Why so bleak?
Gamers are generally a loyal bunch. If they like a game, they will almost certainly buy the sequel. If that turns out to be passable, they will likely buy the one after that as well and so on. If a sequel surpasses the original, it can create ‘drag’. Word of mouth will cause new players to flock to the series, increasing the fan base that can generate long-term revenues to sustain and grow the franchise. Seeing the reception of the second installment of The Godfather, one has to wonder if such a future is in the stars for this particular franchise. The gaming press is unanimous in their criticism, burning the game to the ground with universally low scores. Having played The Godfather II from start to finish, I wonder how much of the criticism stems from expectations and from comparing the game too much to its older brother. Not having played the original, I look at this game with ‘virgin eyes’ and seem to be seeing a different game than most. I hope that my review adds some much needed counterweight as it would be a shame to see the series disappear.
The Cuban dream
After a disastrous foray into Cuba, things are looking bleak for the family. The Cuban regime has fallen, leaving the country into the hands of Castro’s rebels and instantly destroying the chances of a secure and prosperous future for the Corleone’s. Back at home, rival families have taken over as leading crime syndicates. Don Corleone asks you, Dominic, to restore his power on New York. Soon however, new opportunities arise that take you beyond the New York City limits and even beyond United States borders.
The Godfather II is primarily a Third Person Action Adventure, successfully ‘married’ with Strategy and Role-playing elements. As I understand, these new additions do change the game quite a bit, yet at its core it is still very much a Third-Person Shooter with all the violence and gore that make it a true Godfather game.
Growing your empire
The strategy element in The Godfather II comes in the form of turf wars between the families and they are absolutely fun. Taking over enemy rackets and forging an empire reminds me somewhat of the 1998 sleeper hit Gangsters: Organised Crime. Extortionable Businesses are spread out over the game map and defended by enemy ‘soldiers’. To take over, you simply go in with your henchmen in tow, kill all the opposition and have a ‘chat’ with the owner. This usually coincides with rearranging the person’s facial structure but there is extra money to be made if you find the owner’s weak spot. A weak spot can for instance be destroying his wares or waving a gun in front of him. Once owned, a business provides income. Especially in the beginning you will likely spend most of your income on employing defenders to ensure that the business actually stays in your possession.
Each business is also part of a specialized crime ring. Specialties range from ‘adult entertainment’ to ‘electronics’ and ‘money laundering’. Owning all businesses that have the same specialty will provide useful bonuses such as bullet proof vests and double income. While this sounds fairly straightforward, there is actually an interesting twist. You see, some crime rings span more than one map. You will start your expansion in New York but can only complete some rings by venturing to other areas. These aren’t available from the get go but will open up as the storyline progresses.
No Pros and Cons at this time