The Godfather: Mob Wars adds a card-based strategy game to a third-person action game based on the most popular mobster film of all time. The idea sounds bad on paper, but it's slightly better in practice. The free-roaming gameplay of the console versions of The Godfather has been removed here, as have many of the more interesting missions. Worse than that is the absolutely awful camera control that all but ruins the game. But despite these very apparent flaws in the action portion of the game, the turn-based strategy portion is somewhat enjoyable while it lasts.
The Godfather tells a side story that parallels the events in the 1972 film. You play as the son of a Corleone family associate. Your father is killed when you're a young boy, and years later your mother asks Don Corleone to take you under his wing. The don sends Luca Brasi to turn you into a mobster, and thus begins your career as a mafioso. The Godfather: Mob Wars is divided into two distinct gameplay modes: story mode and mob wars mode. You're free to play each mode in any order you see fit, but you'll have to complete both to become the don of New York City. In story mode you simply play through a series of missions. Unlike in the console versions of The Godfather, no driving or side missions are involved. Instead, you go from one story mission to the next, whacking mobsters, interrogating informants, and taking over rackets. The setup for these missions is interesting, and they fit well with the main arc of the story from the film, but the execution is sloppy.
The problem with these action missions is that the camera control is extremely uncooperative. The camera stays close behind your character most of the time, and you can reset it by tapping the R button. You can also look around by holding the R button, but you can't move and look at the same time. Since you'll spend a lot of time in narrow hallways or small rooms, you'll constantly need to adjust the camera. There is a lock-on targeting system, but you can't lock on to enemies that you can't see, even if they're standing right in front of you as you turn a corner. Instead, you have to turn the corner, adjust the camera so you can see what's around that corner, and then finally lock on to the enemy so you can shoot him. That takes way too much time, and more often than not you'll end up getting killed as you try to see what's going on. You can hug the wall for cover and peek out to shoot, but that rarely works right, and you'll still frequently encounter incredibly awkward and frustrating situations where you get killed as soon as you walk through a door, or you shoot at the ground instead of locking on to an enemy right in front of you.
The missions are also very limited, especially compared to the free-roaming structure of the console versions of the game. You are always dropped right next to your target, so completing most missions is as simple as running a few steps toward the indicator on your minimap and then blasting through a few enemies before interrogating or killing the one character with a special icon above his head. If you try to explore the city or surrounding areas, you'll fail the mission as soon as you step past the designated mission area, which is usually a single small building. This narrow mission design will make you feel like you're just going through the motions to get from one mission to the next. The only challenge to be found in any of the missions is dealing with the aforementioned camera problem.
The other half of the game is the mob wars mode. Mob wars is a turn-based strategy game with cards as well as mission-based action sequences. That sounds like the makings of an experiment gone awry, like some sort of Frankenstein's monster of game design, but it's actually playable--and even fun, occasionally. It plays like a simplified strategy board game. The five boroughs of New York are divided into several neighborhoods. Each of the five families in New York starts out with a compound, and the objective is to move mobsters around the map, take over new neighborhoods and rackets, and eventually bomb enemy family compounds until you've taken over the entire city. The game is turn-based, so you can take your sweet time planning your strategy. During each turn you draw cards, which you can play to do things like steal money or cards from your rivals, promote your mobsters to make them stronger, or lower your heat or vendetta levels. If your heat level is too high you'll have to deal with a lot of angry police officers as you try to complete missions. If your vendetta is high, you'll be facing more enemy mobsters. As you take over more neighborhoods and rackets, you start to earn more money, and eventually you'll become so powerful that you can walk all over any remaining families. The strategizing is simple but fun. The problem is that when you move into a contested area you have to complete a mission to seize that area. These missions are similar to the missions in story mode, and they're just as simplistic and frustrating. It's a shame, because there are some interesting ideas at play in the mob wars mode, and with more content and depth it could be a decent stand-alone game.
As it is, neither of the two modes in The Godfather: Mob Wars feels complete. Instead of being two fully featured modes, they're like two halves of two different games. The connection between the two modes is tenuous and a bit disjointed, despite the fact that the money and experience you earn carry over to both modes. It just doesn't make sense that when you've bombed all of the family compounds and taken over New York in one mode, you still have to do it again in the other mode, even though the game tries to make it seem like these events are happening concurrently.
The Godfather: Mob Wars looks good when you can actually see what's happening. Camera aside, the models of the characters from the film all look accurate and detailed, and the environments also look authentic, even though you can't ever explore beyond a very small area. The animation can be jerky and awkward, and you'll often see enemies twitching up against a door or wall for no good reason. There are also some clipping problems, which frequently cause characters to fall through floors or move through solid objects. While playing, you'll also notice the game lock up once in a while. It never lasts more than a second or two, but it's jarring when it does occur. The audio is one of the stronger elements of the presentation. The voice work is fantastic for all of the main characters, and the music from the film is used well to set the tone in the game.
The console versions of The Godfather offered a lengthy action adventure experience, but with all of the free roaming and a good portion of the missions removed for the PSP release, the game comes up short. You can easily become the don of New York City in eight hours or less, and after that there isn't much left to do. In the end, Mob Wars doesn't live up to its potential. There are some flashes of a good game in there, and you might have fun for the first couple of hours, but unfortunately that enjoyment is fleeting, and you'll be left feeling aggravated and disappointed.