Game Picks

CorrespondentApril 10, 2009 

  • Developer: EA Redwood Shores

    Publisher: EA Games

    ESRB Rating: M

    Price: $60

    Platform: PS3 (reviewed), PC, XBox 360

As a video game, The Godfather II has little to do with the film of the same name, save for certain expensively licensed characters, familiar locales, and a similar soundtrack. Which is about right: A faithful version of the film would be the world's slowest role-playing game -- heavy on dialogue and lush visual compositions, maybe, but with only a handful of action scenes to speak of.

Instead, Godfather II is a hybrid of top-down RTS (real time strategy) and Grand Theft Auto-style urban crime actioner. As such, it's very successful indeed. The RTS element is new to this sequel title, and about as well integrated as can be expected. As an up-and-comer in the storied Corleone crime family, you use "The Don's View" interface map to attack rival family strongholds, take over rackets, and build your army of street-level soldiers and button men.

Some problems require personal attention, of course, and this is where the over-the-shoulder "Blackhand" combat system kicks in. Use your custom-made avatar to rough up shop owners, torch buildings, rumble with rival soldiers, and get into firefights with period weapons like the Tommy gun. In certain key scenes, you'll be interacting with iconic film characters like Fredo and Senator Geary.

Sound, music and digital production design here are top-of-the-line, recreating in convincing detail 1960's era New York, Miami and -- especially -- Cuba. The opening scenes in Havana are simply stunning, with meticulous attention paid to period fashion, technology and even architecture.

Fans of anti-hero action titles like GTA will find plenty to keep them occupied here, though the more wonkish aspects of crime syndicate maintenance can be tiring. RTS fans, on the other hand, will enjoy the malevolent fun to be had hiring arsonists, dispatching hit squads, and, um, balancing payrolls. It's not personal, after all -- it's business.

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