It began life as a pulpy Mario Puzo novel, then evolved into Francis Ford Coppola's epic tragedy about a Sicilian family carving out its territory in America. Now The Godfather has finally reached full fruition. What's next? Raging Bull as Fight Night: Round 4, where Jake La Motta gets extra "respect points" for beating his wife? Or maybe Citizen Kane as a Tycoon-like PC game about monopolizing the newspaper business?
Still, once you get past the overwhelming vulgarity of The Godfather: The Game, the fantasy of playing around in Don Corleone's New York City gangland becomes too tantalizing to resist. Basically a mobbed-up Grand Theft Auto, The Godfather wins no originality points, but the wide-open world of 1945 New York proves endlessly compelling to explore, quite apart from the main missions, which intersect with the movie in entertaining ways.
With shades of The Godfather, Part II, the game opens with a prologue in which you witness your parents' murder at the hands of a rival mob family. Following the Don's advice to keep your anger inside until you can seek revenge later in life, you grow up to be a low-level enforcer for the Corleone family. As you complete each mission, you gradually rise in rank from Outsider all the way up to Il Capo Tutto di Capi ("the boss of all bosses"), but first there's a lot of gruntwork to do. Remember the horse's head that was slipped into the Hollywood producer's bed in the film? Or the gun planted in the Italian restaurant where Michael Corleone assassinates a rival mob boss and a crooked cop? Those didn't get there by themselves.
Beyond the game: James Caan, Robert Duvall, and the late Marlon Brando all loaned their voices—and at least some fraction of their dignity—to the project, but Al Pacino apparently had better things to do, like a cameo in Gigli.
Worth playing for: Side gigs like extorting local business-owners for protection money or performing contract hits are so addictive that it's almost better to remain a grunt than to advance in the family.
Frustration sets in when: Unlike in the GTA games, the main missions have little variety. Basically, you have to sneak or shoot your way past other gangsters or cops, and the counterintuitive aiming system doesn't make that easy.
Final judgment: Once you get past the fact that the film's somber gravity will in no way translate to the console, The Godfather: The Game is as good a moral perversion as any.