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"ok YOU try having a fictional relationship with someone after they'd fictionally used you for marzipanning trepanning while they wore fictional upset toddlers as legs, and not be bitter"
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  Godfather Xbox 360 Review

The Godfather is quite a strange film to make a game out of, especially after all these years. I could quite imagine a blocky pixel Atari 2600 version in the early eighties, but now? Hmm. It’s right up there with Cryo making a game version of Dune. So how have they gone about it?

By making a GTA clone of course! Well, that and a healthy dose of Gangsters. You play Geoff the Salmon, who tragically witnesses his parents being killed by gangsters in a youthful flashback. You find a cave under your mansion and… no wait, that’s the other man, isn’t it? Luckily for Geoff, Don Corleone is passing by and gives him a big hug and tells him that he shouldn’t do anything now, and neither will he, but he should do something when he’s older, which he does. Cue game.

Starting out as a lackey of the soon to be dead Luca Brasi, you run around and fight and shoot and stuff. Like GTA, you’ve all played that, yes? An open world New York is your oyster, divided into 5 districts, one for each gang. Starting small you coerce shopkeepers to pay protection money to keep them safe. Most of these establishments already pay tribute to other families, so it’s up to you to persuade them otherwise. Battering them around works well, as does wrecking the shop and attacking customers. Sooner or later they’ll agree to pay and they join your empire. Some businesses act as fronts for more illegal activities which can also be bought out, but you’re going to have to shed blood for those.

Shedding blood doesn’t come without a price. For each gang member you kill, an arbitrary number is added to a vendetta score towards that family. Kill enough and you’ll initiate a gang war where you’re under almost constant attack and your businesses are at risk of bombing losing you precious income. Wars can be ended by simply bombing one of the rival family’s businesses, or by paying an FBI agent to remove the vendetta score by investigating that family.

The story missions are weaved quite nicely around the plot of the film. You find out that you are responsible for the infamous Hoss Head sequence, for instance. You planted the gun which Michael uses to kill Sollozzo. You are the one to carry out the hits on the family bosses at the end of the film. It all works very well indeed.

There’s plenty of side distractions to go for inbetween missions. Such as collecting film reels, taking over businesses, prize fights, bank robberies, police bribes and stealing racket trucks. Each earns you ingame money which can be exchanged for better weapons and safe houses at places marked on your map.

Unfortunately characterisation is the first place this game falls down. Luca Brasi here is not really Luca Brasi as originally intended. In the book and film he’s a brainless, vicious, murderous thug. Here he’s articulate and well spoken, eager to encourage you to find your feet in the tutorial missions. It’s simply not on considering the amount of heart Puzo put into the source material. Worst of all, Tessio is signposted as a traitor throughout the entire game. To the point he may as well have been replaced with a dog with shifty eyes and a “dur dur DURRRR!” musical accompaniment. It also appears that Al Pacino has refused to sell his face to EA, meaning we get a strangely blank characterless drone playing Michael Corleone. They could have done better for that.

New York city in 1945 appears to be the suicide capitol of the world. Pedestrians appear to relish slowly sauntering into the street straight under the wheels of your car, and have even actively dived into my driving line in order to shuffle off their mortal coil. Once while parking next to a church to pay an FBI agent, I returned to find a lady standing just next to my car. Reversing away slowly encouraged her to explode in a cloud of blood. Cars. Dangerous business. It even extends to patrons and owners of establishments standing next to a stick of dynamite until it explodes. Maybe some sort of city wide counselling is in order.

The game also commits Dimrill’s Gaming Sin #23. Enemy cars are always faster than yours. Chased by some gangsters firing tommy guns at you? You can bet they travel at Mach 5 to ram you off the road. Get out and steal one of the cars they’re using? Tough luck, they’re as slow as treacle in your hands. It’s as if the driving mobster has a NOS injecting penile extension and he’s constantly humping the engine as he drives. It’d explain the speed boosts and also why they crash so often, bursting into flames while nobody bothers to get out before it explodes. They’re too busy having fun.

I am a hired bodyguard in the Godfather game. My hobbies include blocking doorways and making people shout “MOVE FOR FUCK’S SAKE!”, standing beside cars I’m supposed to get into, standing in front of safes that are about to blow up, and shooting you in the back while you’re strangling someone. I also enjoy disappearing once hired, if you reload a save game.

The graphics are serviceable at best, which is only right considering it was released close to the Xbox 360 launch, and is really just an upgrade on a previous generation edition. The most striking problem was with pop-up of vehicles and people, which was quite immersion ruining at times. There was also noticeable slowdown when entering the smoky interiors of clubs and brothels.

Despite all of the above, I found myself having a great old time with the game. Given the graphical issues, the game manages to pull off a very decent rendition of 40s-50s era New York. It was pleasant to immerse myself in that environment and I often went to bed thinking about where to expand my empire next. Given the quite fixable mistakes that this first Godfather game has made, it makes me quite hopeful for the second part due out this spring.
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