Whatever you think of Electronic Arts, you can’t argue that they make games that appeal to a large audience. The Godfather was released for current-gen systems, Xbox 360 and PC a while back, and surprised many people by being a very competent GTA clone set within the Godfather universe. A while has past since then, so does an upgraded PlayStation 2 game have much chance of success on the Wii?
Taking ideas from the movie and the novel, the game follows your original character as he moves through the ranks of the Corleone family. While not a scene for scene copy of the movie, key moments are featured and built into missions, with a fair amount of artistic license being used to flesh out the game. Die-hard fans may see this as unnecessary tinkering, but there’s really very little to complain about in regard to how EA has handled the story and the license.
Gameplay is a pretty even mix between third-person action and driving, with the odd bit of stealth, racketeering, harassment and bribery added for good measure. Right from the start you’re thrown in the deep end, but the opening sections are also used to help you become familiar with the control scheme and a number of the major characters. Gun combat is pretty standard stuff, with the usual targeting system, manual aim (which works well with the Wii-mote) and cover systems that are seen in the majority of action titles. Still, it’s handled well, with the control scheme being incredibly intuitive.
Hand-to-hand combat, however, is an area where The Godfather tries something a little different. Instead of pressing buttons to punch and kick, the Nunchuck and Wii-mote are used in combination with other buttons, making for a system that feels a little like Fight Night’s Total Punch Control system, except with you actually throwing the punches. It certainly feels clumsy at first, but actually allows you to perform moves (grabs, throws, strangulations, head butts etc) that aren’t usually seen in games of this type.
Action missions are generally a lot of fun, with the classic guns you acquire during the game, not to mention the more powerful special weapons you’ll get hold of, being a joy to fire. The game actually feels far more alive during action sequences, with gunfire setting the screen alight. Enemy AI is adequate, but don’t expect to come across tactical combat master minds, and while the camera causes a few problems now and again, particularly in stealth missions, it’s never a huge issue.
Cars from the 1940s clearly weren’t as diverse or as powerful as they are today, so creating genuinely thrilling chase sections was clearly always going to be a problem for the Godfather team. It’s not that the end result isn’t fun; it’s just that it pales in comparison to a number of other free-roaming games.
Your car (and those of the police and enemies) seems to move at a considerably faster pace than the civilian traffic, even if you happen to have hijacked a clapped out truck, but the sense of danger and speed just isn’t there. There’s nothing wrong with the driving model and driving from location to location is never a hassle, but in the big action sequences there’s just a tiny sense of disappointment. It can be forgiven due to the era the game is set, but speed junkies might want to bear this in mind before splashing the cash.
As with any good free-roaming gangster adventure, there’s more to the game than just the main missions. Secondary missions, handed out by certain characters, are there to be completed and there’s a business to run too, with rackets to be taken over, cuts to be brokered and police to bribe. Trying to get people to come over to your way of thinking is actually a neat little mini-game of sorts, with the noble art of violent persuasion being used to push people as far as they’re willing to go before cracking. You won’t find the diversity of side-missions and activities that you’ll see in Saints Row, but there’s always plenty to do other than working through the main story.
In yet another nod to the GTA games, you save your game in a safe house and pick up new missions by using the phone there. This causes the same problems as seen in Rockstar’s games, with lengthy drives often required before you can save your progress. As you gain access to more safe houses this becomes less of a problem, but an instant save after completing a mission would have been good – and is something that Saints Row is all the better for including. Missions themselves do feature checkpoints, though, which is a nice touch, meaning that failure on stage three of a three-part mission won’t result in a complete restart. You won’t be too troubled by the game’s difficulty, but the checkpoint system will come in handy on a number of occasions.
Despite the extended gap between this Wii release and the PlayStation 2 version of the game, little has been done to improve the visuals. What we’ve got is basically the PS2 game, but the frame rate is pretty smooth and numerous special effects impress. A huge effort has gone into modelling the main characters, making them instantly recognisable to fans of the movie, but on the whole it’s hard to think that this is the best the Wii is capable of.
Audio is uniformly excellent, with a fitting score and brilliant voice work by all the key actors, bar Al Pacino who didn’t lend his voice to Michael Corleone. As with all video games, conversations seem a little stilted at times, with the natural flow of real-life dialogue not quite being present, but the whole package is still up there with the best. As long as you come to the game not expecting the usual selection of music EA includes in the majority of its titles, you’ll have very little to complain about.
The Godfather feels pretty dated but it’s still a solid and often entertaining free-roaming action title. The Wii game includes some pretty solid controls that for once haven’t been simply tacked on to an existing release. Some effort has gone into tailoring the game to work well with the Wii’s unique controllers and that has to be commended. If you’ve been waiting to play the best version, it’s hard to say if this is it, but it does feel different to the numerous other versions that are available.