It turns out that taking over and running an adult film racket isn’t that much different from taking over and running industrial facilities (though you do get a few more under-clad floozies knocking around), and pretty soon the game develops into round after round of assault, defend, eliminate, assault, ad nauseum. The combat just isn’t exciting enough to maintain your interest, and the strategy side isn’t rich or deep enough to keep you going either. By the time I was halfway through taking over Florida, I found myself well and truly bored.
Nor does it help that the environments themselves are so lacking in detail and personality. I moaned about Saint’s Row 2 on this count, but by comparison it’s a masterpiece of city building. These are towns full of indentikit establishments, lifeless streets and generic neighbourhoods, with the sort of populations and traffic levels that should put them in the same generation as the original GTAIII, not GTAIV. The Godfather II is bland, bland, bland as far as the eye can see, and you’re left thinking that it would have made more sense to concentrate on making one really good, really rich urban environment than the three confined, half-baked efforts we see here.
The visuals, meanwhile, show scant signs of improvement on The Godather’s already dated efforts. The lighting might be better, but the textures remain patchy, the architecture and interiors dull and boxy, and the character animation is frequently laughable. What’s more, many of the supporting cast seem to be constructed from components at random, and this results in some of the weirdest haircut, beard and suit combinations I’ve seen in many a year. The Godfather or Austin Powers? Sometimes it’s just too hard to tell.
Realism isn’t a strong suit all-round. The physics vary between decent – car collisions – and profoundly odd (if you fall off a ledge, you’ll see instantly what I mean). And why is the game so odd about which barriers you can vault over and which ones you can’t? Surely it’s simply a matter of height! Meanwhile, it’s just a little bit sad that the game relies so heavily and so clumsily on cheap violence and even cheaper sex. Is it reasonable that porno sets and brothels will have naked women knocking around? Definitely, and it’s only right that the game reflects the seedier side of the 60s Mafiosi world. However, I haven’t seen this many nipples on screen at once since Paul Verhoeven made Showgirls, and I can’t help suspecting that the aim is more titillation than verisimilitude. And if you must go in for this kind of thing, EA, at least vary the character model beyond the haircut and skimpy lingerie.
Let’s be blunt: The Godfather II feels unfinished, and if that’s not the case, it certainly feels unpolished. There are aspects of a good game here, and the move towards strategy was definitely the right way to go, but the overall result just doesn’t measure up to what we should expect from a game at this stage of this console generation. If we must have a Godfather game, why not one with real strategy or real moral choices? Why not one that tries to embrace ‘adult’ in the sense of intelligent, mature and sophisticated, rather than ‘adult’ in the sense of gore, tits and ass? But, please, let’s just not bother having another one. While I think The Godfather II had the potential to be a more interesting game than The Godfather I, it’s a potential that’s been squandered. Frankly, it’s an embarrassment to the license, and an embarrassment to an EA that we know is capable of better.
In terms of ideas it’s a stronger game than the original Godfather, but the more you play, the more you realise that the execution just isn’t up to scratch. An offer you can easily refuse.