The action adventure game based on the iconic film trilogy moves to the PlayStation Portable, taking with it most of the missions and adding a whole new turn-based strategy section to the mix.
The PlayStation Portable version of the Godfather is a game of two parts. The story mode takes you through a good deal of the content found in the original console version of the game, whilst the Mob Wars mode blends third-person action with a turn-based strategy game.
For anybody who didn't catch the PlayStation 2 or Xbox version of The Godfather earlier this year, the basic premise of the game is that you play as a faceless, low-ranking mobster who has to work his way up in the Corleone family. You're thrust into an extensive, open-ended version of New York and take on missions that fit in with the film trilogy--although the roles you play are never quite those seen onscreen, but rather the little gaps in the background.
For Godfather: Mob Wars, the game has been transferred onto the PlayStation Portable, and some significant changes have been made to make it more suitable for the platform. Most significantly, the open-ended city is gone, and it has been replaced with the framework of just the missions themselves, which can be attempted one after another. Also gone are all of the driving sections, including those parts of missions which involved driving, so some missions are a little shorter than before. However, to make up for those absences, the Mob Wars strategy game has been added, and the two modes sit side by side.
The game begins with a cutscene showing a typical mob retribution hit: A shop is blown up, and a man is executed in a side alley. The dead man's son discovers the scene but is pulled away by Don Corleone (Marlon Brando's character) before he can see too much. Time passes, and years later the boy (now a man) has fallen in with a bad crowd, so Corleone offers him a way out, and a job in the family business. From here on in you're on the bottom rung of the ladder and must complete various missions that may or may not tie in with the plot of the film trilogy.
In this story mode, the action takes place in the third person, pretty similar to Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories. Usually missions will involve moving around a certain small section of the city, extorting businesses, and killing rival mobsters. You'll have access to a variety of weapons, most of which are upgradable, as you progress through the game. Targeting and shooting are pretty simple on the whole, and since dying can be horribly easy at times, you'll find it necessary to use cover to your advantage where possible.
The camera can be moved around the character fairly simply, although at this point there are still some issues with the speed at which that happens, so occasionally you can't really see what's going on in buildings.
But brute force isn't always the best course of action, and you can crouch down to move around silently--although if you're spotted, any gunshots will alert nearby enemies as to what's going on. In one mission stealth is particularly critical, so careful planning is required.
Brawling and intimidation are key parts of interacting with business owners and others in need of a beating. The controls for fighting sequences are easy to grasp, and the developers have included a wide range of moves--some of which are location sensitive--meaning there's plenty of variety to the action.
One of the ways to make money in the story mode is to extort businesses, and this is done by negotiating with the owners. If this fails--which happens most of the time in the beginning--then you'll need to intimidate them into accepting a deal. Beating them up is one way of going about it, although if you go too far they'll refuse. If physical abuse isn't bringing them around to your way of thinking, trying other methods, such as pulling a gun on customers or smashing up the place, may help.
Once a story mission is complete, you're taken to a menu screen that lets you use any skill points you may have earned to upgrade you character. You can level up several different skills, including fighting, shooting, speed, and health. The menu also lets you save your progress between missions and purchase upgrades or ammunition for your weapons. Gradually, as you get through the game, you'll be promoted through the ranks, and you'll see your character wearing a different set of clothes as a result.
This main menu also lets you play the Mob Wars mode once the first story mission is complete. While your progress through the story missions is paused, you can take on four other families for control of New York, battling it out for territories in a similar sort of way to the board game Risk. Each family has a starting point and a handful of territories, and each turn they can try to capture empty regions or those occupied by other families.
Clashing with other families will raise your relative vendetta level, giving both families defensive bonuses against each other and making it a little harder to win each time. And violent activity, such as killing rivals or taking over businesses, will earn your family a police 'heat' rating on a scale of one to five stars, a bit like in Grand Theft Auto. At one star you shouldn't have any trouble, but if you reach five stars you run the risk of the police getting tangled up in your work.
Whenever you attempt to take over a territory, the game takes you into a third-person action mission pertaining to that territory. Empty regions will just require extortion, but anything owned by another family will tend to mean a fair amount of bloodshed. An action on a territory is instigated by moving a mobster into that region, and your success may depend on the quality of that mobster. You can purchase new men during one of the turn-based phases, but to begin with you'll be able to afford only the cheap, and easily killed, outsiders. Successful missions will see the individual mobsters gain experience and, in time, promotion to soldier, associate, and so on. With each new level, the mobsters will gain experience in the various skills, making them far more effective agents for destruction.
Each owned territory will confer various bonuses, both as cash rewards and also as game cards that may be played during another part of the turn. These cards have a variety of uses, ranging from extra movement points for a mobster, stealing cash from a rival family, and reducing your police heat rating, to calling a truce with someone or even reducing an opponent mobster's skill rating. You can play as many cards as you like during a single turn, but you can only hold up to seven at a time (although some will let you steal additional cards from other families).
The overall aim of the Mob Wars mode is to eliminate all of the other families from the map and thus take over the city. To eliminate a family, regardless of their strength or how many other territories they control, you'll need to successfully attack their compound--in other words, the territory their home base is in.
Compound missions are particularly tricky and require you to blow up two buildings, usually packed full of enemies. Planting the bombs is simple in itself, but you'll need to vacate the buildings pretty swiftly once that's done, or your character will get caught up in the explosion too. Happily, enemies don't respawn, so if you take it steady and work your way through the missions carefully, you have a reasonable chance of success. Defeated families will then disappear from the map, and all the territories they owned previously will be vacated.
Once you've finished your turn, the other families will take theirs, and once that's done, the round is complete and you're taken back to the menu screen. From then on in you can go through the same options as before and either opt to play another turn in Mob Wars or go for another story mission.
The money that you earn in both modes feeds into the same pot, and the game frequently advises you to try another story mode mission if you're running into problems in Mob Wars. Eventually you'll be able to become a serious player in the Corleone family in one mode, whilst taking over New York in the other.
This means there's plenty of variety to be had for PSP players and a nice combination of play styles to suit most tastes. Godfather: Mob Wars is due for release later in September in the US and Europe, and GameSpot will have a full review nearer the time.