The Godfather: The Don's Edition Review
"The Godfather" maintains its legendary film status, and the brutal, gritty mobster series is as popular as ever. Much like "Scarface," the concept of the story suggests it would make for an excellent video game, and surprisingly, the recent release of Scarface: The World is Yours turned out to be a pretty solid - and very entertaining - adaptation of the movie. Late last year, EA decided to produce The Godfather for multiple platforms, including the PS2. And again, it was a decent effort and likely provided fans with an interactive experience they could enjoy and appreciate. Therefore, when we heard they'd be upgrading the game to The Godfather: The Don's Edition for release on the PS3, we couldn't help but be a little excited. After all, a next-gen overhaul could really vault this game into must-play status.
Unfortunately, the one thing they apparently didn't bother to update is the graphics. While the visuals for the PS2 version were better than average and mostly effective, they're just downright mediocre on the PS3. In fact, it's one of the least impressive presentations we've seen on the system to date, and that's not what we were looking for. The city does have some nice detail, especially when things get a little hectic (pieces break off your car and glass satisfactorily shatters during a crash, for example), but overall, it's a very bland palette of color and shading. There's too much repetition going on between the various areas, character design is barely passable, and while EA does indeed establish the appropriate atmosphere, the game simply looks very outdated on the PS3. It's not enough to keep fans of the movie from having some fun, but most gamers will be disappointed in The Godfather's appearance.
The sound is much, much better. The voice acting is basically top-notch - even the very small roles are filled with solid talent - and the classic soundtrack from the film is in full effect throughout. Obviously, story and character interaction is a major part of the game, as it was in the movie, so there's a great deal of music and dialogue. This is a good thing because it shines through as the strongest facet of the game, which certainly helps to offset the low-quality graphics. The sound effects aren't quite as refined as the voiceovers or soundtracks, due to a less-than-inspired assortment of typical weapon reports and hand-to-hand thumps, grunts, and yelps, but that's okay. The action never suffers from a lack of well-orchestrated sound, and despite some boring repetition in the effects, the game sounds very much like the movie. And that, no matter how you look at it, is a definite positive.
So many games these days are trying to adopt the wide-open expansive environment patented by the Grand Theft Auto series, and sometimes, certain titles get it right. As mentioned before, Scarface: The World Is Yours displayed a very Vice City-esque world, and while not as big, it was every bit as detailed and immersive. The Godfather uses a similar strategy to present the various homes of several different gangs, from Midtown all the way to New Jersey. Sadly, the environment is nowhere near as accessible as either GTA or Scarface, simply because the design is somewhat cumbersome. There are only a few major streets that connect the various boroughs, and you'll find yourself constantly consulting the map to find one of them. And while there are plenty of businesses to extort, there aren't many other buildings you can actually enter.
But that doesn't mean you can't have fun out there on the streets. The control works well, and one of the most significant additions to The Don's Edition is the utilization of the Sixaxis' motion sensing capability. During hand-to-hand combat, you can jerk the controller left to right while holding your foe (and let go of the hold button to execute a throw), and even tip the controller towards an object or a wall to slam the enemy around a bit. The responsiveness of the motion sensing leaves a little something to be desired, as there are several instances where we simply couldn't pull off a relatively easy motion-maneuver, even though it may have had more to do with character position than the Sixaxis itself. The aiming mechanic for firearms is pretty standard and easy to master, but the "free-aiming" is a little slow and ungainly. Using walls for cover and popping out to quickly target an enemy is great, though; you won't have too much trouble when it comes to gun battles.
We don't particularly like the idea of using the analog to determine where and how we swing our fists (and the occasional baseball bat), mostly because it's just not as accurate as it should be, but it works. And in the end, it works well enough on two different levels: 1. it won't take you long to get a handle on things, and 2. you'll feel as if you're fully in control in even the most harrowing situations. The other major part of the game centers on driving, and that also functions nicely. The physics of those old 1930s vehicles must be a whole lot different than later cars - which makes sense - but we still wonder if they really had such super breaks...stopping on a dime was never a problem, even at very high speeds. That was a touch bizarre, but other than that, driving around the city is an easy and entertaining; if you have a buddy with you, he can even lean out either side to fire away at whoever might be chasing you. Good call, EA.
Another good call is the addition of the Hit Squad. That.s right, it's just what it sounds like: you get a crew! Yay! Hey, you are part of a "family," so what sense does it make to take on every objective all on your own? Besides, you'll need the assistance if you plan to topple the rival families, primarily because they each have mini-fortresses in each part of town, and certain missions really require the use of some help. It's a great feature, too, because you really do feel like the "man" when shaking down a business with your cronies in tow. Of course, they do expect to be paid, so you'll be forced to budget funds a little more carefully in The Don's Edition, and that adds a great deal to the realism and overall appeal. The other thing you'll have to keep a close eye on is your ability and skill growth.
They've added a few new abilities under the two categories of Enforcer and Operator, and the player uses his acquired points to develop a variety of useful skills. You can increase your overall power and speed, your "negotiation" ability, and you can even up your firearm I.Q. in terms of accuracy. This provides a great deal of depth; more so than we had anticipated, and while it's a bit too easy to develop your character, it's still a blast to see the very visible changes in his ability. But you still spend too much time doing the same ol', same ol', which makes the game feel more linear and repetitive than you might expect. The city areas are quite large, and the missions are diverse in nature, but with a few minor control issues and a few glitches, things get a little muddled. Glitches? Oh yes, we saw a few. One of the more entertaining was getting smashed by a car and miraculously ending up the hood, riding along. Fun!
As your notoriety grows, so does the turf you control. However, you'll be forced to constantly defend your newly acquired property from rival gangs, at least until you lay the smackdown on their headquarters. The growth process in the game is a little too straightforward and not quite challenging enough, but at least there's a great deal of entertainment involved. We just wish they could've done more to polish this game up; there's a great deal they could've done with this PS3 version that they...well, just didn't do. And it goes beyond the graphics; the motion sensing stuff is kinda cool but hardly all that special, and while there a significant additions to the overall depth, it doesn't really change how we play the game. The camera works well but often sits too close to the action, and there are some very strange screw-ups when it comes to fast-paced action. Enemies will often run into walls and stay there, jerking back and forth trying to reload, and clipping is frequently a major issue. Simply put, it's just not a "next-gen" title.
But that doesn't mean it's a bad game. In fact, it's actually quite fun, and similar to Scarface: The World Is Yours. So for fans of the movie series, The Godfather: The Don's Edition might be just the ticket; just don't expect the complete, absorbing experience you might've been hoping for.
4/2/2007 Ben Dutka