The Godfather: The Game was released on March 21, 2006 by EA Games. It represents years of hard work by a talented team of developers, and boasts to be a nonlinear, wide-open game putting you in the shoes of a new member to the Corleone family.
The main story of the game runs a close parallel to the first movie. You begin with a tutorial mission, but you are quickly hurled into action as you are a bystander during Luca Brasi’s assassination. From there, you begin to understand the unrest of the city, as you are pitted against the earliest rival family. From this point, the missions come pretty much directly from the movie. The only thing is that your character, this “new guy” to the family, winds up doing a lot of the behind-the-scenes things. For example, when Don Vito Corleone is shot, you have to tail his ambulance as a fellow gangster shoots out of the window of your car to take enemy cars out of the way. After being ambushed on a bridge, you then have to interrogate a high ranking member of the Tattaglia family for information as to who may have shot the Don. From there, you assume driver control of the ambulance and then have to rush to the hospital. It is a great mix of all the things you will be doing in this game in an early mission, and really gets things rolling.
Unfortunately, that is one of the better missions in the game. Subsequent missions are fun, but the story-telling is very weak. For example, when you must plant the gun behind the toilet for Michael Corleone to use in hitting Sollozzo and McClusky, the game doesn’t even tell you why you are doing it. The opening cutscene for the mission features a memorable quote from the movie, but doesn’t actually give you any direction. You wind up simply following the blue dot on the mini-map, a’la of GTA. So, if you haven’t seen the first movie, this game is going to seem like a bunch of random quests that have almost no direction or connection. I’m surprised EA didn’t take a more cinematic approach to their games, and make the missions seem more like an interactive version of the movie rather than a game with some clips from the movie thrown in. There are also quite a few frustrating levels that will undoubtedly take a few tries to complete. Also make sure to save often between missions so that you don’t lose progress when you fall victim to some of the games few but major glitches (e.g. if you are very close to an exploding car, but you aren’t kill by the blast, your guy gets stuck on the ground and can’t get up. It requires a restart of the game, essentially sending you back to your last save.)
Veering away from the main story line is easy, however, and is why this game is even enjoyable at all. The largest “side quest” you will be doing is trying to gain control of New York City. The mini-map displays businesses as either dollar signs or little triangle-looking things that are color coded based on who controls them. Taking control of businesses is extremely fun. The first business you must take over is not controlled by anyone, so you don’t have to worry about rival gang fire. You press the Triangle button near the shop owner (indicated by the puppet-master icon above their head) to attempt to extort them. Some people simply go along with the Corleone’s, but some require some “convincing”. You can convice people in many ways. When they don’t want to do what you ask, a bar appears under their name, with a blue bar showing how intimidated they are of you and then a green line showing where they will join your side. However, on the far end of the bar is a red area. If you hit that, they will no longer value life enough and won’t give you anything. The key to making the most money from a deal is getting as close to the red as you can without actually hitting it. The convincing itself usually entails breaking things in the store with your fists or a bat, grabbing the owner by the shirt and knocking them against the wall, simply beating up the owner, or holding a gun to them. Sometimes just doing one of these things is enough, in the case of the first business you have to convert. From there, however, it gets more difficult. Some people need to be beat within an inch of their life to go your way. Once they are convinced, you press Triangle again and their business will begin paying protection to the Corleone’s. Every time a week passes in the game, a summary will be displayed of all the businesses, and you will take your cut of the profit the family receives (about 30%). Taking over all the businesses in a district gives the Corleones control of that territory. The ultimate goal is to take control of all five districts.
After the tutorial mission in the game, I feel victim to a rival family trap. These are two parallel roads that lead to an enemy warehouse, and both roads are barricaded off by enemy cars. Driving into it is essentially a trap, but I somehow managed to escape alive by running over most of the enemies. Little did I know, I built up the Vendetta meter – that is, the meter that controls your relationship with rival families. I got it up high enough to start a mob war… in the first hour of the game! The game instructed me that to end it I needed to either bribe an FBI agent or bomb one of the enemy family’s businesses. I chose the former, as I had no bombs. Finding the agent was difficult, as he was in the basement of a church, but paying him off was easy. I had won the war.
This brings me to a point in the game that I don’t really enjoy: the way it handles money. Money is such a minor aspect, believe it or not. Taking over businesses, to me, is more about the fun of “convincing” than getting the money. Bribing the FBI agent was about $30,000. I only had $18,000 at that early point in the game. However, it only deducted about $1,000 from my funds. The Corleone family itself paid for the rest. Most times you pay off warehouse owners or FBI agents doesn’t come from your funds. The only real thing you buy with your own money is guns and clothes. Safe houses are really expensive and you can’t afford them until later. However, I just don’t think the game puts much of an emphasis on money. If you don’t care about weapons or what your guy looks like, you don’t even need money. Paying off cops isn’t even necessary. I never had them come after me except in one mission. It is these inconsistencies that really take away from the realism of the game.
The above lack of encouragement for money and police bribes, coupled with the weak story telling of the game, take what could have been great and make it merely “good”. The Godfather is a fun game, without a doubt. The taking over of businesses is a very great experience, and there is a certain satisfaction you get from throwing an enemy gangster out a window on the second floor! The mob wars, however, seem too easy to win, and if you drive fast enough the family you are at war with can’t even harm you with their gun fire (just drive past their part of town as fast as possible). But the real blow to the game is the story… it just seems like a random collection of bits from the movie, and few missions give you satisfaction after completion. The game is fun, but doesn’t have that extra layer required to truly stick in your mind. I only rented it, and can say that I’m happy I didn’t buy it.
OVERALL: 7 / 10