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The Godfather II
Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC - Xbox 360 version reviewed
While it has its defenders, EA's game of The Godfather is to my mind one of the worst movie tie-ins in gaming history; a mediocre GTA clone that showed no respect to one of the finest films ever made, and swamped a handful of genuinely interesting ideas in some of the most tiresome open-world gameplay I've encountered. In short, I didn't like it much. All the same, I was determined to come to The Godfather II with an open mind. After all, if EA had the decency to distance the game sequel from the movie sequel by not calling it The Godfather Part II, then the least I could do was to do the same. Maybe it's fairer to put the films out of my mind and come to the game as if it were simply a new take on the open-world crime genre that just happened to be linked to Coppola's movies.
Well, I tried. The tragedy of The Godfather II is that I don't believe it is just a cynical attempt to squeeze more money from an expensive license. At its core, it has some solid ideas and it's really trying to take the genre somewhere different. The problem is that it hasn't done much of it particularly well, and in some key respects it's basically incompetent or technically inept. The fact that one of the darkest and most powerful narratives in American cinema has been turned into a mish-mash of mobster management and duck-and-cover gunplay is by-the-by; even taken on those terms, the game is average at best, and wretched at its worst.
Credit where credit's due. While The Godfather II is loosely based on the events of The Godfather Part II, there's less attempt this time around to put the player in the background of the movie, putting the horse head in the bed, and that kind of thing. Instead, you're commanded early on by Michael, now firmly established as head of the Corleone family, to take over operations in New York, and while he's there to provide the odd mission from time to time, you're mostly left to your own devices. There's still no Al Pacino in the main role - just a reasonably acceptable stand-in - but we still get digital versions of Fredo, Hyman Roth and Frankie Pentangeli to convince us that we're still in The Godfather's universe. Well, convince might be the wrong word given that these digital actors have all the facial nuance and emotional range of the kind of dodgy animatronics you might find at a third-rate Belgian theme park, but hopefully you get the point. The game steps back from the film so that it can put you where you want to be; in the shoes of a respected Mafioso capo.