The Godfather II

Show a little respect as EA build a mighty castle in their sandbox...

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After performing a particularly grisly intimidation attack on the diner's owner - scalding the side of his face on a boiling oven hob - we get to work smashing the joint up and planting said false evidence. Even better, with the diner now under our control, the family gets an extortion bonus of 10% - meaning more money for the swelling coffers. Then, just as we're feeling pretty pleased with ourselves, the boys in blue show up and one brief chase later - getting enough distance to obstruct their line of sight - that precious sting card is ours.

Action Point
Spreading the action between three wildly different cities not only provides distinct visual stimulants; it also has a pretty drastic effect on the gameplay throughout, according to Hunter Smith. "The original Godfather was very stuffy, very claustrophobic," he recalls. "Miami, for instance, is much more sprawling." While the sequel remains relatively realistic, Smith also promises it'll be a lot more "fun" than its predecessor. He's also proud of the way the filmic narrative intertwines with the in-game missions this time round: "It's much more coherent," Smith assures us. Protecting and assisting the troubled Michael will be Dominic's main priority, but we're most looking forward to getting our hands around that slaphead traitor Fredo's neck, and dishing out some hurt.

Another casualty from the original game is the respect meter; now money is your only currency. You'll certainly need it too - splashing out on hordes of guards to protect your interests and keep rivals from re-taking them is key to establishing long-term control over the various rackets, as well as investing in new skills and firearms for your private armies. There's only one goal in Godfather II - absolute power, and that power comes through owning every property on the map. Simple as, according to Smith.

With all this talk of strategy it's easy to forget that, first and foremost, The Godfather II remains an open world drive 'n shoot. Or does it? While combat is more solid than Luca Brasi's tummy, driving, certainly from what we've had our eyes on, has taken a big back seat - save ferrying between locations and the odd police chase. With no boats, bikes or planes, isn't the traditional sandbox fan going to be ever so slightly bemused? "Maybe," reckons a bullish Smith, but then he's not too bothered about the competition. Mention Mafia 2 and all you get is a slight shrug and the dismissive repose: "We're different; we're doing our own thing". And that's that.

Noticed that we haven't really touched upon graphics or sound either yet? That's because, at this pre-alpha stage, there's really nothing much to report. Sixties Miami (the only location on show thus far) is certainly far removed from the grimy 40s aesthetic of the NY original - but, to be honest, it all looks more like a high-def Scarface than the achingly beautiful GTA IV at this moment in time. Still, with the same engine powering Godfather II as Dead Space, we're expecting big things down the line.

An atmospheric licensed soundtrack that's more swinging 60s than Sicilian dirge is also promised, but for now potential artists are being kept firmly under wraps. But, after everything we saw of Godfather II, perhaps the most exciting thought we took back from the demo was the sheer online potential; just imagine enormous multiplayer mash-ups featuring rival player-controlled factions.

Alas, while it's not something EA are willing to divulge at this time we're going to go out on an educated limb and predict a very close relationship between single and multiplayer within the game, involving unique perks, weapons, henchmen and outfits, which can only be earned in certain modes. DLC will also have a big part to play - especially since Smith reveals players splashed out crazy amounts of Microsoft Points on extra missions and weapons last time round.

IP freely
With The Godfather II not due for release until well into 2009, there's a long way to go on this particular development road, but the game is certainly further compelling evidence that EA have thrown off their licensed chains and are investing in hugely exciting IPs. That's not to say we don't have certain doubts about Godfather II. After all, embarking upon such a radical new direction might simply end up baffling and alienating its audience, consigning the game to the genre mish-mash scrapheap. Yet we've certainly seen enough to suggest Smith and co might just have something big, bad and oh-so-beautiful on their hands here - and we can't wait to get a pizza the action.

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