But look closer and you can see it’s only paying lip service. Take a moment to remember The Godfather. It is a violent film, but is it an action film? No. People die, and in shocking, bloody ways, but it’s not a body-count movie, nor does it ever leave you feeling life is cheap. Not so the game. For the most part, another mission means another shooting gallery; another club or warehouses full of faceless, gun-toting stooges either cowering behind doors or running manically from one room to another, seemingly for no other reason than to give you a chance to blast them. The environments are dull, the AI is useless. You’ve seen it all before, and done much better than here.
Otherwise, you’ll find yourself driving from one part of the city to another, often with a time limit, and frequently with enemies in tow. Given the fact that a) the car handling is twitchy and unresponsive and b) the New York City map is fiendishly (if accurately) hard to navigate, these portions of the game are about as satisfactory as a special edition of The Godfather Part III with an hour’s extra footage of Vincent/Mary love scenes. Yep, that bad…
Even when the gameplay grows more imaginative – sneaking the horse’s head into bed or offing a corrupt police chief – the execution seems woeful and unimaginative. Just do the right things in roughly the right order and you’re through. Some missions even suffer from horrifyingly pernickety conditions. At one point, you have to whack a rival don in a funeral home. Easy, you might think, but not when the game insists that you first murder his bodyguards then throw him in a waiting furnace. The result is a ridiculous situation where he can shoot you while you’re dragging him into position, but you can’t do more than wound him or you fail. I mean, does it really matter whether he hits the flames dead or alive?
To be fair, not everything is a disaster. For one thing, the game avoids GTA’s habit of forcing you to repeat the same whole mission umpteen times until you get it right by breaking them down into sensible, checkpointed sections. For another, the combat system is in some respects the best seen in a GTA clone. Up close, you can lock onto targets, pummel them with your fists, grab them and thrown them about, and hang them over a window ledge in a vaguely threatening manner – in other words, the sort of negotiation skills that get results. When the guns come out, the game adopts a similar targeting system to the one used in EA’s last Bond opus, From Russia with Love, with an auto-target plus a manual precision aim for when you want to kneecap your target, not shoot them in the guts.