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The Godfather II

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre: Action
Publisher: EA
Developer: EA

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PS3/X360/PC Preview - 'The Godfather II'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on March 23, 2009 @ 9:00 a.m. PDT

After being promoted by Michael Corleone to Don of New York, players expand to new cities, as they build up their families through extorting businesses, monopolizing illegal crime rings and defeating new families in an effort to become the most powerful mob family in America. To help players manage their empire, The Godfather II introduces “The Don’s View” – an innovative strategy meta-game that allows players to oversee the entire world as they grow the family business. Using the Don’s View, players will be able to build, defend and expand their crime rings, while keeping an eye on the movements and plans of the rival families.

Genre: Open World
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA Redwood Shores
Release Date: April 7, 2009

"The Godfather: Part II" has the honor of being one of the few movie sequels considered to be better than its predecessor. That's quite an honor, given the amazing reputation of "The Godfather." While The Godfather: The Game is nowhere near the same pedigree, it was released to generally favorable responses. The Godfather II has a lot to live up to, and while it probably won't be an award-winner like the movie upon which it is based, it is certainly shaping up to mimic the movie trend by surpassing its predecessor.

The Godfather II opens up in Cuba on the eve of a certain infamous revolution. Michael Corleone, head of the Corleone crime family, is there with his trusted lieutenant Aldo Trapini. If this name sounds unfamiliar, that is because it is the default name of the main character from the first The Godfather game, who is now the don of New York City. Players don't get to play as Aldo this time and are given control of Dominic, Aldo's underboss and trusted second in command. When the Cuban revolution begins, Michael, Aldo and Dominic are forced to flee. Unfortunately for him, Aldo's karma finally catches up to him, and the former main character is cut down by sniper fire as Michael and Dominic escape. Aldo's death leaves a power vacuum in New York, and Michael promotes Dominic to be the new don of New York. Dominic is thrown into a brewing crime war, including scenes from "The Godfather: Part II" and game-exclusive situations that will take him from New York City to Florida, and even back to Cuba.

For the most part, The Godfather II's gameplay hasn't changed too much from the previous game. At its heart, The Godfather II is a Grand Theft Auto clone, and it plays very much like one. The major changes come from the Mafioso elements. Your primary task, beyond doing missions for Michael Corleone and others, is taking over the many businesses that make up New York City's crime racket. Doing so is basically unchanged from The Godfather. Players go into a building and defeat any guards they can find. Once the defense is gone, they track down the owner and put "pressure" on them to hand over the business to the Corleones. Each owner has a specific weakness that increases the money that he's willing to pay. Some may give up easier if threatened with a gun, others with physical violence, and others if you smash up their merchandise. The goal is to put enough pressure on the owner so that he'll give you the maximum amount of cash, but not enough that he'd rather fight back instead of dealing with your thuggery. However, unlike Aldo, your business doesn't stop with on-the-ground action.

Taking over as the don comes with a lot of responsibility, which is represented by the title's new Don's View. By pressing Start, you can pause the game and go into an overhead view of the three cities. In Don's View, you can issue orders and get an overview of your family's current standing. You can set waypoints or order guards to protect your business interests. Most of the game's micromanaging is done from Don's View, and while it's entirely possible to manually guide someone to a building that you want to bomb, it's much faster to order it from the menu. You're the don, after all, and the only person you answer to is Michael Corleone. Trying to do everything yourself is almost impossible, and you're best off using your don's powers to make the lesser family members do the hard work for you.

Don's View also allows you to edit your Made Men, who are your lieutenants. They're the men you trust to get things done when you need backup, or when you can't get somewhere yourself. They're stronger and more durable than regular soldiers, and each has a special ability. Safecrackers can break open safes, engineers can disable building security or break through fences, medics can revive you if you're down, and bruisers can break down doors and fight with the best of them. Explosives experts can blow up doors, walls and entire buildings, and arsonists … well, I think we can all figure out what arsonists do.

Made Men can be issued orders directly from Don's View. You can make them travel along with Dominic or tell them to guard your properties or attack enemy properties while you're busy. Made Men are also almost immortal, so even if they're arrested or killed, they'll simply wake up at the hospital or police station after a certain period of time. The only way to kill a Made Man is to mark him for death, which removes his protection from enemy gunfire and your attacks. You can send off a Made Man to die in a suicide attack or take matters into your own hands with a well-placed bullet.

Made Men also have the advantage of being able to improve their statistics in one of three ways. The first and easiest way to increase their abilities is to pay money to upgrade them. You can improve their accuracy, durability and health, as well as how long it takes them to recover and use their special talents. The more you invest, the greater the effect. The second way is to promote them. You have a total of seven slots in your army: four soldiers, two capos and an underboss. When you promote a soldier to capo, he'll gain an additional special ability and a fairly huge increase to his combat abilities. Promoting a capo to underboss gives him another ability and an even larger increase in his fighting prowess. Finally, each mobster has a natural "weapon license" level, from Basic to Master. This registers the maximum level of weapons that mobsters can use. A Basic license means that they can only equip the weakest weapons in the game, while a Master license allows them to equip anything that Dominic can. The only way to increase a weapon license is to play on Xbox Live, which unlocks honors for your Made Men and improve their weapon license level.

One of the most important jobs a don has is to keep his crime rings going, and every business in the game is either a front or a part of a crime ring. A front is a business without any special attributes, but it increases your total income by 5 percent per front, which is a great way to easily boost your money. Crime rings are divided by the various kinds of crimes, such as gun smuggling, prostitution or drug trafficking. Once you own all of the businesses in a crime ring, you get a special bonus exclusive to that ring. For example, diamond smuggling will give everyone in your family a bulletproof vest, while the adult film industry makes it cheaper to hire guards. These bonuses are tremendously powerful, and even one can shift the tide of battle. Each of your rings also gives you a fairly tremendous amount of money, but they're not without their weak points.

First and foremost, a ring must be complete in order for you to get the bonus. Every business in the ring must be functioning and in your control, or they only yield cash. If an enemy family bombs one of your businesses or captures it from you, the bonus is gone until you recover the lost business or the building is rebuilt. This may not sound so bad, but it can be fairly nasty to be in the middle of a firefight only to have your bulletproof vests vanish because the enemy bombed your diamond smuggling front. Secondly, these bonuses work for anyone who has them, friend or foe. If an enemy is entrenched in the city, you can expect them to have powerful weapons or bulletproof vests, which make it harder for you to work your way in. Fortunately, the same weaknesses apply as well, and a well-placed bomb or a cunning raid on an enemy business can cripple them enough for you to capitalize on their vulnerability.

A don also has to keep track of the favors he has available. There are countless people around the city who need your help, and you'll get special rewards in exchange. Help a governor, for example, and he'll owe you a favor, which you can turn in to make it easier for an injured Made Man to get out of the hospital. Help the police chief, and he can call the fuzz off your tail. Of course, these favors are not generally small things and generally fall on the wrong side of the law. The aforementioned police chief, for example, will want someone to kill a serial rapist who got off scot-free due to a technicality. The governor wants you to rough up his political rival before a bit debate. Some may even ask you to give a relatively innocent person a pair of cement shoes for trivial matters. It's up to you, as a don, to decide what is and isn't worth your time, but you have to do these things yourself. Sometimes a don has to get his hands dirty, or he'll lose the respect of his family.

The most important reward that you can get from a favor is the key to defeating an enemy's Made Man. You see, enemy families have Made Men too, the parallel to your own. They're significantly stronger and more powerful than a regular goon, and a single Made Man can screw up a well-laid plan. They're also practically immortal; you can injure them or get them arrested, but they'll be back on the street shortly, much like your own Made Men. The only way to permanent kill a Made Man is to figure out the key way to kill them. Each enemy Made Man has a specific method of death that is a bit more permanent than the others. These methods range from the simple, such as shooting an enemy in the head, to the more complex, such as throwing them off a building or killing them with a thrown bottle. Kill them in this fashion, and they stay dead, making further actions against that family easier.

Killing Made Men is just one step in defeating an enemy family. A family is made up of its businesses, made men and a don. In order to destroy a family, you must weaken its Made Men and take all of its businesses. Once all of enemy's property is under your control, their main compound becomes accessible. To fully wipe out the family, you have to go in, kill the don and then blow up the building, ending the threat of the family once and for all. Failing to blow up the building means that they can rebuild and continue to threaten your family and interests. Your goal is to wipe out every enemy family in every city, although new ones will continue to pop up.

The Godfather II takes players out of the role of a common thug and puts them in the dangerous shoes of Mafia don. The result is a game that blends the Grand Theft Auto action of the original The Godfather game with brand-new RTS elements. The experience makes players feel a lot more like a member of the family, rather than another hired goon, like Niko Bellic or Tommy Vercetti. Being able to order around troops or use strategic bombing to weaken enemy forces adds a surprising amount of strategy to a game where your usual tactics tend to involve a point-blank shotgun blast to the face. It's tough to tell if this will make the game fun or tedious, but it certainly helps The Godfather II stand out from the wealth of other crime-based sandbox games on the market. It will be up to players to decide if this is an offer they can refuse when the game hits shelves this April.


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