Monday, June 11, 2007

I'm a Wiseguy

I said they were coming, and so here they are - my impressions of "The Godfather: Blackhand Edition" for the Wii.

I, like many of my fellow hardcore gamer Wii owners, have been having a hard time finding a reason to turn on the Wii for a few months now. With developers having been caught with their pants down concerning the success and momentum of the little console that could, most of what's coming out during the summer months of the Wii's life is recycled garbage. But every so often during these horrid transition months while developers ready the big guns for the fall shopping season we get some gems.

Recently there was SSX Blur from EA, a rehash of previous games in the series, which was difficult but satisfying to learn and shred with. And now, EA's come out just a couple months ago with a Wii-ified version of "The Godfather". I was skeptic at 1st, but I finally gave in last week during a fit of boredom and went to my local EB to pick it up. Boy am I glad I took the chance.

While it's graphics aren't necessarily anything to right home about, the intended feel of the game is spot on. It's dark and bleak like the movies, no sunshine and beaches in this GTA-esque game. It's bricks, mortar,dirt, trash, and sharp suits. Essentially, it's 1940s New York and it serves its purpose, even if the venues aren't memorable.

Sound is memorable though. From the guns, to the breaking glass, the shattering boxes, or the spurting blood, the sound in Godfather will make you cringe with violent glee. The screams of pedestrians caught in the cross-fire also add to the hilarity that ensues when caught up in a mob war.

Gameplay-wise, it's very much a GTA-clone, as we've seen so many of since GTA 3 made it big. But it's definitely one of the better ones. The story of the game, that of a young mobster (you) on the rise to becoming Don of NYC during the events of the 1st GF movie, is mission-based with top-notch cutscenes fleshing out the narrative. The only 2 actors it seems missing from the game are Brando (dead as dirt), and Pacino (tied into Scarface and hence absent here). Brando you can't even notice being gone, as his face is in the game and the impersonator doing his voice is right on key. But Pacino's Michael Corleone is sorely missed. Luckily his scenes aren't as plentiful as Clemenza, the Don, and Sonny's are in the earlier portions of the game, so you will likely overlook them.

Aside from the story-based missions, there's really only a few other things to do in Godfather... but oh, are they fun and addictive. The primary side-task is that of taking over other shops around NYC to raise the Family's income, and thereby also raising your own. Depending on how many shops and rackets you have on your payroll, you get a sum of money at the end of every week. The more shops and rackets, the more money you get to toss at cops, spend on clothes, or whatever... capiche?

But let me back up a bit. You see you can't just walk into a store, threaten the owner and then be on your merry way. It's not always that simple. Sometimes you have to get rough with them, sometimes you have to break some of their merchandise... or their bones. Oh and you also have to do away with any opposing family enforcers who happen to be there. So you'd better bring that Tommy Gun or you might just get iced in the process. And once you've "persuaded" the owner to pay you, often times they'll open the back door showing you that there's a racket (illegal business) ready for the taking as well. More gunshots and blood-spurting ensue, and if you're lucky when it's over you'll be even richer.

If you're a fan of money, power, and 100% completion rates on your games, this one will take you some time. I've got about 20 under my power right now, and there's still dozens more to get. So though the story might only take you 20 hours or so, the rest of your job's not done when the curtain drops.

The other main task for you to complete outside of the story is that of Contract Hits. These are an absolute blast just like the businesses. Talk to a guy, get the kill order, go to it. But the key is, each hit has a different way you're aiming to accomplish it, whether that be sneaking up behind him while he's distracted (by a hooker) and garroting him, or making him bleed it out by shooting his knee, then shoulder, and finally the head. It's brutal and unforgiving, and I love it. Makes you feel every inch of a mobster without actually having to look over your back all the time.

I don't envy the real life Mafia, but damned if it hasn't been made glamorous looking by the press, and "The Godfather" for the Wii delivers an authentic representation of the film and the glorified facets of being part of the Mob. Go pick it up for the PS3, the Xbox 360, or better yet, the Wii. It's worth the 50 bucks in my book.

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