Pinky Ring Wearers of the World, Unite!
Posted by ColliderStaff
Written by Paul Stuart
Somewhere between strangling a made man, throwing a hooker house madam across the room, and adding the sleaziest demolitions expert this side of Astoria to my family, it dawned on me I just might be the Don everyone expected.
Yes, none of this would've happened had Aldo not been gunned down trying to escape the revolution in Havana. And I'm still not sure Paul didn't betray me before Carmine's crew took him out at Richie's Tavern. Was Hyman Roth right after all?
Still, when I secured a firm grip on the City's prostitution ring, set up my safehouse, then earned the trust of Michael, I knew I was on my way. Perhaps even Fredo might come in useful someday.
That my friends, is only a snapshot of my first five hours into 'Godfather II' for the PS3, a game that arguably stands as the pinnacle of the 'Grand Theft Auto' (GTA) genre of games (often imitated but not quite perfected) to date.
For all the reasons I abandoned GTA 'Vice City' 10 hours in, likewise found 'Saints Row 2' a solid yet one-trick pony, 'Godfather II' is all the more enjoyable.
Perhaps I underestimated the value of a proven license to bring do this genre justice, but 'Godfather II' adds the missing character and replayability panache that it's competitors failed to bring to the pasta-filled table.
Moreover, the simultaneous and interwined emphasis on first person shooter, real time strategy, and campaign dynamics free 'Godfather II' from the monotony of going from one mission to the next, jacking cars and avoiding police.
To elaborate, the main protagonist – 'Dominick' – assumes the role of Don of New York City, tasked with building up, protecting and promoting the Family while taking down the Rosatto Clan in the process. Along the way, Dominick will exchange favors, bribe police, build up crime rings (based on business type), and manage the complicated politics of serving a key role within a complex mob syndicate.
Perhaps my favorite aspect of 'Godfather II' are the supporting, explanatory cut-scenes that break down game dynamics, and – while serving as a pseudo-tutorial – never bog down the story while doing so. Thus, both 'Godfather II's components and your progress within them progress at a natural learning curve and pace.
Moreover, every character in the game – friends, foes, pedestrians – all have unique names and personalities. Interactions with each will have a ripple effect on others, impact ranging on character level of importance plus eyewitnesses when doing so. I was continuously amazed at the consequences of screwing with random people within the City.
Related, I literally laughed out loud at the authenticity – actual and movie license – of New York City during this era. Character dialog, accents, clothes, and reactions are spot-on and occasionally hilarious.
From conversations to battles, 'Godfather II's control scheme is top notch. The overall strategy menu – while extraordinarily robust – thankfully never gets overwhelming. (A major frustration of mine in GTA.) Still, selecting a travel-to location [from the overhead menu] within a crowded radius of potential tagged options never ceased to be a whole lotta' re-selecting. Thankfully pop-menu's – once in the physical vicinity – of these options kept thing honest.
Gun battles are – quite frankly – awesome. Running, crouching, hiding behind cover are well executed. Weapon selection and strategy (especially when taking) on well-guarded areas) becomes paramount, likewise assigning appropriate family members, guards and financial resources to acquire and keep these assets. Since controlling crime rings equates to essential character bonuses, planning resources is a vital task of any successful Don.
Character upgrades occur through online play, a brilliant stroke of genius by EA to add life to the title plus the family you select and skills one wishes to promote within them. I'm literally counting down the days to formal launch date to test the online waters within a well-populated mobster community.
A devil's advocate, however, would fairly point out deficiencies within 'Godfather II' in comparison to peers within its genre. Graphics, presentation quality, and the subtle visual elements that make GTA so damn polished are a notch below in 'Godfather II'. For instance, character models, overhead menus, and/or selectable in-car music are either a bit more bland or even non-existant within 'Godfather II'. Also, the hysterical side missions and/or puns of 'Saints Row' are absent from the much more serious mob-inspired title.
Quite frankly, these are small prices to pay for a title I can't wait to return to post-review. This genre honestly never did much for me until Michael Corleone named me a Don in Godfather II'.
SUMMARY: 'Godfather II' just might be the best of the 'Grand Theft Auto' genre to date. The game's perfect blend of FPS, real time strategy, and movie license incorporation make this a can't miss title. Related, it's emphasis on online play to succeed give 'Godfather II' an MMO quality with near-unlimited value off/online.