The Godfather

Platform(s): PC, PSP, PlayStation 2, Xbox
Genre: Action
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Electronic Arts


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Wii/PS3 Preview - 'The Godfather'

by Alicia on Jan. 22, 2007 @ 5:24 a.m. PST

Featuring non-linear action-adventure gameplay, The Godfather will offer gamers countless choices for solving the family's problems with brutal violence, skillful diplomacy, or a cunning mixture of both. From mob hits and bank heists to drive-bys and extortion, step deep inside the world of The Godfather where intimidation and negotiation are your tickets to the top. Players will use their powers of loyalty and fear to earn respect through interactions with characters in the world. Decisions made by the player in the game will have lasting consequences, just as it was in the mob underworld featured in The Godfather fiction.

Genre: Open World
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Electronic Arts
Release Date: March 20, 2007

The Godfather has become something of an inexhaustible franchise for Electronic Arts, despite virtually every version of the game receiving mixed reviews. As one of the game's admirers, I'd be inclined to say that it's so persistent because it's a very appealing blend of the Grand Theft Auto formula and the retro-chic veneer of Coppola's masterpiece film. In all of its incarnations, the game rather misses the point of both the novel and the movie, but the essence of both is rather incompatible with the basic structure of gaming. Whether or not this bothers you is probably something you've figured out a long time ago, and you'd think most people reading this would have long since found some variant of The Godfather: The Game and played it to death.

EA is betting that either you liked it so much that you're ready for more, or that owners of certain console hardware may not have given the game a look yet. So, new versions of The Godfather are heading to the Wii and PS3 systems, each loaded with new exclusive content and sporting everything from every previous version of the game, even the enhanced Xbox 360 version. The Wii version is going by the subtitle Blackhand Edition to emphasize its exclusive motion-sensitive controls, while the PS3 version is going by the subtitle Don's Edition in honor of the luxurious new 1080p graphics enhancements and the natural high cost of enjoying them. Think of the Wii version as a charming little Volkswagon Bug, while the PS3 iteration is a sleek black Lincoln Continental with leather interiors and all the extras. Both games contain exclusive content not present in the most enhanced version of the game to date, which was released for the Xbox 360.

We'll start with the Don's Edition, which the easier of the two editions to describe. This version of the game enhances the basic Godfather experience with tremendously improved graphics, chugging away at the PS3's glorious 1080 resolution. There are more physics objects and characters moving onscreen, better textures on everything from fabric to cars to buildings, better and more atmospheric lighting effects, and some areas have been completely redesigned to take advantage of greater draw distances and more potential for detail. The rep doing the demo for us flat-out stated that most of the warehouses in the game had been redesigned, so they would match the look EA was able to create in the new areas created exclusively for the PS3/Wii iterations of the franchise. The main new area shown was a shipyard, teeming with mazes of horrifically weathered-looking crates and mazes of docks, that was part of an entire optional mission that could be triggered later in the game.

Instead of adding more story missions to the game, as was done for the 360 version, the PS3's exclusive content is all either optional or a new mini-game. For instance, in the PS3 version, photographers can now interact with your character once you've achieved a certain level of respect. If a photographer takes your picture and you do nothing, then your face is popularized throughout New York and your heat increases tremendously. If you chase down the photographer, you have several options for how to deal with him. You can try roughing him up or bribing him to convince him not to run the photo, or you can kill him outright. Killing a photographer increases the heat on you, but simply "persuading" him not to publish his pictures is more difficult. Another new game element comes in the form of mob couriers, who carry payouts to the various crime families.

Early in the game, you can bump off couriers to try and earn quick cash, but doing so indiscreetly may result in increased heat, rival gang members zeroing in on you, or even mob wars. Likewise, you can lose money by having your own couriers hit by rivals. The long-awaited implementation of hookers has finally come to the PS3 edition. You primarily use the prostitutes as a way of interacting with the police, who can be bribed and even turned into allies as in the 360 version of the game. A given prostitute may have dirt on cops, or even on the chief of police, that you can use to your advantage if you execute the proper chain of mission steps. By blackmailing the officer, you can gain influence over the local police without having to spend any money at all.

The PS3 version also introduces some new basic gameplay concepts that promise to change the way you progress through the game. You now choose your weapons from a display called the "weapon wheel," which makes getting just the weapon you want much quicker and faster than the 360's insistence on shuffling through every major item in your arsenal. Instead of the relatively simple stat system used in the original version of the game and the 360 build, the Don's Edition basically implements something very much like the RPG conceit of skill trees. There are different groups of mafioso-related skills, like "Enforcer" or "Negotiator," which encompass supporting skills relevant to that style of play.

As an Enforcer you can improve, for instance, skills related to expertise with guns or melee damage, and receive concrete performance bonuses for every skill point you invest in that ability. If you took the Negotiator route, you might get skills that enhance your profit from rackets or your ability to bribe effectively. The game is designed such that the goal isn't to make an "uber-gangster" who is simply good at everything, and this may actually turn out to be impossible, but instead to create a character who is tailored to your own style of playing the game in a very personal way. This also is obviously intended to enhance replay value by creating different styles of play that can be used to become Don of New York.

The bulk of the other PS3 game elements are the same, but there are a handful of systems completely unique to Sony's beleaguered waffle maker. Combat has been lightly altered to include some of the SixAxis controller's motion-sensing potential. Instead of having to wrestle with the analog sticks to sling a grappled opponent from side to side, you can instead simply move the controller from side to side. This can also be used to throw someone you're grappling through a window. For online content, the bulk of it is migrating from the 360 version unaltered. All of the purchasable level-four content is coming back, although EA's rep had little to say about cost. There was no word on the prospect of unique downloadable content, or the possibility of bringing the "cheat" downloads over from the 360. It also must be said that the rumble function that worked so well as part of strangulation deaths in the earlier versions of the game is gone, which makes choking deaths far less satisfying.

Debuting alongside the Don's Edition is the Wii's Blackhand Edition, which is receiving the same exclusive content as the PS3 and 360 versions did (although, presumably, without the downloadable extras). Of course, the big news with the Wii edition is inevitably going to be the control scheme, and just how different the graphics are. Well, first the bad news: Especially when on display next to the Don's Edition, the Wii iteration of the Godfather is remarkably unattractive. Technically the graphics are on a higher level than the 360 or PS2 versions, and the Wii version will display in 16:9 resolutions. Character animations are actually reasonably fluid and natural, and you can interact with cut scenes if you wish. Still, the textures have been largely stripped out or profoundly simplified in this version of the game, presumably in favor of preserving as many on-screen characters and other physics objects as possible. That aspect of the game remains as robust as even the 360's version, probably to help emphasize the freedom of the new control scheme.

The Wii is a love-it-or-hate-it system, mostly depending on how interested you are in getting up off your butt when it comes to gaming. While an open world title like The Godfather isn't an intuitive candidate for the Wii's brand of action gaming, in practice it works out rather well. It's obvious EA put a lot of thought into how to best make the controls work well for the game, and for the most part, their efforts seem very successful. In Blackhand Edition, the big change in controls comes with the action-oriented parts. Once you enter your fighting stance, then you can use arm motions with the remote and nunchuk to throw punches. Choking is accomplished by grappling an opponent, then slowly moving the nunchuk and remote in and out horizontally. Shooting lets you enter a "free aim" mode that is far more intuitive and precise than the shooting controls on other versions of the game.

The freedom of the new controls makes gunfights and other action scenes a lot more fun, and seizing control of businesses can proceed with more precision to it. To support the new controls, EA entirely redid the main character's animations in the game, and even added in some new moves that cannot be done in any other version. In the Blackhand Edition, you can bring up the nunchuk and remote to headbutt your opponent, or pistol-whip an opponent with your gun drawn (which is wonderfully satisfying). The rumble functions are hurt somewhat by the fact that only the remote can rumble, so you only get feedback to one hand. On the whole, though, the Blackhand Edition is a great way to experience the game even if you've already played it before.

Really, both the Blackhand Edition and the Don's Edition are shaping up to be great ways to play The Godfather if you missed it before. The real question is whether or not they'll be interesting to players who've already shelled out for the games on one or more other systems, and that remains to be seen. The original versions of The Godfather sold quite well, and there's going to be no shortage of players who've already seen most of what the title has to offer. Likewise, if you had problems with the way EA used the license to begin with, nothing here has really changed. Still, The Godfather has a certain compelling charm to it that kept gamers coming back for more on the 360, and there's no reason to think it can't do the same with the PS3's swank graphics or the Wii's clever controls.

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