Well, the system works, but like everything in the game it’s not quite polished enough. There’s an annoying delay when switching from one weapon to another – or holstering and unholstering – that has caused my death on more than one occasion. Worse, the target switching seems horribly clumsy, particularly on the PC where it proves almost impossible to move quickly from one to the next. As a result, you tend to rely on mouse aiming in most situations, which has benefits (easier precision aiming) but also pitfalls (it’s harder to shoot from cover).
Perhaps the game is at its most entertaining when it stops treating you like a gopher, and gives you the chance to make a reputation of your own. Intimidating the owners of shops, hotels and bars gets you a regular income, and can also open up downstairs rackets that you can add to your criminal portfolio. The first couple of times you smack a mouthy manager around are fun – you need to be menacing, but not too menacing lest you back them into a corner or, worse, give the dialogue a permanent conclusion. However, as time goes on you’ll soon notice how empty and repetitive the experience is, and how little you seem to get out of it in terms of real rewards or satisfaction. Once the main story missions run out – all too soon – and the empire building aspect takes up the focus, there’s a danger you’ll stop long before you’re the Capo di Tutti Capi.
Overall, The Godfather fails on three levels. Firstly, the concepts just aren’t good enough. The game neither encourages the ‘toybox’ mentality of GTA: Vice City, nor matches the gravitas of its cinematic inspiration. Secondly, the execution falters. There are too many flaws, and too many areas where you’re left thinking “surely they could have done better than this.” Sadly, that thought extends to the graphics. The PS2 version looks OK, but with its angular models and rough textures it’s hardly cutting-edge stuff. The crime is that the PC version doesn’t look all that much better. The texture resolutions have been improved, and some flashy particle effects have been sprinkled on top, but the characters, clothes, and buildings have a slightly dated Direct X 7 look about them. As PC users also have to suffer sudden block-in of objects, occasional lapses in the frame rate and some weird moments when cars appear several seconds after their shadows, you really have to wonder what went wrong.