EA recently held a press event to show off its follow up to 2006's Godfather, an action game that dropped you into the dangerous world of the classic book and film franchise. Following Godfather's initial release in the first half of 2006 for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox 360, EA followed up with conversions to the new batch of consoles that hit later that same year and into 2007. Although it was fairly well received, the development team decided to tweak the original game's formula in order to have Godfather II offer a more immersive mob experience. We got a run-through of the upcoming sequel that offered an overview of the game and a look at some early gameplay. So far, it seems to be serving up what you'd want out of a game based on the mafia--crime and shooting, with some diplomacy thrown in.
The development team took an interesting route toward developing the sequel as the members got to thinking about how to better create the game's living world. The behavior of the other families you exist with and compete against was a key issue the team wanted to ensure was improved in Godfather II. In setting up a system that would deliver what they were looking for, the developers took a surprisingly low-tech approach that seems to have paid off famously. The team wound up creating a basic card game that served the basis for the logic that will run under the hood of the game and will drive the behavior of the families. We should stress that the card game is strictly an under-the-hood system. While it would be awesome and somewhat hilarious to have the action in Godfather II revolve around a card game, Culdcept-style, we imagine this wouldn't be too exciting for fans. Although, to be fair, we got a chance to play the card game, and it's pretty fun and addictive. The core is a system of checks and balances between players who hold different properties--some of which make up rackets--that yield money. If you can collect all the properties that complete a racket you'll receive bonuses for your forces, such as more ammunition or other perks. The action naturally lends itself to a more balanced style of play that has both the weak and powerful being attacked equally.
The actual game, again, will mirror the action in the second Godfather film and will tie into the events of the first game. Unfortunately, tying up loose ends doesn't mean good things for Aldo, who figured prominently in the first game. Hopefully, no one got too attached to him, since he won't be around for too long in Godfather II. But, as a result of Aldo's unfortunate departure, you're tapped to fill his role as don by Michael Corleone. Who are you this time out? Unfortunately, you won't be importing your character from the first game, which is a bit of a bummer, because the original game doesn't work with the story in Godfather II. This time out, you'll play as one of Aldo's lieutenants and you'll enjoy the perks and pressures of a battlefield promotion.
Your new role in the game and in the Corleone family affords you a number of challenges that tie directly into the team's focus of making you feel like a don. Your goal is to obviously grow the family business through the usual combination of smart business decisions and heavy use of firearms. Your task will take you to different cities where you'll have to get the lay of the land, make nice with families, and do your business. The very cool, strategic wrinkle to the action is a new "Don" view that gives you a view of the city complete with handy icons for the various ongoing rackets, which are even more important in Godfather II. While rackets were obviously a very important element from the first game, they're now even more valuable as the bonuses they provide to your forces can be crucial to success.
While strategy is a key component of the gameplay in Godfather II, there's still plenty of running and gunning. This time out, you'll select a crew that you can direct in a variety of ways for the various missions you'll take on. Speaking of missions, there appears to be an impressive variety of tasks to take on, either as part of or independent of the movie's story. With all the activity going on, the game will actually provide you with regular updates as you play to keep you abreast of what's going on around your city and beyond. The updates will help you manage what to take out next and which family to go after next. We also dug the way you can passively cause trouble by bribing district attorneys and getting them to conduct investigations on other families. Of course, we're still fans of getting our hands dirty and doing things the old-fashioned way by shooting, bombing, or intimidating folks ourselves.
The visuals in the work-in-progress Xbox 360 game that EA showed were promising and had a respectable level of detail already. Character models were coming along pretty well, and the environments we saw, which were just a fraction of what the team is cooking up, are looking sharp. We're fans of the Don view, which looks cool and presents useful information. The transition from on-the-ground gameplay to the Don view is smooth and flashy. The only minor blemish in the visuals were the expected rough edges in the frame rate and animation departments--but that's how things go in the early stages of a game's development.
Based on what we saw, Godfather II is shaping up to be a smart and ambitious sequel to the original game. We're liking the way the gameplay and story have been expanded to offer a more diverse experience. While we're happy to play through a story that faithfully sticks to the movie, we're looking forward to the other options that will be made available. If you were a fan of the original game, you'll definitely want to keep tabs on Godfather II as EA takes the wraps off more on the game. After talking with the publisher, it's clear there's tons more to dive into in the months to come. Godfather II is slated to ship early next year. Look for more on the game in the coming weeks.