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The Godfather II (PlayStation 3) artwork

The Godfather II (PlayStation 3) review

"Battles are won before a single shot is fired, business taken without so much as a pride-obliterating pimp slap and the game completed without effort or, ultimately, interest."

When EAís ambitious attempt of bringing cult mafia film The Godfather to the last-gen systems (then snuck them onto the newer consoles through the back door when no one was looking) the general reception was lukewarm. It was okay, considering it was one of those licensed games that the industry is still trying to shift the unsavoury taboo of guaranteed awfulness from, but nothing special. It simply existed.

The second game might be significantly upgraded, pumped full of new options and generally shinier, but it still canít shrug off the overriding haze of indifference that surrounds it.

Godfather II holds a more strategic mindset over that of its aged predecessor. The Mafioso directly under your command can be recruited with set traits in hand, be that of a thuggish brute that can smash down doors or shank rival family members from behind, or safecrackers who can, well, crack safes. Arsonists and demolition experts blow shit up for giggles and medics can drag downed men in a firefight back to their feet. Up to three of these soldiers can tag along with you through the game, helping you take over rival businesses, whack opposition gang members or rain general chaos throughout.

The strategic element is brought in through the new Donís View. This will bring up a 3D map of one of the three cities you can try and lay claim to. These cities are rife with exploitable rackets just waiting for the right hard man with a dodgy Italian accent to usurp, and all it takes is a little bit of violence; the most common way to take over a rival business is to enter, kill everyone who looks at you funny, then strong-arm the owner. You can help him see things your way by smashing up his shop, beating up him or his staff, by dangling him of a ledge or by any number of thuggish actions.

Donís View can let you send your men in to shakedown a location if youíd rather not get your hands dirty, but it has a bigger focus on the defence of these properties. From the View, you can hire cheap guards to look after the place and ward off any unwanted attention, as well as send your personal soldiers to besieged locations to help out. You can also send them to blow up opposition buildings, robbing enemy families from certain crime ring bonuses, such as control of the prostitution racket arming all your men with shiny new knuckledusters. If a rival gang is proving hard to down thanks to sturdy but highly unfashionable bullet-proof vests, then blow up one of the corresponding rackets, and they lose the perk until itís rebuilt.

In theory, then, Godfather II should be a great game, and for some periods it is. Families ejected from their rackets donít sit around and sulk about the matter; they posse up and try to take back their land via unspeakable violence. This has you needing to employ a balance between offence and defence, of knowing when to push forward and when to dig in -- or at least it should. Godfather IIĎs biggest fault by far is just how damn easy the game is.

Storming an enemy business makes up the bulk of the game, and itís never much more then arrive, fire endlessly until everyone is dead, than leave. Standard guards on both sides of the spectrum struggle to obtain relevance, but itís often a step too far for them to achieve. They do all the things expected of them: hide behind cover, press their numbers advantage and even use their selected firearm to its unique specifications. Men with rifles will line rooftops looking to snipe you from afar, while tommygunners will spray your location with covering fire while men armed with shotguns can advance. You can step back and admire their efforts if you like. Or you could spend the few seconds required to kill them off.

Your character, and, to a lesser (but just as valid) extent, the Made Men you command, are like Gods compared to these thugs. With the right perks from crime rings, these assaults boil down to little more than standing out in the open and mowing down any idiot that pokes his head out. The difficulty of these standard thugs never increases, while youíre free to find hardier weapon upgrades and spend your dirty money on statistical boosts. The thugs do increase in number as the game rolls on, but this just means eventually climbing over a bigger pile of bodies to threaten the owner.

Defence is often just as simple. The hired guards can act as a time-wasting buffer until youíre able to arrive and effortlessly gun down the transgressors, but, I never needed to do this once. A more time saving method was to throw my Made Men at the problem, making sure I had more personal soldiers than the other guy, thus insuring victory. The only time this fails to work is when the game changes the hardiness of your opposition to tie in with a plot event. Very shortly afterwards, theyíre back to the same marshmellowy softness youíll come to expect, and, even though youíll lose a few businesses in the meanwhile, the only thing it will cost you to regain them is time.

Itís the casual ease in which you can blindly slaughter that really serves to sink the game like a pair of concrete boots. You can go out of your way to find small slices of sturdy action, like hunting down top ranking men in each enemy family and executing them in a set way, but even this is ultimately pointless. The hook for these assassinations is that it will weaken the gangís ability to attack or defend, but they never had that ability to begin with.

Itís worth noting that a reasonable job has been done conveying the filmís highlights into a videogame setting, but the same could be said for the first. The problems inherited are still not in the settings, but in a game seemingly made in fear of being hard enough for people to stop playing and see what happens next. Unfortunately, rather than help me see the game through, the ease helped me second guess it instead. Thereíll be a showdown, it will be anticlimactic and Iíll win without any fear of defeat. Battles are won before a single shot is fired, business taken without so much as a pride-obliterating pimp slap and the game completed without effort or, ultimately, interest.


EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (July 07, 2010)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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zippdementia posted July 07, 2010:

What?! No screen shots of partial nudity?!
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CoarseDragon posted July 08, 2010:

The hired guards can act as a time-wasting buffer until youíre able to arrive an effortlessly gun down the transgressors

Should that be and?
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wolfqueen001 posted July 17, 2010:

This will look like a lot, but most of it is really nitpicky stuff. Overall this was a pretty good review, and I now have very little interest in playing the game. (Or I would if I were interested in the game to begin with, but I'm generally not into the licensed game thing, for obvious reasons. Though I will say I thought the LotR stuff was fairly decent.
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EmP posted July 17, 2010:

Thank you CD and WQ. I will no longer be ordering hits on either of you.
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aschultz posted July 29, 2010:

This is one of those reviews I certainly liked and if it does not soar to the top, I enjoyed reading it closely enough to see some minor stylistic errors and realize they didn't spoil the big picture.
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wolfqueen001 posted August 03, 2010:

haha. He had that "much more then" / than error pointed out twice now and he still hasn't fixed it. =x

Also Schultz was right about the Marshmallow misspelling, too. I missed that because I always forget how to spell that.

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