combat system, numerous Mob executions and brutal hand to hand attacks. You can grab, threaten and beat the living daylights out of anyone in the game. Throw them out of windows, off rooftops and smash them against the scenery - vital skills to learn when you're trying to take over a business or front. Get it right and the owner will roll over, get it wrong and they'll fight back if you push them too hard. Everyone has a breaking point.
You can always try again though, so it's not that bad. You just need to wait a day or so of in-game time and try once more.
There are lots of repetitious side-missions to try in Godfather II; they earn cash, favours and information on rival families Made Men. The problem is that they are vanilla and fairly simple; they offer little or no challenge.
The graphics in Godfather II are somewhat dated, they're functional and they look decent enough but they lack in the detail department compared to some of the recent titles - this isn't going to matter at all if you're not into Eyecandy, but many gamers seem to be these days. The textures seem a little flat, the models and designs are slightly stiff. The lighting is quite nice and the shadows are decent.
There are a few bugs in the animations, some of the executions didn't line up properly and some of the grabs were mistimed. There are a few issues with some of the crew animations as well as the player animations, they don't mar the overall experience but they are noticeable. Combat is nicely animated when it works and the rest of the animations are standard, with the living city given only a brief sense of life from the NPCs.
The car handling is loose and the vehicles are of course not as sporty as you'd expect, this isn't too had considering that's what cars were supposed to be like at the time. Bodies do their ragdoll thing and you can take locational pot shots at the enemy, sub-targeting their bodies for additional damage and effects. Explosions are adequate.
The AI is variable, most of the time the enemy will provide little or no challenge if you have your tactics sorted. The Police AI is ruthless and the crew AI can get caught with their path-finding, there are a few times where they seemed to lose the plot and stood around in a gunfight shooting at a wall where a character had accidentally spawned.
The game has some decent sound and the sounds of the era are replicated pretty nicely, weapons sound good, the cars sound great and the whole feel is nicely evoked.
There's a nice spread of era tunes here, the radio isn't at all bad and the typical Godfather theme plays an all important role in setting the auditory atmosphere, good stuff.
Voice and Dialogue
The voice acting isn't bad at all, there are some familiar voice dialogues and some of it repeats a lot. The true star of the show are the exchanges between your various crew members as they accompany you and get involved in gun fights, brawls and crime sprees. It's solid and it does a good job. The actual script is pretty good as well and evokes the feeling of the movies fairly nicely.
With the usual smattering of options available Godfather II has standard multiplayer, unless you happen to be the Don of the game and this is where things get interesting. Not only do you have the Don's view but you can act on that, mark people for death and give simple orders to the people in your Family. This reminds me a lot of the game: Savage and I loved seeing it here. You can use this view to give out bonuses via the upgrade nodes or detonate them and seriously damage anyone nearby.
There are incentives for playing online, money and upgrades are carried over to the single player game and you can gain new weapon licenses.
Multiplayer extends the 20 hour game experience and provides a lot of good replay value.