The Godfather - PS2 - Review
As you play outside your family’s bakery one day during a sunny afternoon in your neighborhood that is Little Italy, your father’s bakery suddenly blows up and your parents are being roughed up by a couple of men who think they can mess with the neighborhood. Your old man introduces them to his fists but a man is a new suit mutters something to your father as his two goombas open fire, riddling your father with bullets. You see your father’s crumbled body but somebody grabs you. It’s Don Vito Corleone. He’s somebody your father always respected and feared and he tells you that one day you will have your revenge. This is how EA’s The Godfather The Game opens and makes you the star of a game that put you in the Academy Award-winning first film in the trilogy.
It’s 1940 and the Corleone family is celebrating the wedding of the Don’s daughter, Connie. It is also the day Sicilian men of influence cannot refuse a favor so this is the day your mother goes to the Don and asks him to take you under his wing, so to speak. Luckily, his new trusted ally, Luca Brasi, is present and the Don asks him to find you and make you an unofficial member of the Corleone clan. While you are essentially an outsider, this is an offer you can’t refuse and thus begins your start from outsider to Don of New York City.
You begin the game by creating a character from scratch using the Mob Face feature that’s a lot like the Game Face feature in EA Sports Tiger Woods PGA Tour. It’s as deep as the feature can get seeing as the character you create mainly has Italian-American features. You can even dress your character up in a various number of apparel choices from suits to what kind of shirts and ties you would like your character to wear during the game. You can always go back and add more clothing options and change hairstyles. From there you begin your quest to rise from the ranks to become a made man and a true ally to the Corleone family that has taken you in as their own.
You start by performing simple tasks from recognizable figures within your new family. You’ll be walking to a barber shop, for example, and pressuring the owner to give the family a cut in exchange for protection. Of course, putting on the pressure means you will be using intimidating methods like, say, grabbing the owner and slamming him up against the wall or his own cash register until he finally sees the light and accepts. The game introduces an intimidation meter much like the one in True Crime: New York City so if you get too rough you might not end up with nothing. Of course, some businesses are just fronts for illegal activities that occur in back rooms. There is usually a person you can buy out and then the location becomes Corleone territory.
Of course, the Corleones are not the only family in New York City’s five boroughs; you will have the Brazini, Stracci, Cuneo, Sollozzo and Tattaglia families to deal with as well. You will find each family on the playing map and you can attempt to take over their territory at any time during the game. Of course, push a family too far and you will have a gang war on your hands that is not only time consuming but also requires a lot of money and weapons. You can always bribe police officers and even FBI agents to put an end to the war sooner, though.
When it does come down to violence, you’ll find that your character can easily go face-to-face against an enemy. The fighting style is similar to EA Sports Fight Night franchise in that the analog sticks are used for blocking as well as punching. The game also uses Blackhand Attacks that are basically violent finishing moves that either have you executing enemies by breaking their neck, strangling them to death or using environmental objects that happen to be around. You can go as far a push an enemy off a roof, into an oven or into oncoming traffic. Not only is this an interesting way to perform unique combat moves but it makes for a more visually impressive action.
You will also have a number of weapons at your disposal. Aside from melee weapons like baseball bats and lead pipes, you will have shotguns, various pistols, Thompson guns and dynamite and Molotov cocktails. Weapons can be upgrades by finding gun merchants as well as your shooting skill (more on that in a bit) but this actually doesn’t help the weakest aspect of the game - the shooting. The problem lies with the targeting system that often does not target the closest threat. This often has you shooting an enemy way in the back while the enemy a lot closer to you gets to shoot you dead. Sometimes you might even target innocent bystanders. Luckily there’s a precision shooting feature that allows you to aim manually and this helps a little.
The beauty of The Godfather is that it brings to life a New York City of an era long gone but fondly remembered in the movie. You can drive from Little Italy to New Jersey without having to pause for a load time (in fact, the load times in this game are very short) and you will also be able to visit Hell’s Kitchen, Brooklyn and the impressive Midtown. Driving is another aspect of the game that is handled somewhat good and somewhat bad. The good part is that vehicles, including pickup trucks and old sedans, drive quickly. The bad part is that these cars can stop on a dime, make smooth turns and are hardly stopped by a thick lamp post but running over a person makes the vehicle almost come to a dead halt. These unrealistic elements do take you out of the game.
As far as the game’s missions are concerned, the game’s main story missions place you in various situations that lead to the most memorable scenes of the movie. When Don Corleone is shot it is you who Fredo Corleone asks to drive behind the ambulance to protect his father from chasing assassins. You are also there when assassins are sent to the hospital to finish off the Don, helping the Don’s other son, Michael, protect his father. You are there when Luca Brasi is killed and after Sonny is massacred in the Jersey tollbooth, it is you who the Don requests to tie up loose ends. The game essentially changes various aspects of the movie, something fans of the classic might not like at all. Still, with an original story that revolves around you and your need for revenge, the various missions you’ll participate in are actually very entertaining indeed.
The fun part comes in the side missions that have you working under people like Salvatore Tessio. Tessio’s missions mainly have you performing a hit on various different crooks and undesirable men that are becoming a problem to the Don. You can rob the local bank, enter a rival’s warehouse to claim in the name of the family and you can even beat up local thieves in the bad part of the neighborhood and relieve them of their stolen cash. In doing so you earn respect points good towards upgrading skills like shooting, health, speed, fighting and street smarts. The more respect you gain, the higher you climb in the mafia ladder. You will get a phone call from Tom Haden (Robert Duvall) who will give you new ranks in the family until you become a made man. You’ll even impress Sonny Corleone (James Caan), who is a hard man to impress.
Graphically, The Godfather is not as stunning as the Xbox version of the game. It does manage to display some really impressive visual features like New York City in the day as well as night. The character models, even the minor players, look good up close but the star of the show is really how wonderful they rendered James Caan, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall as well as characters like Fredo and Luca Brasi. The effects are handled nicely as well. Car crashes look brutal, gunfire looks amazing and explosions will not fail to put a smile on your face.
As for the game’s sound, it is another great feature. The main theme music is played throughout the game and it never gets old. There’s also original voice work here from the late Brando as well as Caan, Duvall and Abe Vigoda. Their original voice recordings add a lot to the story and the dialogue is actually well-written. The street sounds are also a highlight and it does a brilliant job of bringing the city to life. While pedestrian comments are highly repetitive, it is fun hearing them respond to you as you climb up the criminal underworld ladder.
When all is said and done, The Godfather is not the true masterpiece it was meant to be but it is a good game that gives fans of the movie the opportunity to be a part of the saga. With a excellently written story, a strong cast of unforgettable characters and quite a number of interesting missions, this is a PS2 game well worth your attention. For those who have been waiting for a true mafia classic, this is really the game to buy. Either way, missing out on this game would be the real crime.
Review Scoring Details for The Godfather The Game
The mission structure is really quite interesting even if the game does rearrange the plot of the movie and the freedom to ignore the main plot to rob a bank, rub out goombas or storm a rival family’s illegal warehouse is a true joy. The face-to-face fisticuffs are handled beautifully but the shooting could have been handled a bit better. Driving is just as good as the GTA series even with the classic clunker vehicles of the era but is it realistic? The answer is a definite no.
While the PS2 version lacks the true graphical beauty of the Xbox version, this is still a very good-looking game. The city landscape alone is impressive whether you’re in the Brooklyn or Midtown and the character models are just too beautiful. It is also quite a sight to be interacting with characters that look exactly like they did in the movie, especially Brando, Duvall and Caan.
You will want to play this game on a good sound system because everything from the score to the voice acting and finally the sound effects are handled perfectly. The newly recorded voice work of Marlon Brando, James Caan, Robert Duvall and other key players are so much better than taking sound bytes from the movie. The music is classic and listening to the bustling city come to life is a treat.
The enemies you’ll face in the game are not only numerous but they are not dumb either. Rival goombas will take cover and fire from a concealed spot as others will try to move to a better corner to get a clear shot at you. Some missions are actually pretty challenging enough that you will end up in the hospital quite a lot.
Who doesn’t want to run rackets for the Corleone family and be a part of the movie’s best parts? New York City is open wide and filled with enough things to do as you climb up the ranks of the mafia family. The Mob Face feature offers plenty of options and you can upgrade skills and weapons.
A bit rough around the edges, The Godfather for the PS2 is still a very worthwhile game that feels like an epic and plays in a universe that’s very familiar and highly entertaining. While certain aspects of the game could have been better (like the targeting system), the playground that is New York City and the mafia lifestyle are well represented. Add a large number of good missions and RPG-styled upgrading and you have a game that will win you over.