The Godfather: Blackhand Edition

Reviewed by Kyle Bell, Posted on 2007-04-07


Developer: EA Redwood Shores Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: March 20, 2007 Also On: PC, PS2, PS3, Xbox & Xbox 360

Electronic Arts is not well known for releasing Mature rated video games. With Paramount's classic mobster film, The Godfather, you can't get much more Mature than that. As the largest single project in EA history up to its release in March 2006 on PS2 and Xbox, the company put a lot of time and money into making The Godfather a worthy purchase. The reaction, however, was tepid. The game placed fifth on the charts in March 2006 on the PS2 and the Xbox version dropped out of the Top 50 altogether within two months. In the months following, the PS2 version barely managed to top half a million. It really is no wonder why EA is porting The Godfather to as many systems as it can. For a current-generation game to get ported to every single next-generation system is unprecedented.

Just because a game doesn't sell as well as expected does not mean that it isn't still a good game. I can think of dozens of worthy games that sold well below what they should have: Viewtiful Joe, Eternal Darkness and Okami, just to name a few. The Godfather is among those titles, but probably not in stature. Where most games that don't perform above expectations are niche titles, you can't get more mainstream than a Grand Theft Auto clone. Of course leaving the comparison at that would be extremely disingenuous. In fact, I would be lying if I didn't say that I enjoy playing The Godfather more than any of the Grand Theft Auto games.

The similarities between GTA and The Godfather end at the ability to carjack, buy properties, collect money from corpses, run from the cops and kill a lot of people. Okay, so they have a lot in common, but The Godfather has an advantage over GTA: it is the more tasteful game. Grand Theft Auto is all about senseless violence with hookers, drug users and homeless people. The Godfather has it's fair share of civilians that you can kill, no doubt about it. The atmosphere that you are put in changes the dynamic though. Gangsters from the 1930s and 1940s tried to avoid civilian casualties and would sometimes vengefully kill rival gang members for collateral damage in their neighborhood.

The Godfather has that element to it. New York City is divided between Little Italy, Midtown, Brooklyn and Hell's Kitchen (New Jersey is connected via a tunnel). If you carelessly drive around in these ethnic neighborhoods, running people over in front of a rival gang's club or restaurant, they're likely going to start firing on you. The different neighborhoods do not have an overly important role in the game, but they do serve their purpose of dividing turf between the various gangs. For instance, the Corleone family dominates Little Italy. While the gangs are spread throughout the city in isolated storefronts, every gang has a concentrated neighborhood. Your overriding goal is to extend the empire throughout New York.

How do you gain territory? Simple: you take control of storefronts. Walk into a store, approach the owner and a bar will appear. A green bar will show their breaking point and the red will show how far they can tolerate your pressure. If it goes into red, you lose the store. To get the bar to move into the green zone you need to apply pressure. This can be a jab to the face, throwing them, hanging them over a ledge, hurting innocent civilians, breaking merchandise or something else. Once they break, you need to squeeze as much money out of them as you can. They will make weekly payments to the Corleone family in exchange for protection.

It isn't as simple as walking in and taking over the place, either. Each store is already aligned with one of your rival gangs. These gangs will have men patrolling the streets and protecting the interior. The larger the building, the more baddies you are going to have to contend with. Just like the store owners, if you put too much pressure on rival gangs then they will explode on you. A bar shows the vendetta from a particular gang. Once it fills up, a gang war starts. You then have 40 minutes to blow up one of their buildings or bribe an FBI agent in order to end the gang war. Consequently, if you lose a gang war one of your businesses is destroyed.

Now, what everyone wants to know is what the difference is with the Wii version of The Godfather. The most obvious, and biggest appeal that I have with the Wii version of the game, are the controls. Combining hand gestures with button presses, the Wii controls just as fluidly as it would with traditional controls. The biggest difference? Comfortability and ease of use. The Wii and nunchuk or just natural fits in your hands and weigh next to nothing. Secondly, you could just as easily jump into The Godfather without any prior experience and manage relatively well. Thankfully though EA has included videos on the disc to demonstrate the different techniques and tips for the game. There is also a handy menu that provides you with all of the control information that you may need.

As far as specific controls go, you control your character in third person with the analog stick on the nunchuk. You press the Z button to target people, which allows you to both fire a weapon with B on the Wiimote or use melee attacks with various gestures. For instance, let's say you target someone and want to do a simple punch. All you do is target them, grab them and jab the Wiimote or the nunchuk forward, depending on which hand you want to throw the punch with. You can also throw jabs by swinging to the side and power-up the punch by holding down the “down” button. You can pick people up by gesturing upward with the Wiimote and nunchuk or slam them against a wall by swinging the Wiimote and nunchuk down. The Godfather on Wii shows that it can handle multi-console games just as well as the rest of them, even better.

Aside from the controls, there are several other new things. You still take over businesses and rackets, but EA has also added several new elements to the game. First off, you have new missions. These include so-called favor missions that are optional and not part of the storyline, as well as contract hits. Other things that I don't remember from the Xbox version are the racket trucks that you can hijack and if you return it safely to your safe house, you get a nice amount of money. They also added two new compounds to take out. Finally, when the going gets tough, not only can you hire crew members, you can also call in Corleone hit squads to help take over rival warehouses and such.

I have always been a fan of mobster games. One of my favorite games of the last generation was Mafia for the PS2. Driving around a Chicago/New York 1930s hybrid was awesome. The Godfather takes it to the next level with a huge open city environment, tons of things to do and best of all, no load times. The Godfather: Blackhand Edition is only a few hours longer than the original version. If you fully complete the game by taking down all of the rival families, their businesses and optional side missions, you are looking at well over 30 hours of gameplay. If you have not yet owned The Godfather on any of the other platforms, you definitely need to buy this game. But be warned, you may not want to play Grand Theft Auto again.

Graphics: 8
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 8.5
Creativity: 7.5
Replay Value/Game Length: 9
Final: 8.5
Written by Kyle Review Guide

Reviewed by Kyle Bell