The Godfather II Review

By Dana Vinson - Posted Apr 13, 2009

We make an offer you can't refuse and take a look at 'Godfather 2' for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in this X-Play Review. Is being a part of the Mob still fun? Find out.

The Pros
  • Easy to use combat system
  • Fun to shakedown business owners
The Cons
  • Weak story elements
  • Little customization
  • Unpolished characters and environments
  • Short and unrewarding gameplay

I wouldn’t be going out on a limb by saying that The Godfather Part II is one of the greatest films to ever hit the silver screen. Following the themes of family, revenge, and honor, this sequel is not only ambitious, but created one of the greatest characters to ever be put on celluloid - Michael Corleone. Unfortunately, most of the audience putting their eager thumbs on this videogame rendition may have never seen the source material. Please do yourself a favor and go watch the movie. This can wait.

Now that you’ve watched one of the finest pieces of modern cinema, you can fully grasp the scope of the challenge that EA needed to reach to even come close to matching this exercise in epic cinema. But let’s be realistic about this, it would be enough for The Godfather II to be just average open-world shooter where you spend more of your time rubbing out the competition than contemplating issues on immigration. But even that seems as a far reach for this title.

I've Always Taken Care of You, Fredo.

godfather 2It’s the eve of the great Cuban revolution and several years since we’ve seen our favorite family. An uneasy peace between the new family heads is shattered by the mysterious death of Aldo Trapani, your character from the previous game. Fortunately, there’s a new kid in town by the name of Dominic who is more than happy to take the mantel of Don. Though your start starts in New York, you’ll find yourself building up frequent flier miles as travel around Miami and even make your way back to Cuba. As before in the previous title, players travel from store front to store front, shaking down owners, and using the persuasive power of lead to convince rival families to keep off your stolen turf.

And here’s where the first problem with the game arises – the story. For having one of the most powerful stories in their back pocket, developers focused on the basics of knocking over stores first and wedging in the story second. Instead of always having that story mission hanging over your head, you’ll find those lingering connections to the source material far and few between. Often, you’re asked to meet with one of your family just to chat it up about game mechanics. Even after taking back all of your territories; family member will still complain how those rival families are taking over the place. There’s a clear disconnect of the story elements from the gameplay itself.

EA, You Broke My Heart

While not following the poorly contrasted exploits of Michael Corleone, you are knocking over every business you can get into. Just as before, it’s a simple operation of eliminating the competition on the grounds and using a little excessive force with the owner. Once the cowering entrepreneur has been convinced of your superior business skills, you get a cut of the profits. Not much as changed but now every business includes a racket. Collect all the businesses in a racket and you gain a bonus such as bulletproof jackets or the ability to hold more ammo. Other families can also enjoy the same bonuses so it’s a good idea to take over one of the rackets to break their monopoly. It’s a neat idea that adds little to a painfully bare game.

Besides taking over businesses, you have to keep them by employing guards. For about a hundred bucks a day, some random red shirt can stand around and keep an eye on things. While you’re killing their men and taking their businesses, rival families will come knocking on your store fronts to take them back. Turnaround is fair play after all. With that much money going to guys just standing around, you would like to see a little payback from your investment. The problem is that never happens. One goon or twenty of them, a rival capo will probably take over your business without much of a problem. And that’s when you send in your own Made Man.

The Business We Choose

godfather 2One of the big features in the game is the ability to build your own hit squad from the men you find just hanging around your shops. These Made Men-in-waiting come with different skills from cracking safes to reviving fallen members in battle. Different men can also handle different levels of armament depending on their license. Bring them up through the ranks and they can learn a second or third skill. Still nothing beats walking through the front door with a loaded gun.

The rest of the customization is rather shallow. A couple of thousand bucks can make your men a little faster on the draw or a better shot. There was never a time I wanted my men to be better, carry more than their basic equipment, or thought that they weren’t holding up their end of this social contract. To their credit, developers did a great job of designing the ally AI, but it doesn’t take that much when more enemies fall to a couple of solid hits. There’s also very little in the way of coordinating attacks. They either all come with you or they all stay in one spot. It might not be SOCOM, but even my dog knows more tricks than that.

Combat is as simple as a couple of clicks. Left trigger finds your target while the right pulls the little virtual trigger. With the right stick, you can even move the target around to hit the head or bring them to their knees with a good shot to the leg. The fact is that the ability to move from one capo to the next may just make things a little too easy. From behind cover, you can target and only expose yourself to the second it takes you to fire. Even faced with a hand full of guys, you can flips from one to the other, deliver a single shot, and be assured that a couple of them will drop before reloading. You’re not the Don of New York. You’re an urban Rambo.

When you get over the idea of thirty guys in a large area is no more intimidating than ten goons in a coffee shop, that’s when the game breaks down. There’s no reward in knocking over one big business versus another. The rackets add a nice perk to your characters, but do little to change the level of challenge that has flatlined before you even left the Big Apple. Taking out the compounds never feel as though you’ve accomplished anything more than knock over another business. The game never ramps up or builds to a final battle. Honestly, it’s hard to get excited when the last boss reminds you of your grandpa.

Keep Your Friends Close…

Godfather 2 ReviewGodfather II does deliver a few tricks over its predecessor, but none of them really add to the overall experience. The multiplayer element takes one of your Made Men out on the town to gun down other Made Men in a variety of multiplayer games testing out their skills under fire. Playing with other give you a little more challenge than the mindless bots you’ll encounter in the game. To add another twist to a fairly moderate experience, you can throw a little cash on the table, and watch your team go into battle as the Don. Sure, you can highlight certain areas or even activate special devices with the help of your team on the ground, but playing as the Don relies on more watching than doing.  Adding in the ability to transfer cash or stats to your main game makes going online a little more enticing. With the game being so short and money not really buying you anything useful, this little carrot will fail to attract the crowd that multiplayer so desperately needs to work.

It seems as though the Don is never too good to ask for help from some guy on the streets. Tasks often range from roughing up some random person, killing an annoying stranger, or taking on a storefront which you’ll need to steal from, mess up, or set on fire. More often than not, that storefront just happens to be your own. You’ll pocket some cash or information on a rival Made Man. Find that goon and kill him according to their terms to keep him off your back permanently. There’s, however, no reward for taking out the opposing family one person at a time when one big bomb can take out the whole clan.

An Offer Refused

What’s most disappointing about Godfather II is the fact that the first title contained many of the elements that were so needed in this one – more story missions, a large area to drive around, meaningful side missions, and a deeper level of customization to name a few. The different areas each have their own style and look, but it’s hard to appreciate the clay fountains of Havana when there are no textures and items keep popping in and out of view. While the previous Godfather had its problems, the second run of the series feels like a step back rather than moving forward in the series. More time should have been put into building the world around you rather than the map. 

Article Written by: James Youngblood