The Godfather II

PSW goes in mob-handed - making a Made Man has never been so much fun or quite so dangerous

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I have an Engineer, a Loudmouth (who has a story for every event. These are worth listening to as they reveal handy hints regarding access to the target building) and an Arsonist. Each one of your goons can be given commands via the D-pad in a similar way as you might do playing Rainbow Six.

Once at the refinery, the Engineer is ordered to cut the wire fence and my crew sneak in through the gap. Then the Arsonist plants explosives on the tanks of oil around the refinery, the countdown hits zero and all hell breaks loose as a chain reaction erupts across the screen. Combat is similar to that in The Godfather, shooting uses a free-aim mode to target areas of an enemy's body (shoot him in the shoulder to disarm him) and, once in close, using Black Hand is as much fun as ever when throwing an enemy about.

Team work
A new fighting technique appears as I throw a thug at my Made Man who holds him steady and encourages me to throw some punches at his gut. Throughout all the chaos, Smith is pointing out alternative ways to accomplish the same mission. The Engineer could have been used to cut the Oil Refinery's phonelines and prevent the AI from calling for help.

On other missions there are always alternative ways to play, and watching the AI react is half of the fun. The Engineer can be used to turn off a compound's spotlights on a night assault. Don't take a Boozer to a bar brawl or you'll see him downing a pint rather than coming to your aid.

Smith hints that other classes of character will act even more adversely, with one category actively aiding the opposition. All the while these are 'real' people. You're paying their wages; you're upgrading them and developing their skill sets. But ultimately you're going to need to replace them, and the only way to do that is by killing them. Convince yourself that this is 'just business' as you send Under Boss Harvey Datini to swim with the fishes. There are always new soldiers to recruit in this unforgiving game world.

It's clear from this playthrough just how Godfather II is mixing sandbox action and strategy. There's a line between using the map and jumping in at ground level, but there are so many cool elements in-between that blur the boundaries and make this a far more exciting proposition than a standard GTA wannabe.

"We're not trying to compete directly with an RTS, we're trying to take a standard action game and leverage some light RPG and strategy elements and use them to drag the gamer back to the fantasy, to develop the reason why you're playing this game to begin with," explains Smith as he glances to the half-a-dozen screens sat against the demo room wall, all screening Godfather II.

Dynamic experience
"We want the experience to come to you in a dynamic way. We want to use these RPG and strategy elements in a way so that you care about what you're doing and the game's goals. The problem with other open-world games is that there's a lack of focus.

A great game offers a clarity in what you're trying to do, and we're borrowing a vision to become the leader of the pack," says Smith assuredly. "We're not trying to win the sandbox war - we want to bring a unique experience to the market. Your Family is your motivation. We want you to sit back at the end of the game and admire the empire you've put together."

The focus is clear, then: the decisions made throughout the game on who to recruit, when to attack a rival and what to develop drive the action - creating a real purpose to the familiar GTA mix of driving, exploration and shootouts.

You're not simply playing throught the game in order to unlock the next cutscene. Instead, the whole motivation for playing Godfather II is for you to explore the fantasy of running an organised crime empire which survives and profits or gets beaten down and fails depending on the kind of choices you make. At the end of the day, it's an empire built and funded by your actions.

There isn't another game that's aiming to offer such a scope of appeal; playing like GTA with all the nobs and whistles associated with an RPG, Godfather II is that rare thing - a unique game built around a famous licence. The characters and story are here to discover, but the mechanics are on offer to live out your own American Dream, the ultimate fantasy. Once again, EA is making you an offer you can't refuse.

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