I usually become nervous when Im about to play a game based on a movie license due to almost always being disappointed from rushed development time, a simple lack of imagination, or something that doesnt even resemble its movie counterpart in anyway. Since Godfather II wasnt being rushed to coincide with the movie release (it came out in 1974 to be exact), I had some high hopes that I would get to play my part in the storyline or even see a slightly different angle to the plot weve all seen in the movie.
Godfather II follows the basic premise of the movie but with its own slight twists and turns on a few parts. You play as Dominic who is a member of the Corleone family and start the story in Cuba where all the families are gathered to discuss how Hyman Roths empire will be split up once hes retired. Due to Cuban rebels; Dominic, Michael Corleone, Fredo and Aldo Trapani are trying to escape with their lives back to the plane to get home. One of them doesnt make it and Michael decides you are ready to be a Boss and take back New York for the family. If the name Aldo sounds familiar, thats because he was who you played in the first Godfather title.
Now it is your turn to run New York and take things back to the way they used to be. Eventually youll take over the city then move on to Florida and eventually Cuba. Nothing comes easy as other families will do anything they can to prevent you from taking their territory while you attempt to make a name for yourself.
The first thing you do when you start is create and dress Dominic. The creation choices were decent, and you can get really detailed with facial and body sizing/scaling, but I found there were very little clothing options and I never could make him exactly how I wanted him, but I settled on a look I felt I could deal with for the remainder of the game.
As a Don, you need a crew that will follow and be loyal to the very end. As the game progresses you can earn more and more family members and decide on who youll make a made man. You can dress your soldiers however you like as well which I enjoyed since I had everyone in matching suits following me.
Each soldier starts with a basic skill that he is proficient in such as a Medic who will revive you if you die, Safecrackers who can crack vaults, Arsonists who will set ablaze anything you tell them to, Demolitionists who can blow up doors and walls for alternate ways into areas, or even an Engineer who can cut holes through fences for back-way ins to places and also power off of buildings to prevent backup from being called in. You can then choose who to promote to higher ranks in your family which will unlock more skills for their disposal. In addition to these skills, you can also upgrade many other options of each member such as health, weapon licenses which allow them to use bigger and better guns, or to be quicker with their main skills, on top of many others of course. All of these skill upgrades require money to purchase but if you are diligent with keeping all your rime rings intact, your money flow later in the game is not really an issue
You are only able to have 3 of your family members follow you at a time but if you need to swap one out for another because of their skills, its instant and you dont have to wait for them to get to you. Its convenient and quick, but makes absolutely no sense realistically how I can turn around and all of a sudden one of my guys is standing there with me. The same goes for driving around; you can get in a 2 door car, drive across the city and soon as you get out, your men will be there as if they were with you the whole time. Your crew wont be the smartest bunch of AI, since sometimes even getting them to go in one spot can be a challenge in its own, but when you have to wait for them to pile in the car because they are stuck on each other or spinning around not being able to get in, frustration sets in and you will just do things on your own sometimes.
As the Don, you are able to look at the city as a whole from a top down 3D view appropriately named The Dons View. From here you can see every building and who owns and runs it. This is to help you strategize of where you need to be and what to take over next in your push to own the city.
To take over a business isnt as simple as killing the owner, its more about fear and intimidation. Have someone scared of you enough and theyll pay you for protection instead of another family. This can be done in a few ways depending on the place and person. Some owners will bend to your will with a few bruises to the face while others will need some more convincing such as being strangled or hung over the edge of a building. Once you have the correct amount of intimidation you can then turn them to work or pay to you. Everyone has a breaking point too where they wont take it anymore and theyll attack you instead and you will have to wait a set time before trying again. It isnt a very difficult mechanic to accomplish and usually throwing a few punches their way will get them to do whatever you want. The closer you bring them to their breaking point though, the more money youll receive each payment.
Just because you run a place doesnt mean a rival family will let that go unnoticed; just like how you can take over areas, they will try and retaliate by bombing or setting ablaze your property as well since all property owned gains you money. Guards can be hired to stay and guard any of your properties and is a necessity if you want to keep them all at once. As you take over businesses and crime rings, you are given bonuses for your family such as body armor, increased ammo, increased income and more depending on what and how many businesses you own at one time. If you are too busy doing something else to go help defend a building under attack, you can send one of your soldiers to go help the hired guards which is quite an advantage since the soldier being sent is probably equivalent to about 7 guards.
Committing crimes, stealing cars, beating up pedestrians are not without repercussion though. Should someone nearby witness your wrong-doing, they will be an eye witness and possibly alert nearby authorities, unless of course you take care of them too. You will get into shootouts and police will respond as well causing even more of a firefight on your hands. The police in Godfather II are much more harsh and unforgiving as youll spend much longer trying to evade cops (the fact that almost every car is slow doesnt help this either) than in other games that you may be used to. I found finding a hiding spot usually worked better than simply trying to outrun them since they can be very brutal and shoot you down extremely quickly before you even know what to do.
To kill a rival Don, you need to take out his soldiers, to do that you need to find where they are and how to kill them appropriately (or they will just recover sometime later), to do this you must find random certain people on the streets and help them with whatever they need be it a hit, stealing, bombing, or a beating. This part makes absolutely no sense; why would you walk up to some random stranger (as a Don none the less) and start talking to them as they tell a random stranger (you) that they need someone killed. Its a completely illogical mechanic. Do them the favor they want and they reward you with how to find your target and how to kill him. Its absurd the mechanic behind it but doing side quests like this and many others will add quite a length of gameplay should you want to get more out of it. By taking out a Dons soldiers, they are unable to defend their crime rings as easily and allow you to take them over with much more ease.
Doing these kill quests can take some time and if you fail at executing them the proper way, you will just have to redo it again later. That being said, it is completely optional since that to kill a Don, you dont need to take out all of his soldiers, you just need to take away all of his businesses so that they have nowhere to retreat other than their hideout. Once there you blow up their hideout and that family is gone forever which defeats the purpose of finding and killing the other made-men.
It would have been more interesting to be able to ally with a certain Don, clear out everyone else then when inevitably betray him. Because you cant do this, you focus on taking over property, killing the Don and building, then repeat.
When conversing with people, you are sometimes given options of what to say, almost like a speech tree ala Mass Effect, except nowhere near as deep or interesting. Usually you have 3 or 4 choices of what to say but many are predictable and most choices simply feel like a yes or no type of answer. When talking to a person that is asking for help, instead of choosing to hear their story and why, you can simply choose yes and it just sounds ridiculous when a random person asks the Don Can you help me? and you reply a simple Yes and the quest is added to your dossier. Its very awkward sounding and after a few quests in, you wont care to hear what people say since you can instantly look on the Dons View map and see what needs to be done and where, saving yourself time and usually horrible voice acting. The main characters voicing is actually pretty decent, but random pedestrians and minor characters will have you cringing everything you hear a fake accent.
Godfather II does have a multiplayer component to it, but if you never looked for it in the menus, you would never know it was there. In multiplayer, you dont play as your Don; you play as one of your made-men in a variety of different modes on top of the standard deathmatches. Firestarter, Safecracker, and Demolition Assault have you using the obvious specific skills to gain points by doing the objective such as starting arson fires, cracking safes, and bombing areas respectively.
There is a unique option for a person on each time to play as a Don, but instead of being a character you control, you control a cameras view above the city and can relay info to your team and set waypoints along with rewarding with other bonuses should they capture specific areas. Dons are able to bet money on the outcome of the game, but its a very moot point once you have a steady cash flow in your single player game. As you earn points online you can then spend these on your soldiers to upgrade their weapon licenses so that you can use more powerful ones. Its interesting that these skills carry over to online and offline play so at least when you are playing online you are still working towards your single player experience in a way.
There were quite a few small things that added to overall frustration (not including the intended attempted takeovers/bombings of your buildings that always detour you from your original plans). The smallest but most annoying and consistent is that you normally can vault over smaller ledges, but not all of them. You are unable to tell if you can vault it until you are right up beside it and it will either work or not. Learning this while running away from police will cause great frustration when there is a wall not even waist high that you are unable to jump over. The same goes for doors and fences that can or cant be blown up or cut down even though they will look identical to ones that can.
The guards in a bank or elsewhere will completely forget your face when you come back later as if theyve never seen you. Horrendous pop-in textures and even pedestrians that will disappear unknowingly in front of your eyes for no reason are just some of the other issues that plagued the whole play through. Even shadows will jump around, appear or disappear randomly and take away from the whole experience; especially during climactic cutscenes.
Even if you can look past all these flaws, everything as a whole does become awfully repetitive (just on a larger scale). It has all the elements of a great title, but with a very convoluted Dons View and some massive illogical ideas it just feels kind of slapped together with half ideas. There are so many issues that need to be fixed or outright changed before this would be an offer you cant refuse.