The Godfather: Blackhand Edition Review

When EA first threw us "the pitch," as we’ll call it, that they were planning to turn one of the most beloved films in cinematic history, The Godfather, into a video game, many were quick to assume the worst. After all, this came from a company whose known bread and butter at the time was cashing in on movie licenses. Making cheap, throwaway titles designed to hit the sweet spot of the flick’s release, riding the wave of their respective successes and earning sales based on the added padding of marketing — not on their respective quality — is a business EA, well, godfathered. The news worsened when it became known that they would be taking the Mafioso classic into GTA territory, and that Francis Ford Coppola would give no support to the company as a result. It’s never a good thing to be publicly denounced by the film’s director. Ouch.

Things got worse when the game was delayed for months from its originally planned release date, and completely fell off the radar for almost an entire year. EA originally came out the gates swinging, assuring us that The Godfather wasn’t a cheap or half-baked project. They were taking it seriously. The rumors that it was the most expensive game ever put into production backed those claims up like so many pennies on the train tracks.

Come to think of it, "the pitch" never did sound like a good idea.

It was against all odds then, that The Godfather turned out alright. It isn’t the best game you’ll ever play… hell, it isn’t even the best GTA clone you’ll ever play, but you know what? The game’s alright.

Building off of the foundation of the PS2/Xbox release, while incorporating all of the tweaks present in the six-months-later 360 version, alongside a well implemented arsenal of Wii controls has resulted in the best way to play The Godfather. Blackhand Edition represents the most polished and refined port the game has yet seen. The Wii remote and nunchuk are used for everything from opening doors and stealing cars to punching, kicking, and shooting. It’s all very intuitive; with The Godfather, it seems like EA is really starting to "get" how to use the Wii’s controls the right way. That is, to keep everything intuitive and doable; there’s no cumbersome and unnecessary waving and flailing of the arms here.

Generally speaking, all of the actions in the game require both pieces of the controller. When you’re turning the heat up with fisticuffs, you’ll be using both hands to smack your foes around. Three degrees of punches — jabs, straights, and uppercuts — require different motions, and several stylish "Execution" manuevers are available via combined, directional movements. The previous entries already touted a robust hand-to-hand fighting/interrogation system, and bringing both pieces of the Wii controller into play makes it even better. Grabbing goons by the collar and smacking them into oblivion is especially fun. But what’s seen the most improvement is the gunplay.

Aiming with the remote is a quick and painless affair that works arguably better than the previous editions analog sticks. If you’ve played Zelda on the Wii, than you’ll feel comfortable here, because it’s by and large the same. The sensitivity feels just right, and doesn’t require a steep learning curve. Unfortunately, shooting and punching aren’t the only things you’ll be doing; driving the variety of cars works well, but isn’t especially fun. Since the game takes place in the 1920’s (or so), the cars are sluggish and you’ll likely fall asleep before reaching your destination in the (too) big city of New York. EA remedied this a little by giving you a new option to call a driver to transport you across town to your various safehouses, eliminating the need to backtrack for hours.

While the gameplay is decent enough, the story is the real draw here. The ways in which the game ties into its cinematic counterpart are downright clever and amusing. You play as a "dude" — kind of like the "dude" in GTA III — a nameless guy who’s experiencing the events of the flick from the outside. At the games outset, you’re tasked with creating your "dude" using a robust "Mobface" variant of EA’s proprietary character building tools. Wisely, the editor is trimmed and refined to only allow a certain type of "dude" to come out the other end; after all, there’s no room for oddly shaped freaks on the streets of Little Italy. Wise guys can tweak an insane amount of options and parameters to get their "dude" just right; if you’ve played any EA game from the past five years, you know the drill.

Once that’s complete, you’ll start from the bottom of the food chain, as an outsider looking into the Corleone world. Progressing through the game will have you climbing their ranks and earning their trust. Starting as an enforcer and eventually making your way up to don of the city, you’ll earn "respect" points that’ll increase your rank and allow you to further customize your character’s stats. The game is careful to never, ever take you out of the world crafted by the film. Yes, stealing cars and killing pedestrians is silly, and no, they don’t really belong here. But when you start seeing some of the more famous scenes — the horse, the oranges, the restaurant, and most of all, Sonny — you’ll come to appreciate the way EA presents your "dude" in The Godfather; you’re the guy behind the scenes. The story progression never has you interfering or clashing with the events in the film. Rather, you complement them, acting alongside the classic characters. Sometimes, it’s rather humorous; in one scene, after a famous exchange between two mobsters, one looks at your "dude" with the reply, "What’re ya, watchin’ a f***in’ movie? Get outta here!"

The game progresses along a familiar mission based structure, but it’s not without its surprises. Instead of the usual optional GTA stylings, The Godfather offers four types of side stuff: Extortion, Hitman, Favors, and Robbery. Extorting businesses is what you’ll be doing most often; it’s the quickest way to earn respect among your bosses, and the easiest way to make money. Basically, stores are all over the game world, and by using interrogation methods, you’ll convince the shop owners to give the Corleones protection money. Hit missions task you with rubbing out specific targets, and get more and more creative (and tough) as you climb the mission tree. Favors are story specific requests you’ll get from time to time tasking you with a variety of things, but mostly involve fetch-questing and driving. Robbery has you robbing banks with hit squads to earn big money, all the while raising your notoriety with the police. Nothing a little bribe won’t take care of. On top of all that, you’ll be balancing the relationships that four other gangs have with the Corleones and each other. The ultimate goal: to wipe everyone but the Italians off the map.

Ultimately, it works. The Godfather makes for a compelling backdrop for a game world, and credit must be given to EA for taking the time and risking the cash to prove it. While the gameplay isn’t exactly original and the visuals are less than impressive, even for a Wii game (this version takes more cues from the PS2 port rather than the sharper 360 edition), it comes together into a reasonably satisfying experience. It’s also worth mentioning that the game is more refined than the previous entries; it seems that EA took the time to clear out the bugs and fix what wasn’t working before. The game is a lot more streamlined and user friendly as a result. There’s plenty to do to fill a twenty hour game, and fans of the film would do well to finally lower their boycott and try this out. Really, the game was made for them, anyway.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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