The title of this game ought to be something generic, like 1960s Gangland Hijinks, because a game called The Godfather II saddles itself with unreal expectations. And The Godfather II doesn’t help its case by aping the Grand Theft Auto series, inviting comparison to a masterpiece in its own medium. It all makes the game seem like a president in a flight suit, pretending to be something more than he is.
Set the context aside, though, and what’s left is a decent mob-war game where, as Michael Corleone’s designated don, you take a big-picture approach to organized crime. The Don’s View, a map mode where you survey your empire of extortion and violence, is the strategic hub for a street-based campaign to squeeze five other mob families out of the action. The Godfather II begs players to remember that the other families won’t stay still; they’ll strike back and attempt to deprive you of advantages you earn, such as a cash-flow bonus for controlling every racket in the narcotics ring.
These are clever concepts trapped in a merely good game. In spite of their vaunted scheming, the other families rarely mount much of a fight, and their predictable attacks amount to a nuisance. The Don’s View is overkill for a world in which New York is compressed to a handful of city blocks and Cuba feels even smaller. The Godfather II entices players with a few fun hours of empire-building, but it breaks up the flow with a weird distortion of the original film’s story, then comes to an abrupt end. With more confidence in its core ideas, The Godfather II could have defied expectations and created an impressive experience that stood on its own merits.
Beyond the game: Reprising his role as consigliere Tom Hagen in voice work, Robert Duvall delivers a performance so vivid, you can almost hear him looking at his watch.
Worth playing for: Mini-quests to “send a message” by killing a rival in a specific way make you open your bag of manslaughter tricks beyond the standard headshots and bare-fist thuggery.
Frustration sets in when: Your siege of another family’s compound is stymied as you spend five minutes trying to find the damn door.
Final judgment: Any similarity to the greatest crime drama of all time is purely coincidental.