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Look Back Review: The Godfather: Blackhand Edition



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NewsSheikah Stone

Sheikah Stone

    Stone of Few Words

  • 934 posts

Classic films are probably not your first idea for a game concept. No one is likely to play Casablanca: The Game or Citizen Kane: The Game, but Electronic Arts managed to make it work with The Godfather: Blackhand Edition back in 2007. Follow the plot of the first movie within a sandbox adventure setting as you run errands for the Corleone family, from extorting shop owners to eliminating rival mob families. Though not without its faults, The Godfather ends up being a surprising delight from early in the Wii’s lifetime.

Although the plot of the game follows many of the important scenes of the movie, your character has his own personal story as well. As a child you lose your father during a mob war hit, and nine years later as an adult you start working for the Corleones and learn the family business. Despite the inclusion of this backstory, your character’s development is pretty secondary to the events of the movie. The real driving action of the game comes from the same trials and tribulations seen in the movie, and you get to take part in many of them, from beginning to end. On its own the game doesn’t do a great job of explaining the story–each mission just kind of hurls you into the next plot point–but as a complement to the movie, assuming you’ve already seen it, it’s a nice outline and reminder of some of the most crucial scenes, generally with a little more action and shoot-outs, of course.

Dirty work tends to attract attention. Avoid drawing too much notice lest you start a mob war or a police hunt.

Like the Grand Theft Auto games that made the genre famous, The Godfather: Blackhand Edition is a sandbox adventure, meaning you’re given free reign to explore New York City circa 1940s, including Little Italy, Brooklyn, and Midtown. Though perhaps not as robust as a GTA game, you’re still given plenty of options while wandering the streets, including stealing cars to help you get around, and extorting business owners for a cut of their profits. There’s a decent variety of things to do so the game never feels too repetitive–even just extorting businesses can require a number of different means. One of the best things about sandbox games is the variety of missions, and in The Godfather it’s not hard to constantly be doing different things in different ways, from bribing policemen to aid you to taking on favors for Corleone members and earning a little extra cash.

The variety of missions also ties into the different ways you can level up. By gaining respect from your actions you can use skill points to increase your abilities, from the strength of your punches to your running speed. You can also increase your ability to negotiate with businesses or cops, making it easier for you to take a more subtle approach to missions. The game gives you the freedom to play as you will, so even though you’re constantly getting into gunfights, you can augment your abilities to deal with those fights. These may not be huge changes–you can’t talk your way out of any of the main storyline fights, obviously–but it provides a nice touch of variety for each player.

Shaking the controller for punches works well, but more often than not you'll use your collection of guns.

The controls work pretty smoothly and manage to integrate motion controls without much difficulty. Punching with the Wii remote and nunchuk feels natural, and although it isn’t always super responsive to tell the difference between a jab and a hook, rarely are you in a situation where you’ll need such exact, precise movements. The rest of the controls are good, though the button mapping takes a bit of getting used to. There is one major problem though, with the gun controls, which ends up being quite a headache since you’ll be in shoot-outs so often. The default gun controls use auto-aiming, allowing you to quickly snap from one enemy to the next, but this isn’t always reliable, especially at close range. The alternative is free aiming, but despite using the Wii remotes IR sensor to aim, it’s a slow and somewhat clunky system. You can purchase upgrades for your aim of course, but it still feels awkward or just plain slow, especially early in the game.

Somewhat surprisingly, the graphics aren’t half bad for a Wii game, especially an early title like this. Sure there are some jagged edges and flat textures–a lot of buildings just look like huge, brick covered squares–and there are noticeably reused assets, but given the scale of the game, the developers did a decent job making it run on the Wii. Character models still look decent, like their actor counterparts from the movie, and the low amount of loading screens maintains the sense of freedom and size of this sandbox game. The background music takes its cues from the movie and does a great job of setting the ambiance and getting you in the mindset for organized crime. The audio, like the story, will be a fun touch for fans familiar with the film. A few of the actual actors have lent their voices to the game’s cast, and both they and the other voice actors do a great job of breathing life into the New York mafia setting.

Find a good car to drive around New York in style, or just use it to crash into things.

If you’re focusing just on the main storyline missions, the game can be finished in a relatively quick ten or twelve hours. But of course, as a sandbox game, there’s plenty more for you to do. Whether you want to just ride around, causing a mess and starting up a mob war, or if you want to take on hit contracts and do favors for the family, there are a number of side missions to occupy your time. Possibly the best extra feature to the game, though, are the unlockable clips from the actual movie. By progressing through the story or by collecting hidden film reels throughout New York, you can unlock scenes from the movie to watch at your leisure–if that doesn’t make you want to watch the movie, nothing will.

The Godfather: Blackhand Edition is much more than some cheap movie tie-in game. The developers have done an admirable job of translating the mafia themes of the movie to a sandbox gameplay structure–a natural fit–albeit with even more bloodshed and action. Though the graphics may lack detail and are a bit flat in areas, the game retains the key aspects of an open-world, sandbox adventure. This is all particularly noteworthy for having been done so early in the Wii’s lifetime, and it still holds up as an entertaining trip through The Godfather’s plot.

Rating: 7 out of 10 stars


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