reviews\ Mar 19, 2007 at 8:00 pm

The Godfather Blackhand Edition - WII - Review

Over the few months since the Wii console launch, we have seen quite a few remakes of current and next-gen titles that try and incorporate the unique controller functionality into the original core game. Sometimes these games feel like the developers rushed trivial gameplay features for the Wii version for the sole purpose of capturing potential sales opportunities with limited alterations. Then there comes a time when games like The Godfather vastly improve on their existing formula by revamping the way the game should be played, integrating the Wii Remote and Nunchuk’s capabilities in almost every aspect of the game.

The Godfather: Blackhand Edition has the same storyline as its current and next-gen counterparts. There have been a story missions and side missions added, but anyone who played the original should understand that at its core, it’s still the same game. You take on the role of a small-time thug who is contacted by Don Corleone during his daughter’s wedding day. The Don asks Luca Brasi to take you under his wing and show you the ropes. Through the game, you will climb the ranks from an outsider to the big dog himself, Don of New York City. Along the way, you must perform a variety of tasks (favors, as they are called) to take out the other NY families (Tattaglia, Stracci, Cuneo, and Barzini), each holding their space in the city.

Of course, what makes the Wii version stand out from the rest is the use of motion-sensing technology. Blackhand, as it is commonly referred to as, features a ton of unique gesture controls where you no longer have to rely on button smashing to “teach someone a lesson.” After locking on to a bad guy (holding the ‘Z’ button), you can throw all sorts of punches and kicks depending on how you move the controller. Even better, you can grab the unfortunate soul, toss them around, throw them up against a wall, strangle them, beat them with a melee weapon, or just head-butt them out cold. Each maneuver feels completely natural with the controllers in hand … almost too natural. Sometimes I got the itch to pick up innocent bystanders and show them “family love.” Even police officers can fall victim to your bare hands, although I don’t recommend it (more on that later). Once someone’s health bar is dangerously low, you can perform an execution by using the A button and flicking the controller in the way provided on-screen. Executions range from a simple neck-snap to more creative efforts (I won’t ruin the surprise). All together, the motion controls are awesome to mess around with.

The Godfather Blackhand Edition screenshots

Sometimes, however, nothing beats a bullet. The Godfather features the same 15 weapons from the original title including the Saturday Night Special and the Street Sweeper. There are two aiming systems you can choose from. You can lock on to a baddie (holding the ‘Z’ button) and use the Wii Remote to target a specific part of the body. The game advises you to shoot the trigger arm immediately to disarm the opponent, but I prefer taking a direct shot to their knee before finishing them off with one to the head. It’s a little disturbing explaining the ways to blast an enemy, but you get the idea of how many options you have at your disposal (groin shots also work, ouch!). The second aiming system is free-aim where a reticule can move anywhere on the screen. I found free-aim to be the lesser of the two and you will no doubt spend most of your time using the lock-on alternative. Being discreet is also important, so holster your weapon fast after the “job” is done. Some of the gun combat felt elementary, mainly due to the problematic artificial intelligence. Even though you can duck behind walls, cars, and other objects to avoid gunfire, some baddies would walk right up to me standing straight and try to shoot me from point blank. Once in a while, enemies would get stuck in a continuous loop of running around and can’t be stopped until you meet them up close.

For some reason, people find a necessity in comparing games like The Godfather to the Grand Theft Auto series. In this case, however, The Godfather: Blackhand Edition offers something that GTA could never do. Going beyond the run-and-gun mentality Rockstar is famous for, EA’s The Godfather spends a great deal of time trying to master the mobster life. Simply put, you can’t become the Don of New York City with only your fists and ammo (it's not called “organized crime” for nothing). The game features a wide variety of business opportunities including extortion, rackets, blackmailing, and bribes. One of the ways you and the family earn money is by extorting business owners. By offering “protection”, you are given a cut of the monthly profits. Just as you may think, a mobster’s “sales pitch” doesn’t include brochures and a Cheshire cat grin. If the owner isn’t open to buying the family’s services, knocking him around a bit or causing some damage to property or customers will help him reconsider. There is a bar under the NPC’s health bar called the pressure meter. You must perform these acts (cracking open a cash register with the owner’s head works particularly well) to increase the bar until it is green. Be carefully though, pushing the shop owner too far will elicit a fighting response. Once in a while, once you crack the shopkeeper a door will open that will reveal a room concealing illegal activities. You can take over the rackets with either negotiating the easy way or the hard way. Both extortion and racketeering are executed pretty well in the game and guarantee a continuous steady cash flow throughout the game.

Every once in a while, a crooked cop with come to you regarding your business tactics. The police can be bribed and will turn their backs from small-time crimes (their bribe meter is timed based on the cop’s rank) as well as help you in certain situations. Bribes don’t excuse you from going on a crime spree, however, so be wary of curb stomping innocent bystanders in front of them. One of the new things to The Godfather on Wii is the ability to hire a crew to work with you during a mission. As you climb the ranks, you can hire more people, eventually cumulating in a hit squad that can back you up on the streets. I found crew hiring to be very similar to Saints Row and having backup can be vitally important when things get too hot.

The Godfather Blackhand Edition screenshots

As said before, the ultimate goal in the game is to destroy the other families. Even though you gain respect by icing every mobsters, your vendetta level will increase and eventually any thug with an affiliation to a family will come after you. Mob wars will break out and you soon become a targeted man with drive-bys, roadblocks, and bombings of your businesses. The way I played the game, there really was no way around avoiding these kind of war. Only by bombing an enemy family’s business or bribing an FBI agent can guarantee a victory. The all-out chaos that breaks out really immerses you in the storyline. To learn more about all the features, I recommend viewing the Mob Tactics videos found in the main menu. RPG elements have also been thrown in to customize how you play the game. There are two paths you can take based on the skills you increase when you level up after a mission. The enforcer path (much like Sonny Corleone) is for gamers who want to because better at intimidation, fighting, and guns, and explosives. The operator path (much like Tom Hagen) is aimed at improving bribing, extortion, and racketeering. Personally, I preferred increasing physical abilities because they are more apparent to see working, but I’m sure people will be interested in flexing the power of talk.

Graphically, The Godfather delivers what you would expect from a sandbox title. The environments, while diverse and grand in scale, are kind of barren as are the cars you can drive. The Mob Face character creation tool does a great job at creating custom models to your liking and all the main characters such as Don Corleone look incredibly realistic in detail and fluid animation. The game features the voice work of Robert Duvall, James Caan, and the late Marlon Brando reprising their respective roles (Al Pacino opted out of using his likeness and voice in the game which kind of hurts). Each performance is a treat to listen to (however, brief) and the soundtrack is truly authentic to The Godfather experience. One problem that was common was during the cut scenes. If you engage in a conversation to discuss an upcoming mission and you are standing next to two characters having an arbitrary conversation, listening to the task at hand becomes virtually inaudible and jumbled. In general, the game is presented pretty well given the Wii’s limited system specs.

Hands down, the greatest thing about this game is what you can do with the Wii Remote. Hand combat, in my opinion, has never been more fun on any other Wii title. The first time you throw somebody half way across the room, shattering everything in his path, you are hooked. Besides a problematic AI system, a few bugs here and there, and the plain environments, The Godfather: Blackhand Edition makes for an pretty good adventure through New York City.

Review Scoring Details for The Godfather: Blackhand Edition

Gameplay: 8.4
AI puts a damper on an otherwise quality game. The Blackhand controls are very fun to use, however.

Graphics: 8.2
Besides boring environments and cars due to the Wii’s lack of serious graphical capabilities, the character models look and act just like their movie counterparts.

Sound: 8.4
Some of Hollywood’s greatest actors are back to add authentic VO work, with the exception of Al Pacino. The main theme from the movie is back along with other great songs representative of the time period. There are big problems with cutscenes that jumble the dialog as well as some repetitive NPC comments.

Difficulty: Medium

Concept: 8.5
I’ll admit I was a naysayer when I first heard that The Godfather was being developed as a video game. But unlike so many other titles that have tried to capture GTA’s fan base, this is the first game I’ve seen that has focused on an “organized crime” frame of mind for a console.

Overall: 8.4
The Godfather: Blackhand Edition is a pretty fun game that offers many unique features never before seen on a system title. Although there is little difference in the storyline compared to the early versions of the game, the Wii delivers dynamic controllability and good gameplay (neglecting the problematic artificial intelligence) that organized crime enthusiasts will enjoy.


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