Currently scheduled for release in September, the Xbox 360 version of The Godfather promises to improve upon previously released versions of the game with a host of new features. We recently had an opportunity to spend a few hours with a near-finished version of The Godfather, and although that wasn't nearly long enough for us to become the Don of New York City, it did afford us a good opportunity to check out some of the promised new features and improvements for ourselves.
One of the first things you'll need to do in The Godfather is create a mob face for yourself by adjusting more than 25 different attributes using sliding bars. After settling on your appearance, the first time you'll see yourself, you'll be laid out on the ground with four disgruntled gang members kicking the crap out of you. It's at this point that enforcer Luca Brasi, acting on the orders of Don Corleone, steps in and not only saves your hide but also takes you under his wing and offers you some combat tips. The combat controls in The Godfather are unusual but uncomplicated: You'll use the trigger buttons to lock onto and grab targets, while the right analog stick is used to throw punches in a way not entirely different to the system employed in Fight Night Round 3. Combat with firearms is equally intuitive, and although the lock-on system that lets you tweak your aim to target specific areas of the enemy worked well in every situation we encountered, a free-aim mode is also available with a touch of a button.
The other important lesson that you'll learn from Brasi before you're let loose in the city is the art of extortion. Specifically, you'll learn how to apply pressure on business owners so that they agree to pay you protection money regularly. There are at least 10 different ways to apply pressure in The Godfather, which include various hand-to-hand techniques, property damage, harming customers, or simply making threats. Apply the wrong kind of pressure, and you'll get nowhere; apply too much pressure, and the business owner will resort to violence. Every business owner in the game has a weak spot for a certain kind of pressure, and if you find out what it is and use that information correctly, you'll find that every protection payment you receive (and which the family takes a large percentage of) comes with a bonus. Many of the businesses in the game are fronts for various illegal rackets, and once you've earned the loyalty of a business owner, you'll have an opportunity to explore the rest of the building and add any rackets that you find to your growing list of business interests. The butcher shop that agreed to pay us protection money after we started trashing the place, for example, had an illegal casino upstairs.
If you're not wandering or driving around New York looking for opportunities to make money and/or trouble (both earn you respect points that can be spent on improving your skills), it might be because you're taking on missions that advance the storyline and which, in many cases, see you taking an active role in memorable sequences from the movie. When you witness Don Corleone getting shot and he needs to be taken to the hospital, for example, it's you that will get to drive him there and subsequently assist Michael Corleone as he patrols the hospital to thwart any further attempts on his father's life.
Other activities you can partake in as you explore the city include bank heists, prize fights, cracking 100 safes, locating 100 hidden film reels, and buying 24 safe houses. Earning achievement points will also be a consideration in the Xbox 360 game, of course, and we're pleased to report that the 38 different achievements in our version of the game appear to run the gamut from effortlessly easy to extremely challenging. One of our favorite achievements thus far was completed by killing enemies using a number of different execution styles, as determined by the weapon used and the point of impact. The game recognizes 47 different ways for you to execute an enemy, which is more than double the number in previous versions of the game.
With all of the illegal activities that you're involved in, you can expect the police to get involved at some point, but the good news is that they can often be convinced to overlook your discretions with a bribe. When you bribe the local law enforcement, your heat indicator (which works in the same way as the GTA series' wanted-level system) will be replaced with a timer that shows you how much police-free time you've bought yourself. Bribed cops in the Xbox 360 game are even more helpful than their counterparts in other versions of the game and will fight alongside you if you get into trouble with a rival family while they're in the area. New to the Xbox 360 game is the option to hire a crew to roll with you once you earn the respect of the family. These hired guns don't come cheap, but they'll watch your back when you're on foot, and you can instruct them to fire out of car windows when you're driving.
Other noticeable additions to the Xbox 360 game include persistent (or at least longer-lasting) facial damage on your character, dynamic weather, side missions that involve doing favors for various characters, and a number of previously unseen vehicles and weapons. Xbox Live will also come into play, of course, and although there's no multiplayer content, you will be able to compare your stats against those of other players on online leaderboards. Electronic Arts has also confirmed that it plans to release additional content for the game on the Xbox Live Marketplace, although no specifics have been announced at this time. We look forward to bringing you more information on The Godfather as soon as it becomes available.