How does any game do justice when paying homage to a cinematic masterpiece? The simple answer is, it can’t, especially with a movie as legendary as Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather. But the attempt here is certainly ambitious.
The Godfather game sets you up in the Corleone Family as an adopted street thug who watched a rival gang gun down his father. Don Corleone, as portrayed by Marlon Brando before his death, makes sure you learn the ins and outs of organized crime, and you slowly rise through the Mafia ranks while the events of the movie unfold before you. Performing hits, extorting shopkeepers, and running illegal rackets is all in a day’s work for a low-level Mob goon, but like most people, you’ll get sick of your day job.
Intimidating a local butcher or barber by smacking him around is novel the first dozen times, but these tasks become monotonous all too quickly. We’ll give props, however, to the context-sensitive mouse-based combat controls, which make it simple to toss people through windows and smash their skulls into concrete.
What kept us playing was the game’s main storyline, which draws from both The Godfather movie and book. Watching classic movie moments replayed in a game is surreal, especially when your character takes part in the action. We felt attached to these characters not only because we recognized them from the movie, but because they now had a stake in our character’s in-game development. Convincing voice-acting and animation work only add to the immersion.
But once the main story ends, so does the fun. One of the game’s heavily touted features is the ability to orchestrate organized crime in all of New York, but this daunting task is both boring and unrewarding. You never really feel motivated to own a city that’s painted with an overly brown palette and filled with hollow and sycophantic NPCs. The Godfather succeeds where it counts—bringing the compelling movie experience into your hands. It falls short, however, of transcending other GTA clones—remaining just another crime simulator.