The Godfather 2

The Godfather helped get me this job -- seriously.

I wrote a strategy guide for the first game and because of that I was hired as an intern, promoted to staff writer a year after that, and now, I'm in charge of MyCheats. It's like I worked my way up from the bottom to become Don of a website...or something like that. When EA announced Godfather II, they hyped the sequel's heightened strategy elements, so, naturally, I considered paying my respects by putting together a new guide. But I neither found the game to be difficult nor the strategy very involved; and considering Godfather II holds your hand through the entire experience, it's nearly impossible to make a mistake -- so we passed on the guide. But is it any better than its predecessor? Sort of.

Gone are the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, "minor characters made big," moments from the first game. From the onset you are placed in control of your own "family." These hired guns each carry a special trait that they excel in: lockpicking, muscle, medic, bombs, or arson. Expanding your "business" by taking over rival rackets, yields performance bonuses for your crew (extra ammo, brass knuckles, etc.); and you'll be allowed to bring more "made men" into your family, as well as upgrade their traits and weapons throughout the game. This doesn't mean you have to micromanage every mission, though; you can sit back and dispatch your soldiers into the world -- they're capable of taking over rival businesses on their own. But as well as Godfather II works to give you control of your family, it fails to create a living, believable world. Each city's denizens, and the "favors" they ask of you, abruptly shift the game's tone from rich and cinematic to unintentionally comedic.

The easiest way to make money early on is to do "favors" for people in the street, favors that vary from blowing up or smashing a business (or someone's face) to breaking into a safe. Within only a few blocks' radius, you can easily take on a dozen missions. It throws you knee deep into a criminal underworld that highlights the general public's low regard for human life, but it doesn't make much sense when those same people call the cops because they see you steal a car. Hypocrites. Adding insult to injury, many of the businesses these strangers task you with robbing, blowing up, or destroying, are businesses YOU own. The game even makes light of the situation in the favors menu screen; the game tells you that "it's only business" when you have to steal from yourself. You can opt out of these missions, but it's the most efficient way to make money in the game. Instead, the nonsensical, situation makes your character look more like a dumbass than a Don, and that makes the game hard to take seriously.

Still, the game does get a couple things right that other sandbox-esque titles should take notes on. The targeting system lets you easily lock onto enemies with the left trigger and shoot with the right -- a feature that's especially helpful in interior combat situations. The "made men" who accompany you are excellent shots in and out of a vehicle, and they do a great job of watching your back. Also, the interior designs of all the buildings you visit are varied enough that it doesn't feel like you're playing through the same warehouses time and time again.

Ultimately, Godfather II suffers from a lack of design foresight. Instead of delivering a movie-quality narrative, it presents a frustrating, accidentally comic world. In one pivotal cut-scene, your character even gets shot, point-blank, in the face, but no one offers any real explanation as to how you survive. And once you reach the game's half-way point, you lose a large number of the businesses and rackets you've built up -- artificially lengthening the game. Coming from such believable source material, Godfather II asks you to accept a too implausible experience.

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