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But the worst failure of all is that The Godfather never captures anything of the spirit of the films. For all the blood and vengeance, The Godfather is a film deeply informed by moral values. It’s all about respect, honour, family, trust and tradition – the things men will do to protect their families, and how those things can prove destructive. The game is different: it actively encourages an amoral attitude to life and property, and is too busy throwing out gun battles and car chases to work towards anything deeper. Its attempts to engage your emotions consistently fail, partly because its handling of relationship is so perfunctory that, when a loved one dies, all you see is another corpse on the floor. And while the absence of Al Pacino from the cast hardly helps (the role now taken by a charisma-free unknown), there’s no sense of Michael’s desire to escape the family business or his grudging acceptance that he can’t. Instead, he just seems like Sonny with a few more smarts.
The Godfather isn’t a bad game – just a mediocre one – but this is a dark day for anyone who wants to see games on the same level as cinema or literature. It’s not so much that EA tried and failed to tackle the themes of a great movie, but that it seemed happy to settle for some easy gangster thrills that might satisfy the kids, and couldn’t even do that with sufficient class. What could have been a classy mafia epic becomes hour after hour of vaguely competent driving, shooting and killing, and in the end that’s all you’ll take away.
On one level, this is nothing more or less than a so-so GTA clone with a few smart game mechanics but less imagination. But then you remember that it’s meant to be The Godfather, and the whole thing seems like a criminal waste. Those EA wiseguys should’a had more respect.