Electronic Arts is showing off a playable version of The Godfather for the first time behind closed doors at E3, so we headed over to get the full scoop on exactly what the company is doing with the vaunted film franchise. Of course, it features plenty of plot elements from Francis Ford Coppola's classic, but the game's storyline casts you as your own Italian-American character. The game will essentially run in parallel with the movie, occasionally allowing you to interact with pivotal scenes but just as often letting you engage in your own criminal exploits.
Our demo of The Godfather began with our character walking the streets of New York in 1945. The game keeps a running tab of the tasks you have to complete, which you can pop up at the touch of a button. In our case, we had to deal with a particular threat to the Corleone family. We tracked the guy, who was a member of the rival Tataglia family, to a rooftop, where we had to fight him and a couple of his armed thugs. The game lets you target individual enemies for easier shooting, but you can tweak your aim after locking on to score a headshot. Or you can shoot a guy in the knee to drop him to the ground, then grab and interrogate him for information before you put him down for good.
After blowing the two minions away, we moved on to our target, at which point we got to check out The Godfather's unique, intriguing combat system. This system is being referred to by EA as "black hand" control, and it lets you punch enemies with varying strength or dodge to the left and right using solely the right analog stick. Interestingly, you don't even have to hit the guy if you don't want to--you can pull your fist back threateningly to intimidate him into talking, if your reputation is strong enough. In this particular instance, we even saw how you could throw the enemy up against the wall or walk him over to the rooftop and threaten to throw him over to make him cede to your demands.
You can't be too violent in The Godfather if you really want to succeed, though. After all, excessive violence against the innocent populace is bad for business, and the ultimate objective of the game is to become the head of your own crime family and even unite all of New York under your own banner. We saw a section of the demo where the player started harassing random passersby, going so far as to shoot a poor old lady in the head, which increased the character's crime-watch level, meaning the police would be a little more on the lookout for us in the future.
Similarly, violence against the other families will increase your vendetta points, which will bring you more problems with them than you might want to deal with. For instance, we stumbled into an upstairs gambling operation and approached the guy running the thing to try to muscle our way into the business. We opted to end negotiations with a revolver, which increased our vendetta points. If we'd instead tried to talk to the guy (or threatened him properly), we apparently could have convinced him to work for us, and then we'd have had control of the gambling operation, adding to our overall controlled territory. This sort of dynamic, branching gameplay sounds like it will make The Godfather a pretty open-ended experience.
The Godfather looks like it's going to have a good amount of depth, what with all the different ways you can approach each task. You'll have core story missions that will run alongside the film, so you can essentially just follow the original plot if you want, or you can get involved in the constant bid for power, prestige, and territory if you just want to build your criminal empire. And, hey, digital Marlon Brando. The game is due out on a whole slew of platforms this fall, even on the upcoming Xbox 360, and we'll bring you more on it in the coming months.