The GodfatherOver the weekend I finally finished playing one of the best sandbox titles I’ve played in a long time. Now, I’m not a fan of sandbox titles in the general, I’ve never looked upon Grand Theft Auto lovingly, but I must say that EA did a spectacular job with their The Godfather release. Based on the movie, you play as a fringe character who although didnt appear in the film, partakes in all the major scenes and has a critical impact on the story.

You start off as an unofficial enforcer for the Corleone family, which means your job is to muscle merchants into paying you protection money. You do this by simply walking into a store and talking to the owner. Usually the owners won’t simply give in, but you can intimidate them by smashing up their stores or beating them up until they start to see things your way. Once you take over a business, you get a payout each week, and there are dozens of shops you can shake down all throughout the five areas of New York. Some stores are fronts for illegal rackets, such as brothels, gambling dens, and illegitimate importing operations, and you can buy out these rackets to further increase your weekly income.

Extorting businesses and taking over rackets isn’t all there is to do, though. There are plenty of story missions that you’ll pick up as you play with quite a couple of missions taken directly from the movie.

The Godfather borrows heavily from the Grand Theft Auto series of games, so you can expect the same senseless violence and absurd mayhem those games are known for. You can steal cars, run down pedestrians, shoot people at random, and evade the police. As you commit crimes, your heat gauge increases, and anywhere from one to five badge icons will appear on the screen to indicate how badly the cops want to take you down. It’s easy to avoid the police for the most part, and you can bribe them if you don’t feel like a chase. If you don’t bribe them, they’ll try to run you off the road, but the cars handle so well in the game that you can deftly weave through traffic to avoid being caught. If you are caught, you’re simply killed, which isn’t such a big deal, since you get revived at the nearest hospital for a small fee.

The gunplay in The Godfather is simple but effective. You can lock on to enemies with the press of a button, and you can duck or back up against a wall for cover. If you want, you can switch to free aim mode, which controls a lot like your standard first-person shooter, where one stick controls your movement and the other controls your aim. The guns in the game range from a .38 special revolver to a tommy gun to a snub-nosed shotgun. There’s also a variety of other weapons, including Molotov cocktails, sticks of dynamite, and lead pipes.

Combat is fun overall, especially because you’re given a healthy set of options when it comes to executing people. The artificial intelligence is fairly good for most of the enemies. They’ll often run for cover, team up on you, and duck behind objects. An interesting decision in the game is that your enemies will only draw their weapons if you shoot at them first. If you go in with your fists then they will retaliate in kind.

The game looks good with very detailed character models and environments. Unfortunately a huge amount of material is reused throughout the game but to be honest, I never really found this to take away from the games pleasure. The soundtrack is rich and takes material straight from the movie as is to be expected.

All in all I found myself losing track of time playing this game, which is always a good thing. A thoroughly enjoyable affair, be sure to pick it up if you can.