The Godfather II Hands-On

We take rival mafia thugs to the breaking point in this sandbox strategy adaptation of the classic film.

If you've seen The Godfather II recently enough to remember its story in detail, take a moment to choose which of these genres is best suited to convey its unique portrayal of Mafia drama: third-person shooter, sandbox action, or role-playing strategy. Got your answer? So does developer EA Redwood Shores, and it has chosen "all of the above" for its upcoming video game adaptation of the same name. As you take on the role of up-and-coming Mafia don Dominic Corleone, you'll roam the streets busting heads, you'll charm your way through dialogue trees, and, when your empire begins to take form, you'll need to carefully allocate and manage your resources to make sure it continues to grow. We recently spent some hands-on time with The Godfather II to see how these disparate genres are coming together.

As Dominic Corleone, you'll need to build your own branch of this infamous family.

To be fair, the Godfather II game doesn't have the same plot as the film. The game tells a parallel story that often intersects with the film's story at critical moments, but for the most part you'll be forging a story of your own. That story begins in Havana, Cuba, on the night before the revolution of 1958. Just as a meeting of Mafia bigwigs is beginning to wind down, violence erupts in the streets, and you're suddenly responsible for guiding members of the Corleone family to a nearby airport so you can escape to safety. Sadly, Aldo Trapani, star of the first Godfather game, doesn't survive this frantic journey. His sudden death is the catalyst that establishes the premise for the rest of the game. Michael Corleone promotes you to Aldo's former position, a role that requires you to form your own semi-autonomous branch of the Mafia.

Once the family returns to New York, you begin establishing your own corner of the family by recruiting a new member into your ranks. Initially, this is as simple as talking to some of the freelance talent already wandering around the Corleone compound, then choosing which you like best. Each potential associate has a unique skill set that you need to take into account. The pair we had to choose from at the game's outset included a gentleman skilled in the art of arson and another who considered himself a talented medic. Each has a mini-bio and personality quirks, too, but these are essentially classes you'll want to keep balanced out in your crew. We went with the arsonist and set out to take over some of the local businesses in order to build our empire.

At the suggestion of Frank Pentangeli, a friend of the family, we set our sights on a local prostitution house disguised as a bakery in order to collect our first money-laundering front. Adding businesses to your burgeoning empire is key to The Godfather II, because to expand your influence, you'll need money and manpower. We took a car from the front of the Corleone compound, cruised through the late-1950s sandbox representation of New York City that makes up the first of three environments in the game (the other two being Miami and Havana), and arrived at the bakery. We began the takeover by exercising some melee abilities on the guard inside the legal front of this two-sided business. Melee is a simple but fun combination of triggers that lets you throw punches, grab enemies, and exercise a wide variety of intimidating moves while they're in your grasp. You can head-butt them, throw them, slap them around, and more. It's an easy system, but one that results in several dozen possible moves.

You'll spend a fair amount of time driving from place to place in this sandbox game.

What's the point of doing this? Every character of interest has a breaking point where they'll start to give you information and access to what you want, but you need to be careful, because just beyond that breaking point is when they fight back, and further down eventually die. As long as you don't go too over the top with the violence, you'll be able to rough up people in a really slick, Mafia-inspired way. In our bakery mission, we began by shaking down the guard protecting the door leading from the legal face of this business to the shady basement where the unsavory deeds occur. This let us gain access without killing him, but the guards inside weren't so lucky. After a bit of third-person gun combat against these watchmen, we finally went into the back office and found the owner. This poor soul had the unfortunate luck of being the last man standing in the joint, so he wasn't exactly in a position of leverage. Nevertheless, we popped him in the face, threw him into his desk, then picked him up and began to threaten more violence. At this point, he gladly handed over the establishment in exchange for his life. Thus the "bakery" was ours.

Once you obtain a new establishment, it's a good idea to jump into the "Don's view" so you can see a visual representation of which properties you own and set a strategic plan for how you'd like to hold onto them. The first choice you'll want to make is how many guards you want to keep there. The more you have, the less likely the tables will be turned on you by a rival family, but guards cost money. However, money is also how you upgrade your stats and those of your immediate crew for more offensive-minded purposes, so you'll need to carefully decide how much to spend on securing your property.

The Don's view is definitely what separates The Godfather II from other action sandbox games. This collection of screens is where the heart of the strategy and role-playing aspects exists. You can look at your property, compare it against that of other families, inspect which properties are most ripe for the taking, and manage your crew to best take on those challenges. Let's say another family is exercising too much dominance over the city and you want to take it down but you don't have the manpower to do it. Using the Don's view, one option is to send an explosives-trained associate to bomb one of the family's properties. Another is to stage a hit on one of its higher-level underbosses. A third option? Channel your energy into making sure your crew is the most fashionably dressed in the entire city. That might not get you anywhere, but hey, it's an option.

The Don's view gives you a strategic layout of the game's New York, Miami, and Havana settings.

As we continued to go around town, hijacking cars and collecting property, we were impressed by The Godfather II's mix of combat and cinematic drama. There's a stark contrast between the stylish executions you can pull off on a wounded enemy and the careful prodding you need to perform on those whom you're trying to pry information from, but it's a really interesting change of pace and speaks to the fact that you're not just out to mow everyone down--you're a businessman, first and foremost. One thing that may turn people off is the driving. Since this is an open-world game, you'll be spending a lot of time behind the wheel. But because the game is set in the 1950s, you'll see a lot of boats out on the road that drive about as advanced as they look (imagine a city filled with the Hermes from the Grand Theft Auto series). However, this only adds to the level of realism and works well alongside the unfortunate 1950s fashion and period weaponry to give you the feeling that you're really in that time period.

Altogether, The Godfather II looks like a very intriguing take on the sandbox action genre. It's hard to think of many games falling under that category that have attempted the level of strategic depth that this game is going for, so we're looking forward to seeing how it all comes together when The Godfather II is released in February.

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159 comments
mfa1486
mfa1486

I wish not be any further delay in this game,i love ea games, which by the great games I'm trust in that the great Publisher

vextor93
vextor93

I really hope its as good as the first one but it sounds kinda fun to have your own crew

Silent_King
Silent_King

Well don't know what the mob would do so they may actually have someone in front of a place... Though I would make it look like he was trying to buy something...

lokesc
lokesc

Well,..for a preview u can't just talk negative without knowing the full extent of the game. But I've a feeling this game have none to top GTA4. This guys need to do something extra ordinary to stand out on itself. I think Wheelman can do better.

illkillyou
illkillyou

Is there honest reporting in the world anymore? I've never read a single Gamespot hands-on that speaks negatively about a game. Yet, more than half the time when the game actually comes out it's a total bomb. Also, why is it unfortunate that the game features 1950's fashion and weaponry? Doesn't this make sense in a period game? In regards to the game, a guard standing in a bakery pretending to be a legitimate business is a little cheesy and unbelievable. I hope the producers put some energy into making sure this game can be taken seriously, because more often than not they assume we're all children who don't care about story and how it's delivered, as long as we get to blow people's faces off with shotguns.

zandervm
zandervm

I wish this were coming out for the Wii. The first one worked great on the Wii, and is still one of the few Wii games I own that makes liberal use of motion control without feeling gimmicky.

enviovore
enviovore

hope this game isnt as frustrating to play as the first one... as much as i really dont want to, in spite of the first game, i know im going to play this.

Smithers2286
Smithers2286

I have to admit that i'm dissapointed that this game is not arriving for the Wii. It was the Wii version of the first one that made me fall in love with the Godfather formula. I'm not sure I will purchase Godfather 2 for 360, because it just won't be the same.

Silent_King
Silent_King

I highly enjoyed the original Godfather, I have high hopes for this. Mind you, there is probably going to be some problems, Glitches, annoying characters. But that's what happens in every single game. So I say let's wait and see, good luck on your part of the wait... I don't think I will be that lucky lol

opmeteor419
opmeteor419

just gotta wait it out to see if it works, hopefully they pull it off

gshell
gshell

here's to hoping that they can pull this off.....it sounds amazing but i'm skeptical....merging these many genres never comes out right....i'll hope for the best...

flankmove
flankmove

I dont care how many guns in the game. I dont want to obtain don status and still run around the streets getting shot at and extorting cookie cut businesses alone. The old hothouse game Gangsters (G1 not G2) was the closest thing to a real crime boss experience. But the boss never left his office :) I dont like GTA and I dont want to play a mob version of it! Cunning strategy and the ability to have others carryout your edicts is boss. With the OPTION to get my hands dirty if I want.

Derek_3
Derek_3

the first godfather game was good (could have had more diverse missions instead of attacking 100 bars, but yur making a game on godfather 2 and there is no vegas? ah, i mean u already got 3 places so its not a matter of size but I just hope that this isnt a crappy game like scarface was. ill still prolly get it but ive also seen the godfathers like 60 times. lets hope its aweseome

darkdealer
darkdealer

this better be good and better have more than 6 cars and alot more than say even 15 guns

smitty65
smitty65

I have tried everyplace I can think of. Does anyone know what controllers this new game will support? I have a "logitech extreme digital 3D twist handle joystick" please reply to smitty1608@msn.com

Smoothy08
Smoothy08

Looks amazing carnt wait till it comes out!

yonifra
yonifra

hope it's as good as the movie

GameFreak523
GameFreak523

If the guns and Executions in this game pass the line of brutality in this game...then that would be a great reason for people to buy it.

dettelas
dettelas

wow look yummy |\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/ | |Nice game !!!!!!!!!!!!!!| | /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\| |---------------------------|

AzNGaNgStel2
AzNGaNgStel2

Sounds good Hope for the next update to bring even more content!

burstlimit514
burstlimit514

you know what? This sounds really cool now and the godfather ROCKS.

courtneya3
courtneya3

for whatever odd reason i enjoyed the first godfather and really became engrossed in the game....mainly because it tied very close with the movie....but i dont know how i feel about this attempt...

danieldsouza
danieldsouza

I hate EA games. Game looks good now but the end product will suck big time

Hellboard
Hellboard

come on dude both godfather and maifa sucked, both badly designed, godfather was borring and unbalanced, mafia was totaly linear and too hard difficulty, i hope this is diffirent!

uberjannie
uberjannie

based in the 1950's... Still that car looks pimped 2k8.. -.-'

jasopan
jasopan

NICE gta/rpg i like!

lindz23
lindz23

Sweet I hope its a good as the first one!!!!

kittykatz5k
kittykatz5k

Wait... is this based on the movies? That car is waaaaaay too new.

ExtremePhobia
ExtremePhobia

graphics are important, there's a standard and if a game falls below the standard then you'll notice and it'll forcibly drag you out of your immersion. At the same time, you could take something with now graphics and have a blast, it just won't have the same impact in story without a decent level of graphics to keep you "in" the game.

residude
residude

everyones banging on about the graphics in this game, but they should be banging on improving the gameplay from the first one, and making sure it isn't so repititive. I got pretty sick of going into a shop (which all looke the same) and beating someone up. Or going to the families mansions (which all looked the same) and beating the same people up but in different coloured suits. Thats what needs to be sorted.

FallenAngel
FallenAngel

Graphics shouldn't be the focal point of a game yes, but a certain standard is to be expected from current gen games, especially a game which is part third person shooter. I don't generally gripe about graphics in games, but a game that is coming out for current gen consoles and PCs should NOT be looking like something from the PS2/Xbox era. And the screenshots sadly remind me of that. Not that I still wouldn't be playing this game to death if it has great gameplay, but the graphics certainly could be a lot better.

killzone_gamer
killzone_gamer

I dont think I'll bother with this. A possible rent though...

spyder_pk
spyder_pk

Can't agree more to you Jimmygee123.. take NFS Prostreet.. nice graphics but gameplay sucks big-time.. result.. the whole game sucks.. its about gameplay (and story) not graphics..

Jimmygee123
Jimmygee123

grrrrr. why are you all banging on about the graphics. gameplay always comes first. get that into your skulls. graphics are like the icing on the cake its no good if the gameplay is s*** but it looks nice..... the games still s***. so reserve your judgement after getting the demo. ( and to all the people who commented on the ps2.... stop being a tight ass and buy a next gen console)

Desperado_87
Desperado_87

so bad that there is not a version for the PS2 :-s

Berzi
Berzi

You guys , don't be careless, the graphics are very good just take a closer look to the screens and maximise them and you'll notice the quality of the graphs

Dima_06
Dima_06

The first Mafia game wasn't crap, what a selfish thing to say. You people should be ashamed of yourselves!!!!! The story of the Mafia game was as good, if not better than the story in the Godfather game. Then there is the Scarface game, featuring Tony Montana,....I played that on the PS2, and on the Nintendo Wii. I enjoyed it more on the Wii due to the tight controls and better textures.

mehrdad1987
mehrdad1987

Nice, i should get it, like the first version

gummy_joe
gummy_joe

sweetness, I loved the first godfather for its conbination of role playing elements and Grand theft auto gameplay style, the Don's view looks like a good idea but hopefully they improve the graphics a bit

SiMsquid92
SiMsquid92

The "Don's View" sounds like a better version of the Scarface Empire page. Cant wait.

NickZCoolZ
NickZCoolZ

yah... you get that rite....I wish this game can make people like it...

smr309
smr309

first they must improve the graphics .. second thing if they cant stick to the real story , the must stick to the sicilians environment ,i mean the italian way ,the italian life style ,the way they talk the way the move .and then i think it will be succsecfull.

Berzi
Berzi

Guys don't think that these are the final screens , the game is still under developement so the graphics will improve

FlashCharge
FlashCharge

An interesting game which offers some diversion from the run and shoot games. Hope that it evolves well and will watch the reviews.

kalossimitar
kalossimitar

so, can we still expect locked content that we need to pay for to unlock, hmm?

MrWhoopee10
MrWhoopee10

Are these screen shots from PS2 or something because to me the graphics look like they are pretty bad. I might buy the game if they improve the graphics and to me they don't look to good. This isn't a game I'm dieing to get but is a game I might borrow from the video store and play for a week.

Unholy_Acrobat
Unholy_Acrobat

Whats with all these people saying it wont be as good as GTA IV? 1. You haven't played the game yet how can you know that? 2. GTA IV wasn't even as good ad everyone made it out to be. I actually rate Godfather 1 about 5% worse than GTA IV, actually maybe not even that because i managed to finish The godfather 1 whereas I stopped playing GTA IV towards the end because i found it quite repetative!

lathan94
lathan94

This looks awesome i hope they get the empire building and strategy right. I