The Godfather II begins with Aldo, Michael and the Corleone family members celebrating when the Cuban Revolution breaks out, causing riots to break out all over the island. You play as Dominic, a mobster for the Corleones, and his first task in the game is to help Aldo and Michael escape Cuba. Along the way, Aldo is killed (it’s OK if you want to cry about it) and Michael asks Dominic to become the new Don.
The game follows Dominic as his story intersects with the plot of the Godfather II movie, with some changes made so that it would fit better with the game's story. As the movie altered the way the story was presented in the book to best tell it on the big screen, that's what EA did for the Godfather II game -- they altered the story to tell it for gamers. Besides, it would be utterly boring to just have the game follow the entire movie.
The Godfather II tagline is “Act like a mobster, think like a Don.” That mantra becomes pretty evident as soon as Dominic arrives in New York. Michael Corleone comes under investigation by a Senate Committee on Organized Crime, and the Corleones need Dominic to rebuild the empire in New York, expanding it into Miami. Dominic knows he can't do this by himself, and is tasked with building a family to establish his new organization.
The first thing the player must do as Dominic is to recruit a crew member into their family. You'll have the option of choosing from one of three guys, each one having a different personality and skill. Players can talk to potential new recruits to get their background and find out what their specialties are. This was going to be my very first recruit, so an EA rep suggests that I pick a guy with the medic skill. Since I was still upset at EA over the lack of Cristal and yacht, I ignore the suggestion and opt for the arsonist instead.
Each potential new recruit will have one of six unique skills that will go a long way in helping Dominic’s pursuit of the American Dream. Players will be able to find potential crew members with at least one of these skills:
- Arsonist: Likes to burn things.
- Demolitions: Like to blow things up.
- Medic: Heals you.
- Bruiser: Strong, can break open doors.
- Engineer: Cuts open fences, takes out the power supply of businesses.
- Safe cracker: Opens safes.
After picking the new recruit, it's time to take over my first business. Money doesn’t grow on trees, and Dominic needs a way to fund his operations. I pull up the Don’s View, a 3D map that shows off the entire city in real time. It tells me who owns what, who’s attacking who, and how many guards are placed at a racket, along with a ton of other useful information. In the Don’s View, I select a nearby racket that I want to take over. I get in a car with my new recruit and use my 1960s GPS mini-map get to my target. One really neat thing you'll notice about the mini-map is that it actually shows layers when inside of a building; it's like a mini-3D blueprint.
With my new recruit in tow, we go to visit a nearby bakery. We aren't interested in the sweet treats, but rather the sexy treats located in the back room -- the bakery is really a front for a strip club controlled by a rival gang. My partner and I stroll into the club, and before I go to look for the club owner, I'm distracted by all of the boobage on the screen. Every single girl in the club is topless; it's pretty surprising that EA is able to get away with this much nudity. I guess it’s OK, since there’s no motorboat button. After having my fill, I whip out my gun and start taking out all of the guards. My recruit follows my lead, engaging all of the guards as well.
Players don’t need to worry about the game turning into a Rainbow Six babysitting ordeal, as the AI can handle itself pretty well. You’ll be able to tell your mobsters to advance ahead by pointing your cursor to where you want them to go, or to have them stay by your side. If you see a specialist icon, you can point your men to it and whoever has the required skill will perform the required action. For instance, if you see an explosive icon on a door or wall, you’ll be able to send your demolitions expert to plant a bomb. Your demolitions expert is vulnerable while he’s planting the bomb, so you’ll have to keep him protected until he’s finished.
During the gunfight with the guards at the strip club, I wished I had an engineer on my team instead of the arsonist. With the engineer, I could have shut down the power to the club, as well as the phone lines. As soon as you attack a business, one of the guards will rush to the phone to call for back up. Still, these backup guards don't really impede my progress too much, and I'm able to make my way to the strip club's owner.
Dominic confronts the club owner and demands that he hand the club over to the Corleone Family. The club owner isn’t scared of Dominic, so that leaves Dominic with one option -- to beat the shit out of him. The melee controls have received an overhaul to make things feel more realistic. Now players pull the left trigger for a left punch and the right trigger for a right punch; pressing both triggers together will have Dominic grab hold of a person's neck. When you have someone in your grasp, you can use the right analog stick to either head-butt or knee them.
As you’re pummeling business owners, there’s a meter that pops up on the top right that you'll have to be mindful of. There are two green lines within the meter, and you'll need to beat a person up until the meter fills up past the first green line. You can continue to beat them up to milk more protection money, but you just don't want to get past the second green line. If you beat them up past the second line, then that means they’ve reached their breaking point and will fight back. If that happens, you’ll have to just kill them and wait until the business reopens.
I finally force the club owner to hand over the rights to the club, and I now have a steady cash flow. Once you own a business, you’ll have to worry about rival families that want to take it over for themselves. Before leaving my new club, I hire several guards to protect the place for peace of mind. Each place you can take over has a limit to how many guards you can post, and each guard costs $100 per day, so help doesn't come cheap.
Owning more than one club comes with perks. If I were to take over the second strip club in New York, then I would own all of the strip clubs in the city, and I'd receive a cash bonus as well as a monopoly perk. The monopoly perk in this case would get me cheaper guards, as they’re now getting compensated thanks to my whores. Holding a monopoly over any business will give players these perks, but if you lose hold of a monopoly, players will instantly lose these benefits. One monopoly perk gives Dominic and his crew members body armor; if you were to lose your hold over the monopoly that gave you the body armor, the armor would instantly disappear.
Money can also be used to customize your crew members. You can upgrade your crew's skills, give them new weapons and pick what your crew wears. It’s vital to upgrade your crew members, since they’re such a big part of your everyday life in the game. Earlier I described the demolitions expert, and how you need to protect him while he's planting a bomb. If I were to upgrade some of his stats, he would be able to plant explosives a lot faster, allowing us to move forward with missions much more quickly.
You can have a max of seven crew members in your family, and have a max of three of these guys tagging along with you in the game. There are always more guys willing to join your family, and sometimes you’ll find guys that have better skills than the ones already on your team. It’s rare, but you’ll be able to find guys on the street that already have two or more specialty skills. It would be a hell of a lot cheaper to recruit a guy that already has two skills rather than training one of your current family members to get an extra skill. If your family tree is full, you’ll have to make room the mobster way -- you mark one of your guys for death, and you’re the one who will put the bullet into the back of your former crew member's head. It sounds simple, but it may end up being a hard choice if you’ve grown an attachment with your crew, since all of these guys have unique personalities, and will talk to Dominic constantly throughout the game.
The ultimate goal in the game is to own everything and kill all that could get in your way. Taking over businesses is easy; it’s permanently taking out rivals that can be tricky. Some of the toughest guys you’ll face are the rival gangs' Made Men, and even taking them out in a fight doesn’t mean they’re permanently gone. They, like your own crew members, can be sent to a hospital (or jail) and will eventually come back. You'll have to kill Made Men in a specific way, but first you have to know how ...
There are plenty of dirty cops, corrupt politicians, and a whole mess of other seedy people that will need favors from good old Dominic. Completing favors for people will earn you cash, the ability to call in favors yourself (like getting the Police Commissioner to call off the cops), and more importantly, information on the rival Made Men. You’ll get information on where rival Made Men are, as well as the kill condition that needs to be satisfied in order to permanently eliminate them from the game.
These executions are easily my favorite part of the game. Every weapon has a couple of different ways you can brutally murder people in Godfather II. With the shotgun, you can knock a guy down, step on his chest and blast the guy in the face. With the machine gun, you can either stick the muzzle into someone's mouth and shoot the guy a few times, or do something similar to the shotgun takedown. Of all the executions I've seen, my favorite is the baseball bat executions. You can do the typical finisher where you swing at a guy's head a couple of times with the bat, or you can violate the guy's mouth by shoving the bat in there and down his throat.
Confession time: I’ve never watched any of the Godfather movies. Because of that, I never tried the original game. I probably will never play the original, but I do know that I’m looking forward to The Godfather II. I really liked the side missions from GTA: Vice City Stories where you can take over rival rackets, but hated how little depth it had. The Godfather II takes the racket system to a whole new level, with vast improvements.
Character controls felt pretty decent, too. You can manually cycle through your weapons with the D-pad, or you can pull up a menu of all your weapons and then pick the weapon you want with the right joystick. The camera is set off-center so Dominic is off to the left of the screen; the camera centers itself on Dominic when he runs.
You can now manually aim any of your guns in Godfather II to go along with auto-locking. You can’t auto-lock onto another target once locked onto someone, though, which really bugged me -- I was constantly flicking the right joystick trying to move on to another target.
Overall, I liked what I played. The racketeering missions are fun, the executions are awesome, and the story was actually pulling me in. Maybe it’s finally time to see what the movies are all about. My only major complaint is that driving in the game isn’t much fun. All of the cars were obnoxiously slow and didn’t handle all that well. I only played the very beginning of the game, however, and I’m hoping that the cars you can get later in the game will be better.
Stay tuned, as I have yet another preview for Godfather II coming in a few hours. What more is there to talk about? Well, let's just say it centers completely on your crew members.
The Godfather II is developed and published by Electronic Arts. It will be out February 2009 for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
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