reviews\ Mar 20, 2006 at 7:00 pm

The Godfather - XB - Review

Respect and loyalty to the family are important and nothing stresses this fact more than “The Godfather,” a masterpiece of a film based on the book by Mario Puzo. This movie is not only beloved by everyone from rap stars to movie critics, but when Electronic Arts announced that it will be releasing a game that features all the major characters and memorable scenes many, including filmmaker Frances Ford Coppola, didn’t like the idea of messing with a true mafia classic. Yours truly felt the same way, that is until I sat down and played The Godfather The Game Limited Edition. Get ready to get lost into a true mafia underworld and pay your respects to a game that is way better than any other Grand Theft Auto imitators already out there.


Your father crosses the street with an envelope filled with cash as he hands it to a man that is both respected and feared in Little Italy in New York City during the 1940s. This man takes your father’s money and warmly touches his hand but as your father greets your mother warmly; your family’s bakery explodes. Three men approach and they threaten your parents but your father, not afraid of these gangsters, fights them off. Unfortunately, a mobster steps forward and mutters something about this not being personal but only business, orders his men to fill your old man with lead. You run down the street in time to see your father’s killers walk away and, as you cry out in anger, the man your father paid grabs a hold of you and tells you that you will have your revenge when the time is right. This man is none other than Don Vito Corleone.


Fast forward several years later, your mother approaches Don Corleone during his daughter Connie’s wedding. Since a Sicilian cannot deny doing a favor on the day of his daughter’s wedding, your mother implores him to take you into la familia. And so, sending the loyal Luca Brasi, the huge Luca finds you scrapping with the local punks. You start the game, essentially, as nothing more than an outsider but you can build up your reputation along the way. You’re introduced quickly to a character creator known as Mob Face, a feature similar to the Game Face feature from the Tiger Woods PGA Tour games. Mob Face is deep enough to create a character that closely resembles you. You can even decide what your character should wear (from fancy coats to expensive shoes).

As a member of the Corleone family, you start from the bottom, running “errands” like walking into certain businesses and persuading them that the Corleone family could provide their protective services. Of course, many shopkeepers already pay rival mobsters so you’ll have to put on the pressure by intimidation. Early in the game you’ll get a taste of the game’s fighting controls (that slightly mirror the fighting mechanics in EA Sports Fight Night games with the exception that you can grab your opponent and perform unique moves and executions) and part of the intimidation route has you grabbing the stubborn shopkeeper. From there you got the freedom to apply the necessary pressure by either slamming their heads into their own cash register, slapping around their customers or breaking merchandise. These businesses are all usually fronts for some illegal activities so once you successfully get a shopkeeper to send in their weekly “donations” you can enter the back room and buy out the illegal racket to get a piece of the action whether it’s a gambling house or brothel.


While the game is somewhat loyal to the movie, you’ll be experiencing memorable scenes through the eyes of your character and actually becoming a part of these scenes as well. Many sequences do take certain liberties with the game’s story but the main elements are there with you as a minor player in the saga. For example, you are a witness to Luca Brasi’s murder by the rival Sollozzo clan and, when the Don is shot, you drive Fredo Corleone (who uncharacteristically rides in the backseat firing his gun at chasing vehicles). The good news is that the game’s key elements are in place and the original dialogue and story are handled by Mark Winegardner, who recently penned the “Godfather Returns” novel.


Your enemies, of course, are rival gangsters like the Sollozzo, Brazini, Tattaglia and Stracci families that own businesses throughout New York City’s five corners (Little Italy, Brooklyn, Hell’s Kitchen, Midtown and New Jersey). Without adding load times, you can travel freely through the massive areas, streets and highways. You’ll have to since each rival’s business you mean to obtain is scattered throughout the map. You’ll always know what gangs run what business because you’ll always spot a gangster hanging out. Step on too many toes and you’ll end up going to war with the family you go up against. However, like the real mob, procuring business, rackets and taking warehouses is the only way to own territory, more money and respect.

That’s why you’ll want to arm yourself with everything from a magnum, .45 automatic, shotguns and Tommy guns. Weapons can be upgraded through black market dealers who will either give your weapons more of a punch or make them faster to load. Shooting your guns is handled fairly well since the targeting system can be switched to precision shooting on the fly. The biggest problem, though, is the automatic targeting system that can often have you targeting innocent bystanders instead of the armed goon closer to you. You can also purchase dynamite (used to break open safes including a bank safe during heists), baseball bats and lead pipes when bullets aren’t necessary.

Vehicles can also be used as weapons, whether you toss an enemy towards oncoming traffic or by hijacking a car and ramming armed goons with it. Like most games featuring on-foot and driving elements, there are moments in the game that require you to drive from one place to another. Some driving sequences are timed but they are never a real annoyance like in the awful Mafia game or True Crime: Streets of New York. While vehicles handle unrealistically - like old clunky pickup trucks making ultra smooth and quick U-turns - the vehicles handle well enough for the driving bits in the game.


The game’s story missions will have you performing several different jobs that tie with segments in the movie as well as ones that branch out into your own story arch. For example, you’ll meet Frances, sister of Monk Malone who is shot during the attempt on the Don’s life. Not only will you be wrapped up in the drama of the Corleone family but see through your own saga of love and revenge. Meanwhile, though, you’ll be whacking people for Sonny Corleone and receiving new ranks from the family consigliore, Tom Hagen. The game allows you the freedom to stray from the story long enough to carry out sub-missions. For example, Salvatore Tessio (Abe Vigoda reprising his role) will offer contract hits that have you whacking different goons who disrespect the family.


While the game technically touches on the main plot points of the movie, it does change things around enough to see why Coppola had a problem with making the game in the first place. At one point, after Don Corleone is shot, you stand guard with his son Michael who - in the movie - is busy moving his father from room to room. Meanwhile you are left killing off assassins sent to finish off the Don and meeting Michael in time to see the crooked cop smack him around. What more can a fan of the movie ask for then become a part of a great story like this?

Speaking of ranks, you will be constantly receiving upgrade points good towards upgrading your skills (shooting, fighting, speed, health and street smarts) so no two characters you create are ever the same. Leveling up on your street smarts, for example, allows you to negotiate more effectively and will find it harder to increase the vendetta rating (anger a rival mob too much and you’ll find yourself in a mob war).


On the graphical front, The Godfather looks spectacular. Not only does it push the Xbox’s graphics capabilities to the max but also when it comes to rendering characters and environments the game looks like it belongs on a next-generation console. The physical likenesses of the entire cast members (except for the original characters and, for reasons unknown, Michael Corleone) are true to the film. That’s James Caan as Sonny you’re talking to outside the Corleone compound and Robert Duvall as Tom Haden that’s patting you on the back. The 1940s New York City is also beautifully rendered and looks true to the film. It’s practically another main character since you’ll be moving through its various side streets, main avenues and old neighborhoods.

The game’s sound is also something of an achievement since not only do most of the familiar faces voice their characters but also the original musical score by Bill Conti makes this a truly cinematic experience. Not only will you hear original and familiar dialogue from the late Marlon Brando but also there’s great voice acting from Robert Duvall, James Caan and Abe Vigoda. Even the minor players are voiced perfectly. The sound effects are also rich in detail. Walk past a hallway and you’ll hear Dean Martin playing on somebody’s radio and outside the city comes to life with the sounds of passing traffic, pedestrians stopping to chat or the occasional gangland shootouts. In short, the sound in this game just plain rocks.

The Godfather The Game might not be perfect but it is a fun game that does pay tribute to the classic masterpiece even though it does bend the plot around. Sure, it will bring to mind other Grand Theft Auto-like games but this is a game that stands on its own as an unforgettable mafia epic with a lot to offer. If you’re a true fan of the films, you will definitely want to buy the Limited Edition version with its bonus DVD.

Review Scoring Details for The Godfather The Game - Limited Edition

Gameplay: 8.5
Rising up from a lowly outsider to a made man running errands and building up the Corleone family empire is handled beautifully enough. The fighting mechanics will seem familiar and they add a more visceral feel to the violence but the gunplay is a bit on the awkward side. Driving vehicles can be a bit unrealistic at times but it’s not entirely bad.

Graphics: 9.0
This is, by far, one of the most visually stunning original Xbox games you’ll find this year. Not only does it capture the feel of the first film but it also brings to life a New York City of an era long gone. The character models are just so impressively detailed that it’s an eerie sight interacting with Marlon Brando, Robert Duval and James Caan … although why does Michael Corleone look more like the late John F. Kennedy Jr. than Al Pacino?

Sound: 9.0
It doesn’t get any more cinematic than the game’s overall sound. Mixing detailed environmental noise, brilliant voice acting and the recognizable score, it feels like you’re playing the actual movie. Everything from the sound of a Tommy gun firing to the sound of a baseball bat cracking a kneecap sounds authentic.

Difficulty: Medium
Sure, you can run into a Tattaglia warehouse with a shotgun blasting but that will only get you a one-way ticket to the morgue. You can be as brutal as you want but because your enemies aren’t dumb enough to stand around while getting shot you will seriously consider different strategies, upgrading your weapons or earning more respect before you jump into a mob war.

Concept: 8.5
The Limited Edition comes with bonus DVD chock full of interesting interviews with Duvall and Caan but the short video walk-thru is worth the purchase price alone. The game itself is the real prize with its living and breathing world that gives you the freedom to play through the story or take a break by robbing banks, performing mob hits and intimidating shopkeepers. Even the Mob Face feature is deep.

Overall: 8.5
Pay your respects to the Don because The Godfather The Game is not only an interactive cinematic experience but it’s also a fun game no gamer will want to miss. Not only will you feel like you’re running with the Corleone family but as far as the mobster genre is concerned, it will not fail to reveal a true peek into what it really means to be a gangster.


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