• Ever since EA released the Xbox 360 version of The Godfather The Game in mid-September, we keep finding ourselves using phrases like “Whadda you lookin’ at” and “Fugedaboutit” in our daily conversations. Fortunately, no one has attempted to “whack” another staff member so I guess we’re doing all right.

    Historically, whenever a studio has decided to base a videogame on a movie the result has been anything but brilliant. (Did anyone even buy “The Italian Job”?) So imagine my surprise when I first read that Electronic Arts was planning on creating a game based on not just any mainstream film, but one of the greatest movies of all time, The Godfather. I have to admit that I expected disaster. However, my opinion softened a bit as I began to see some of the screenshots start to roll out as the original Xbox version got close to it’s release date. Then my curiosity grew as I began to hear more and more “buzz” about the game. Intrigue set in after speaking to a few of EA’s staff and suddenly I knew that I needed to play this game. I don’t recall when the actual change of heart took place; I just know that it became an obsession. Well, maybe not an obsession, but I really did want to play it! Finally, after waiting all summer, the Xbox 360 version of The Godfather The Game made it to my living room and I felt like everything was gonna’ be all right.

    It didn’t take long for me to get into the atmosphere of the game. Using a great musical score combined with the scenic details of 1940’s New York, the game quickly felt legitimate. While the graphics themselves won’t blow you away (more on this later) EA still did a commendable job in recreating the traditional store fronts lining the streets as well as vehicles of the era. Even the clothing that NPCs wear reflects a time when women were “ladies” and men were “gentlemen”. Of course, not all of them were true gentlemen, but that’s the fun of it, right? The voice acting in the game is also brilliant. While having a lineup like Marlon Brando, Robert Duval, James Caan and Abe “Fish” Vigoda certainly helps them accomplish this, all of the voice actors and actresses do an outstanding job of breathing life into their characters.

    The Godfather

    Another area that I want to credit EA on is the way they blended the games storyline seamlessly with the original. As you play through some of the classic moments of the movie, you never feel as though your character was just thrown into the mix. The blend is fantastic and feels very natural. This of course adds tremendously to the atmosphere I mentioned earlier.

    The first step to becoming the Don of New York is to create your character. This is another area where the game really shines. Based on the Gameface technology used in the Tiger Woods series, the new Mobface designer lets you create your own unique look utilizing a number of different sliders that let you customize almost all of the features of your character. Dress him up in some dapper duds and you’re ready to join the Family.

    One of the other strong points to the game is it’s depth. Since all of the cities boroughs are open from the start, the game offers true free-roaming and roam you will! You just can’t help it. There are 21 storyline missions and more than 40 other side missions that will keep gamers busy for some time. Extortions, favors and contract hits are always available and are actually quite important if you want to raise your respect level and earn some cash. Naturally, the storyline missions are linear in nature but the game itself is not since you can move on to any side missions at any time. Plus, shaking down the local butcher for protection money is kinda fun. But don’t shake too hard since business owners have a breaking point at which they will desperately fight back and you’ll lose your chance to add them to your payroll. Also, be leery of large numbers of rival Family members lurking around the businesses that they already “own” since they won’t take too kindly to your beating down their breadwinners. These rivals would love nothing more that to fill you up with more metal than the mouth of the dentally-challenged Jaws from the movie “Moonraker”.

    EA has designed what it calls the Blackhand control system which utilizes the right analog stick for hand to hand combat. The controls are easy to learn and combos are executed by simply moving the stick forward at different angles. While this really simplifies the feat of successful hand to hand fighting, the combos that your character throws gives it a good feel. In addition to taking your opponents on “mano e mano” the game also features a nice variety of weaponry with traditional tommy guns and .38 Specials as well as Molotov cocktails, time bombs and dynamite. They all have their appropriate time and place but experimenting with them all is a blast (no pun intended).

    So what are the differences between the current-gen version of the game and the 360 version? Mostly content. EA added 28 new missions plus new vehicles, weapons and execution styles not found in the original. They also added the ability to hire a crew to accompany you on difficult missions. If you need backup, these are they guys you want on your side because no matter how many bullets are flying, these dudes won’t leave your side even if it means acquiring new holes in their bodies that they weren’t born with.

    They also made some graphic enhancement but this is by far the least of the improvements. This is the one area of the game that was very disappointing especially considering how well EA had already done with taking advantage of the Xbox 360s graphic rendering power (Fight Night Round 3, Madden NFL 07). While all of the characters and backgrounds look sharp and framerates are fantastic, the detail itself is very current-gen. Some of the main characters like Don Corleone look pretty good, but most of the NPCs (and even your own character) have a very flat appearance. While they did add some new lighting and weather effects, it just isn’t enough to overlook the other shortcomings.

    Despite all of that, The Godfather The Game is one of the best movie to videogame efforts to date. The good storyline coupled with it’s depth and wonderful acting make it an experience that Godfather fans will certainly enjoy. Now we can all live the mysterious life of a big time gangster without the worry of the long jail sentence. Or the cement shoes!

    Score: 7/10

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