Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Electronic Arts
Release Date: August 29th, 2006
There was a gaping, Grand Theft Auto-shaped hole in the 360's game library... until Q4 hit. Now 360 owners have an avalanche of open world titles to choose from, most of them ports of last-gen titles. Some of these ports are quite bad (Just Cause), while others are merely decent (Scarface), but one is more or less the standard all future 360 ports should be judged by. That game, of course, is The Godfather.
You wouldn't mistake The Godfather for a title designed for the 360, at least not after playing it for very long. There are too many sparse, geometric brick walls and flat textures for that. Still, there's no denying that The Godfather is the rare 360 port that looks like more than an awkward XBox title. The screen's frame seems widened rather than cropped, so you see more of the cityscape around you. Characters move smoothly and naturally, without any of the bizarre puppet-like gait you see in lower-quality ports like Samurai Warriors 2 or Just Cause. The characters don't have the super-high polycount of the figures from Saints Row, of course, but they still fundamentally look like they belong in a 360 title.
The guts of the game are pretty much the same. Start by designing your own gangster, then progress through the game's story, which casts you as a member of the Corleone crime family as the events of the movie unfold around, by doing pre-set missions. Missions become available as you increase your respect levels by engaging in mafioso activities like taking over rival businesses, stealing shipments of high-grade cargo, and just exploring the in-game version of New York. There are both combat and driving missions, and committing crimes increases the likelihood of the police going nuts on you. Likewise, picking on any particular gang too much results in increased "vendetta" levels, making members of rival gangs more likely to attack you on sight. You can pay off cops to reduce heat, and duck into safe houses to reduce your vendetta levels. As you progress through the missions your standing in the Corleone family increases, as does your income. Over time you gain access to better weapons, cars, clothes, and safehouses. As you gain respect and level up, you also get to increase your main character's parameters in RPG-like fashion.
What's interesting about The Godfather is the enormous pile of extra features and other enhancements added to the 360 version of the game. While the overall shape of the game is much the same, a lot of the particulars about how you play it are very different as a result of the additions. Probably the single most important addition is the presence of Crew, AI NPC allies who'll follow you around and help you in the manner of Homies in Saint's Row. You can also acquire allies by spending lots of money on bribes for local police officers. Then if you fight members of a rival gang, your cops swarm into the area to help you fight. This completely changes the way the early part of the game works, since it lets you get more ambitious with seizing control of businesses and commit more audacious crimes more quickly.
You can download Enhancements via Xbox Live, which add extra weapons, clothing options, and money bonuses to your game, with a grand total of 26 different downloads on the docket to be offered. You can, bizarrely, turn on a point-tracking mechanism in the game and compare your criminal achievements to Godfather players worldwide via online leaderboards. There are also achievements, of course, but those are to be expected.
Character models and animations are more detailed, as are the animations affecting the world around you. Shadows are now dynamic depending on weather conditions and time of day, which are also dynamic and changing. There are a greater variety of melee weapons in the game, and you can now pick up objects like bottles and throw them at enemies as weapons. Most cars and people move around on city streets, and their numbers change accordingly as the weather and time of day change. As your respect levels increase, the way pedestrians speak to you changes, and you can overhear passers-by discussing your deeds. This isn't in the slightly annoying sense Saints Row implemented the same feature, which amounted to all pedestrians cursing at you constantly for much of the game. Instead, pedestrians begin dismissive and grow more courteous and deferential over time.
The pedestrians and the world itself have been improved in numerous other ways, particularly in terms of their AI and variety of events that happen in the world. Occasionally hoods aligned with rival gangs head into your territories to snatch purses and harass people; if you see one you can gain respect by administering a beating to him. If you whip out a gun or take any action that could be construed as offensive, like throwing a bottle, then pedestrians will free while rival gang members begin attacking you. After you take down a mugger or other gangsters, pedestrians gather around the scene of the crime to gape and gossip. While passing banks, you might see other hoods or rival gangsters robbing it, and you can opt to harass them, or run in and grab some cash for yourself.
Three new missions are added to the main story, developing a plotline from the Godfather novel that wasn't in the original film. Five new hits have been added to the Hits cycle of optional missions, as well as a twelve-mission cycle of Favors and 9 "Merchant Favors". Favors are essentially missions you run to earn fat amounts of respect that build up a single wandering plotline. Merchant favors are simply a special option you have to seize control of certain businesses by performing a favor for the owner that earns their loyalty. When you seize businesses, you can also try to take control of Rackets that operate out of a hidden rear area of a given business. Doing so is usually rather easy and increases the money yield you get from controlling the business, though it also causes rival gangs to grow angry with the Corleone family more quickly.
The result is a game that feels far more robust and finished than the current-gen versions of The Godfather, which wasn't a bad game to begin with. On the 360 it's still a relatively simple-looking game, but entirely functional and at points quite attractive. As a recreation of the feel of New York in the late 40's it's frankly marvelous, with no blatant anachronisms and plenty of period charm in everything from the clothing designs to the skyline. Voice-acting is plentiful, including lots of voiced dialogue for the new pedestrian behaviors, new story missions, and new mission cycles like Favors. It's a high point for the game in terms of sound, since otherwise the game suffers from slightly bland music. It's all sampled from or made in the style of the movie, so the individual pieces are certainly evocative and interesting to listen to, but there's not really enough of a selection given how long the game is. Most pieces start growing tiresome by the time you hit the game's ten-hour mark, and that's probably around halfway through the game.
The Godfather, especially in its 360 form, is something of a more slow-paced, strategic spin on the open world genre. It still delivers on intensity during action sequences, but it's a game that rewards advance planning and meticulous tactics to a greater degree than an instant-gratification game like Saints Row doesn't. It's a rewarding game if you care to invest the time and attention in playing it as it was meant to be played, min-maxing at every moment and obsessively searching out hidden collectibles. It's not worth playing again on the 360 if you've played it already in its current-gen version, it's really basically the same game, but if you haven't then it's worth picking up now. All 360 ports should have the level of care and attention put into them that was obviously put into The Godfather.
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