The Godfather trilogy surely ranks amongst the best movies ever made. Phrases such as “make him an offer he can’t refuse” have become part of popular culture, and the theme music is instantly recognisable to anyone even remotely familiar with Hollywood’s popular version of the mafia. Thus it’s hardly surprising that someone finally sprung for the video game license and attempted to cash in on one of the coolest pieces of fiction of all time. What is surprising is the fact that the final product is actually pretty good.
Gamers would be wise to approach titles based on movie licenses with extreme caution and prejudice – hardly ever does the translation between film and interactive entertainment produce a worthwhile game. The Godfather may have benefitted from the fact that its creators weren’t up against a strict deadline, as is the case with more current movies that need to be released more or less simultaneously with the video game. No one is going to buy a Da Vinci Code game five years from now, but with a timeless classic like the Godfather series the programmers have the leisure of time. In some ways, it shows. The movie license is used to great effect throughout and this may in fact be the single best integration of movie and game I have ever seen. From cut scenes and music to thematic missions based on backstories from the films themselves, the feeling that you are taking part in the Godfather mythos permeates the entire experience and never leaves you.
The basic gameplay revolves around you, as a young enforcer for the Corleone family, performing various criminal missions in between doing the rounds through the neighbourhood and shaking down various small business owners for protection money. At first you have virtually no credibility on the streets, and people will laugh in your face. That’s when you get out your baseball bat and smash up the place before finally grabbing the poor bastard that owns the place by the collar and administering a beating he can’t refuse. Once you have a few places under your family’s control, and do remember to explore the back of each premises for any illegal rackets that may be holed up there, your influence has grown to the point where you can start to throw your weight around and engage in open warfare with other families.
Unfortunately, this is where things start to get a little less cool and a bit more frustrating. The control scheme did not receive the same amount of attention and detail as, say, the cut scenes and atmosphere. As a result, the battles you are required to engage in are sometimes satisfying but always slightly awkward. You do have the option of grabbing someone by the neck and throwing him against a wall, or even over a ledge, but most of the time you will be reserving the coolest moves for the least critical situations. It’s simply not worth it to act like a tough guy in the heat of battle moment, as you can usually kick some serious ass by hammering the buttons almost at random. Using guns is an equally mixed bag; sometimes they are extremely effective but during larger conflicts you may find yourself having serious difficulty aiming and switching between targets. You get used to it, for sure, and it’s not a particularly difficult game – it just would have been even more fun with an intuitive control scheme that let you do exactly what you want to do, when you want to do it. GHJ