If ever there was a game that invited cynicism, it’s The Godfather. Once upon a time, publishing behemoth Electronic Arts proclaimed that it was the definitive “Family” games company. Then it saw how many copies of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas Rockstar Games managed to shift and decided to stop trying to sell stuff to kids and get nasty. The result is The Godfather – a very different kind of “Family” game.
It’s not just The Godfather’s very existence that generates cynicism – the game’s execution manages to make matters even worse. At least, it does if you’re aware that, last year, EA purchased Criterion, the Guildford company that makes RenderWare, the Middleware package that has been used to develop all versions of GTA from III onwards. Contrary to EA and Criterion’s protestations at the time, EA decided to keep RenderWare all for itself. And now, The Godfather appears – a game which bears a more than uncanny resemblance to recent versions of GTA.
GTA aficionados will instantly feel at home in The Godfather. Apart from the game’s structure – lots of driving around a city, a story-based mission strand, a set of sub-missions that you can perform at your leisure and a free-roaming mode in which you can assert your superiority over rival gangs – it even has those slightly blurry visuals and cut-scenes featuring characters with strangely fascinating claw-like hand gestures that previously screamed “GTA”. But the strangest thing about The Godfather is that, despite its blatant desire to be GTA, and the fact that it really isn’t a particularly good game, it’s surprisingly enjoyable to play. Mind you, there are also plenty of aspects of the game that frequently engender annoyance.
The good stuff
Spanning the years 1945 to 1955 – the span of the original Godfather film – the game aims to fill in much of the film’s unexplained back-story. Much of which has little relationship to actual events in the movie, which will annoy those raving trainspotters who demand utter authenticity, but won’t make any odds to the rest of us.
The most satisfying moments of the game, though, are those that have some direct relevance to the film. The classic example being the notorious scene where a rival mobster finds a horse’s head in his bed. In the game, you get to participate in a mission with an accomplice who you must chaperone while he steals into the rival’s stables and lops the head off one of his horses, before escorting him past armed guards into the right bedroom. Which is deeply satisfying.