The Godfather II Review
Even if it were finished, this movie-inspired action game wouldn't be deserving of its prestigious license.
- You get to see some cool movie moments from a different perspective
- Impressive and upgradable arsenal.
- Nothing about the game feels finished
- Uninspired and repetitive gameplay
- Crew members are unbelievably stupid
- Poorly designed multiplayer modes and maps
- Dated visuals.
If The Godfather II had been a mediocre, mindless action flick, the game of the same name could at least be considered faithful to its source material. As it is, though, Coppola's Mafia-themed masterpiece has been reduced to an uninspired, repetitive open-world action game with out-of-context movie quotes and a handful of recognizable characters sprinkled throughout its forgettable story. To make matters worse, The Godfather II has clearly been released in an unfinished state and is riddled with performance issues and bugs like they've been fired from a Tommy gun.
You play as Dominic, an important member of the Corleone family who somehow managed to make it through the epic movie trilogy without ever wandering into camera shot despite apparently being involved in a number of key scenes. As one of Michael Corleone's most trusted men, you've been groomed to head up your own family, and after a brief introductory sequence set in Cuba, the game proper gets under way in a diminutive New York where you're instructed to set about making a name for yourself. From this point on, much of your time is spent seizing and attempting to retain control of businesses run by rival families in order to make money and, ultimately, force said families to retreat into their compounds where you can eliminate them entirely. Unfortunately, killing rival mafiosi and intimidating business owners gets repetitive quickly and isn't much fun to begin with.
That's largely because the gunplay in The Godfather II is neither challenging nor satisfying. You have an impressive arsenal at your disposal, and weapons like the Magnum and the shotgun really feel like they pack a punch, but the enemies you're using them against rarely seem too interested in self-preservation. Too many of them simply stand their ground or charge at you and, if they somehow manage to get close before you put a couple of bullets in their heads, can easily be grabbed, punched, strangled, or head-butted into the afterlife. With that said, the made men working for rival families are geniuses compared to the clowns you get to recruit into your own family. They have their uses, but even having them do something as simple as walk through a doorway ahead of you or climb into one of the game's many slow but slippery cars with you can take some work. Predictably, things don't get any better when they're put into combat situations or are asked to perform the very specific tasks that they supposedly each specialize in, which include cracking safes, committing arson, and kicking down doors.
The problem isn't that they're unable to perform those tasks; it's that walking from A to B is rarely straightforward for them. When they're not failing to get into cars with you or running rings around one another at superhuman speeds, your guys can often be observed wandering off in the wrong direction or just remaining stationary while appearing to ponder their next step. Doorways are especially problematic, regardless of whether you're leading the way or are trying to send your guys in ahead of you to soak up some enemy fire. When you're in front, it's not uncommon to open a door, step into a room, and encounter the guys that were right behind you already standing around waiting for you in there. Other times they prefer to enter through different doors while running backward, or perhaps crash through a window for an entrance that really gets them noticed. If you turn your back on them, though, they'll be warped instantly to your side, sometimes.
Initially you get to recruit only one of these laughable soldiers for your family, and you get to choose between a demolitions expert and a medic. The former can create shortcuts through walls and blow up buildings, but like most of the crew abilities, these can be used in only very specific locations. The latter is arguably the most useful guy you'll ever meet, because if you or any other crew member gets killed, he can bring you back to life with full health just by sticking a needle in you. Ultimately, you can recruit up to seven made men for your family, and as they prove their worth, you can spend money on attribute upgrades and better weapons for them and even promote them so that they can specialize in more than one field. It behooves you to take the maximum allowed three crew members with you on every mission that you accept and to every business that you make a move on, because location layouts are generally so contrived and architecturally improbable that, for example, the only way into a building with seemingly easily accessible doors might be to blow a hole in a wall or to have your engineer cut a hole in a fence. Annoyingly, there's no consistent rule set in the world of The Godfather II, so while some fences can be cut through in specific locations, other, identical-looking fences, are impenetrable. Doors are another example; some can be kicked down, some can be lock-picked, and others can't be opened even with dynamite. You can't even predict which waist-high walls you'll be able to vault over until you get close enough to try, which is incredibly frustrating if you're fleeing from the cops on foot.
Businesses that you control after successfully negotiating all of the aforementioned problems don't just earn you money; they can also unlock special perks for you if you claim every business within a crime ring. Controlling both of New York's prostitution rackets will get you brass knuckles, while three diamond smuggling operations in Florida will earn you and your crew bulletproof vests, for example. These crime-ring bonuses add some small degree of strategy to the proceedings when it comes to planning your next move, not least because rival families can benefit from the same bonuses that you can, but none of the bonuses significantly impact the difficulty of subsequent actions--regardless of who has them. Rivals will often attempt to reclaim or bomb businesses that you control, denying you your bonuses if they succeed, so it's important to hire guards to protect them. The guards aren't always up to the job if a rival family decides to send soldiers and capos along, but at the very least they'll buy you some time until you can send members of your own crew there via the "Don's View" map screen or go and join the fight yourself.