The Godfather is widely regarded as one of the greatest films of all time. So when Electronic Arts announced that it was making a game based on the license, though it made sense as a business venture, it also seemed like a risky move to adapt such a beloved and well-known story to a video game. That risk paid off with the PlayStation 2, PC, Xbox, and Xbox 360 versions of the game, and now it's the Wii's turn. There are several minor but noticeable enhancements and gameplay tweaks in the Wii version of the game, but, for the most part, this is the same game that was released a year earlier on other platforms. That said, The Godfather: Blackhand Edition is still a satisfying, lengthy action adventure game, and more importantly, it remains faithful to the classic film while also creating a compelling story of its own.
As you might expect from a Wii game, The Godfather: Blackhand Edition incorporates some unique control features. You play the game with both the Wii Remote and the Nunchuk, where you interact with objects using the remote and move around with the Nunchuk's analog stick. You can point your gun, throw punches, open doors, reload weapons, and execute enemies using this control scheme. It works well, and it's fun to beat up mobsters and toss them through windows by actually performing the respective gestures. It does get old, though, and at times the movements don't seem to register properly unless you use exaggerated gestures. Using this control scheme you also have to adjust the camera using the directional pad, which makes it difficult and cumbersome to get a good view of your surroundings, especially in indoor areas. In addition to the new controls, the Wii version of the game contains a good helping of new missions, as well as new and redesigned locations. The added content is a nice bonus, but most of it is in no way integral to the rest of the game.
The game puts you in the role of a peripheral character that didn't appear in the film, but nevertheless played a critical role in the story. While the character is by no means an official write-in from Mario Puzo or Francis Ford Coppola, he meshes well with the rest of the story, a large part of which is taken directly from the film. You begin the game by watching your father get gunned down in the streets by rival mobsters. Flash forward a few years to the wedding scene from the opening of the film, and your mother is asking the Don to take you under his wing and offer you work, so the Don sends the imposing Luca Brasi to look after you and teach you how to be a mobster.
You start off as an unofficial enforcer for the Corleone family, which means your job is to muscle merchants into paying you protection money. You do this by simply walking into a store and talking to the owner. Usually the owners won't simply give in, but you can intimidate them by smashing up their stores (or their faces) until they start to see things your way. Sometimes the business owners will ask you to do a favor for them in exchange for a cut of the business. You might have to off a drug dealer who is scaring customers away from a bakery, or take out a troublemaker who refuses to leave a hotel. These favor missions bring some welcome variety to the extortion game, but they're so simple and easy that they'll hardly have any effect on the way you play the game. Once you take over a business, you get a payout each week, and there are dozens of shops you can shake down all throughout the five boroughs of New York. Some stores are fronts for illegal rackets, such as brothels, gambling dens, and illegitimate importing operations, and you can buy out these rackets to further increase your weekly income.
Extorting businesses and taking over rackets isn't all there is to do, though. There are plenty of story missions that you'll pick up as you play. Some missions are taken directly from the movie. Most of these scenes are very faithfully re-created for the game, and it's great to be able to take part in some of the most memorable moments from the film, such as Sonny's ambush at the toll plaza and the assassinations of the Dons intercut with scenes from the baptism of Michael Corleone's niece. In fact, the best part of The Godfather is that it handles the source material respectfully and offers enough new content to feel like more than just a by-the-numbers adaptation of the movie.
In addition to the characters, the city of New York has been rendered in detail, and you can spot specific scenes from the film as you travel the streets of Little Italy, Brooklyn, Midtown, Hell's Kitchen, and New Jersey. For the Wii and PlayStation 3 versions of the game, the map was reworked to make getting around town much easier. You still need to use the map quite often, but you'll run into fewer dead-end streets this time around. There are a lot of indoor areas in the game as well, which you can freely enter without any load times. The Wii version features improved interiors that are more varied than in previous versions of the game. So while you'll still see the same bakery or hotel lobby throughout the city, you'll also see some unique interiors that will help alleviate that sense of déjà vu.
The Godfather borrows heavily from the Grand Theft Auto series of games, so you can expect the same senseless violence and absurd mayhem those games are known for. You can steal cars, run down pedestrians, shoot people at random, and evade the police. As you commit crimes, your heat gauge increases, and anywhere from one to five badge icons will appear on the screen to indicate how badly the cops want to take you down. If you're caught, you're simply killed, which isn't such a big deal because you can be revived at the nearest hospital for a small fee. It's easy to avoid the police, and you can bribe them if you don't feel up for a chase. In fact, in the Wii version of the game you can pay the police to actually fight alongside you.
Some missions are quite difficult, usually because you have to face dozens of mobsters all by yourself. However, you can recruit lower-ranking mobsters to be part of your crew. These men will follow you around and provide backup in gunfights or act as triggermen while you drive. As you ascend in rank within the Corleone family, you'll be able to recruit better and better men to fill out your crew. New to the Wii and PlayStation 3 versions of the game is the hit squad. Once you become an associate, you can call in a hit squad of four guys to follow you around and lend some muscle to your cause. The hit squad can get expensive, but you'll usually have cash to burn, so cost rarely becomes an issue here. The artificial intelligence of your allies is relatively good, and you'll definitely notice a difference having a crew around. It still doesn't take much to get your crew--or yourself--killed. You can find health tonics from time to time, but you'll need to take cover and plan your attack wisely if you want to live.
The gunplay in The Godfather is simple but fun. You can lock on to enemies with the press of a button, and you can duck or back up against a wall for cover. If you want, you can switch to free aim mode, which lets you aim by pointing the Wii Remote at the screen and using the B button to fire. This works fairly well, but the remote is so sensitive that it makes precision aiming a bit difficult. It's much easier to just lock on to a target and shoot. The guns in the game range from a .38 special revolver to a tommy gun to a snub-nosed shotgun. There's also a variety of other weapons, including Molotov cocktails, sticks of dynamite, garrote wires, and lead pipes. All of the guns can be upgraded at back-alley arms dealers. You can carry all of these weapons at the same time, too, effectively turning you into a one-mobster army. There are more than 40 scripted execution moves as well, and you're rewarded for your brutality in the form of respect. When you approach a weakened enemy, you can hold the A button to display an illustration that shows you how to perform an execution. There are quite a few different gestures to match the wide variety of execution moves, and the corresponding animations are usually brutal and satisfying to watch.
If you prefer to get your hands dirty, you can simply beat the life out of anyone you encounter. You lock on with the Z button, and then while holding the Nunchuk and Wii Remote in your hands, you can throw punches, slam opponents into walls, or even toss them off rooftops. You can also strangle your enemies by holding the remote and Nunchuk close together and shaking them violently.
As you indiscriminately waste people, extort businesses, and complete missions, you'll earn respect points. When you earn enough respect, you level up so to speak, and you can distribute skill points to learn new abilities and improve your stats. The character development system has been completely redone for this version of the game, and it allows for much more flexibility in how you strengthen your character. As you level up your character in various parameters you earn bonuses and you can also unlock new skills. You can learn useful tricks like how to set a car bomb, or you can just increase your health or make it cheaper to bribe police. These bonuses, along with the upgraded weapons, help tremendously later in the game as the missions become more difficult.
The Wii version of The Godfather doesn't look especially impressive in standard definition or at 480p. There are some nice fire and explosion effects, and the city of New York looks and feels alive with activity, but you'll see a lot of blurry surfaces, jerky animations, and clipping. When driving around town, you'll also notice textures, and even entire city blocks, pop into view a bit late, which looks awkward. The frame rate keeps pace fairly well and never drops to critical levels. Overall, the game isn't a complete eyesore, but it's not the best looking Wii game, either. It works mostly because of the way it authentically re-creates the look and feel of the film, but there are very few technically impressive moments in the game.
With the sheer number of businesses to extort and missions to complete, you can easily spend 20 hours working your way up through the ranks and eliminating other families before finally becoming the Don of New York City. If you're a fan of the film, you'll appreciate the way the game pays tribute to the movie. Even if you've never seen the film, the satisfying combat and challenging missions make this game worth playing. However, if you've already played other versions of The Godfather, there's no compelling reason to once again spend full price for what is essentially the exact same game. The Wii controls and added content are nice, but those alone aren't enough to make this game worth yet another look. But if you haven't played the game before, and you're looking for an action adventure game for the Wii, The Godfather: Blackhand Edition certainly fits the bill.