Due to getting handed a major project at work, I missed the last few days of our annual Horrorthon and now I’ve got some catching up to do. It’s frustrating and, whenever I get frustrated and need to blow off some steam, I get my old Xbox 360 out of storage and I concentrate my efforts on running the Straccis out of New Jersey.
New Jersey is one of the many neighborhoods that you can take over in EA’s video game version of The Godfather. New Jersey is full of nice houses, dive bars, and police that are so incompetent that I got away with bombing their station on numerous occasions. If you don’t feel like taking over New Jersey, you can go into Brooklyn and pick a fight with the Tattaglia family. Or you can drive into Hell’s Kitchen, the worst part of New York and fight the Cuneos. If you’re really brave, you can try to take over Midtown but Midtown is controlled by the Barzini family and the Barzinis don’t go down without a fight. If you get into too many fights, you might accidentally start a gang war but you can always find an FBI agent in a church and bribe him to end the war. Just don’t accidentally shoot the guy. I did that a few times.
The Godfather is an open world game, a 1940s version of Grand Theft Auto that happens to feature characters from classic gangster film. You play a Corleone family associate who, over the course of the game, goes from being a soldier to being the Don of New York. Along the way, you take part in all of the major scenes from the film. When Sonny is gunned down, you’re the one who chases his assassins. When Michael shoots the Turk, you’re the one who drives him to the docks so he can head to Sicily. When it’s time to get revenge on Paulie Gatto and Tessio, you’re the one handed the gun. You get the idea. James Caan, Robert Duvall, and even Marlon Brando voiced their film characters for the game. (Brando’s recordings, unfortunately, weren’t usable and a soundalike was brought in to redo most of his lines.) Al Pacino did not voice Michael and the game’s Michael looks nothing like Pacino because Pacino had already agreed to exclusively license his appearance to the Scarface game.
As a game, The Godfather can get repetitive. As your gangster gains experience, he’ll level up and receive skill points. It really doesn’t take that long to become so powerful that none of the other families have a chance against you. (Only the Barzini Family remains challenging to the very end.) The interactions with the storekeepers that you intimidate to get protection all tend to follow the same pattern. Storywise, the game actually cheapens the movie because it suggests that the Corleones were so incompetent that they had to keep calling you in to clean up all of their messes.
But, flaws and all, the game is pretty damn addictive. Once I get into my vintage, 1940s car and start driving around New York (which is lovingly recreated, even if it is on a much smaller scale than the real New York), I’m in the zone. Under the right circumstances, the simplicity of The Godfather can be refreshing. Drive around. Hijack a truck. Fight the gangsters. If the police get upset, just go to a nearby safehouse and save the game. If you get bored, grab a bomb and take out an abandoned building or maybe a parked car. It’s a game so there aren’t any consequences to doing incredibly foolish things. Or, if you just want to relax, you can just drive around the city and appreciate all of your territory. It’s up to you. When you’re the Don of New York, you can do anything you want.