Judging from the preview we saw earlier this week, The Godfather II is a hardcore, hard-driven over-the-shoulder action game that takes place in gritty urban centers among the wiseguys and kingpins of the criminal world. Sound familiar? EA’s crime-drama-with-the-famous-name aims to set itself apart from the pack of Grand Theft Auto clones and expand the genre by adding some intriguing real-time-strategy and even RPG elements into the guns, crime and cars action genre.
Much of the source material, Francis Ford Coppola’s incredible epic flicks of the 1970s, involves politicking and jockeying by various mafia families, so in Godfather II, players take on the role of the head of the Corleone family, and through intimidation, sabotage and pure force, try to dominate the three other mafia families. The game translates the mafia-warfare aspects of the films through The Don’s View, a board-game like mode.
In practice, The Don’s View works like an RTS, with you and three AI families vying for territory on the map. While the “rules” are relatively simple—create a monopoly on a certain kind of business and you’re given “bonuses” like more bullets, or stronger dudes—having each family working through its own ulterior motives could create deep strategy. The Godfather II keeps you constantly updated as to the goings-on of the other families through flashing messages. So you might notice a particularly brutal rivalry between two other families and decide to wait until the dust clears and then move in on the weakened tribes.
If you’re not super into RTS, don’t worry: According to the games creators, the RTS and Action elements in the game will be split around 20% - 80%, and it would be possible (although difficult) to play the game as a straight action title.
Once you’ve sized up where to attack your rivals, the action starts: Takeovers are accomplished by gathering members of your mob in a car and driving over to the joint to lay the smack down. The mission we saw featured a variety of different entrance points to a warehouse—players could elect to either sneak around the back, cut the power and covertly lay out some bombs, or they could bash through the gate and start blastin’ fools. The choice is yours.
The story of the game follows in the mode of the first Godfather game: Key points from the film are in the game, so fans of the movies will be happy, and new story elements based on actual mafia history create a unique storyline in which you, beginning as a underboss as the Cuban revolution happens around you, take over the underworld. Set in the mid 1960s, the game tries to incorporate the styles and look of the era with flashy mod clothes and late-model autos perfect for a gangster’s sandbox. The game's locations--Cuba, New York and Miami--are from the film as well, and might even make you nostalgic for Vice City!
From what we saw, the gameplay is gritty—focusing on intimidating business owners and killing rival thugs. The combat system has been worked over to become even more visceral and brutal than the first game, with enemies having weaknesses to certain intimidation moves. During the demo, our Don intimidated a restaurant owner by holding his head to a hot stove top. Ouch! Also of note: The demo mission started in a “studio” producing adult movies, so the screen was filled with naked strippers. Cool, if you like that kind of thing, and definitely sets an adults-only tone to the game.
The game also features some basic RPG elements. You choose your gang, and assign them points in certain areas of criminal expertise. Need a strong-arm thug? Assign Vinny more of that skill. And what’s a gang without a firebug, so boost up Nuncio’s prowess with explosives.
As for multiplayer: It’s coming, we’ve been assured, and it will likely be among the most interesting elements of the game. We don’t know any details yet (they’re coming later) but the board game nature of The Don View seems like a perfect multi-player arena.
The Godfather II is from EA and comes out on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC in February. Here's a gallery for your viewing enjoyment!