15 Years Ago, a Terrible Adaption Made For a Surprisingly Fun Crime Game

No Al Pacino, but plenty of crime.

The Godfather 2
Electronic Arts

The Godfather 2 is widely regarded as one of the most important films ever made, a genuine masterpiece that’s been influential for decades. So how do you go about adapting that kind of film into a video game? Well, it turns out the answer is complicated. The Godfather 2 is a bizarre video game, an experience trying to ride the coattails of Grand Theft Auto’s success, but unwilling to truly do anything interesting with its source material. It’s a Frankenstein monster of two opposing halves: a story that’s a hackneyed retelling of The Godfather 2, juxtaposed against a surprisingly engaging open world crime experience.

It’s important to note, of course, that this is a sequel to the first Godfather game, but the sequel’s biggest pitfall is that it tries to take more creative liberties with its narrative, and those changes generally don’t add much of anything. You play as an original character named Dominic, tasked with expanding the Corleone crime empire.

The Godfather 2 recreates some of the film’s story, while also introducing new elements. But it lacks the likeness of certain actors, like Al Pacino.

Electronic Arts

Unfortunately, it feels like the game takes the completely wrong approach to representing the narrative of The Godfather 2, turning into a more pulpy action-focused affair, rather than the deeper meditative exploration of its film counterpart. Dominic’s character arc is woven into the film’s larger story, but one of the major problems is how major scenes from the film are recreated with your new character. A lot of these scenes simply lack the gravitas that they had in the film, and that’s not just because of the technology not being good enough at the time. From the framing, voice acting, set design, to the environmental design, everything is changed, and it all feels like a cheap imitation. Dominic also fails to have a meaningful character arc that ties into the overall themes of The Godfather.

Past that lackluster shooting, The Godfather 2 has pretty bog-standard third-person shooting, driving, and everything else you’d expect from a Grand Theft Auto game. You might be wondering, then, what makes it so memorable? If you can look past the story and standard shooting, The Godfather 2 has an utterly fascinating crime system, letting you systematically take over the entire city. The overall experience is fairly short, but this is one of the few crime games out there that really make you feel like you’re in charge of a family, like you’re really pulling the strings of a massive crime empire.

Your crime family is like your own little army, doing your every bidding to take over the city.

Electronic Arts

The open world city is filled with different “Crime Rings,” made up of various businesses and locations. To take over businesses you need to pressure and coerce the owners, convincing them to pay for your protection. The catch is that other crime families are also vying for control of the city, and the businesses you own can be attacked.

As you take over Crime Rings you can unlock bonuses that outfit your family members with new weapons or perks. For example, taking over a smuggling ring outfits your whole family with bulletproof vests, while owning a gambling ring will give your guys incendiary ammo for increased damage. Taking over an entire area lets you launch an attack against a rival family’s stronghold, and if successful you can knock them out of the game entirely. This creates a push and pull dynamic that makes The Godfather 2’s world feel dynamic, constantly shifting as you struggle for control.

To keep track of everything the world map has a unique feature called the “Don’s View,” where the map turns interactive, and you check the details of every location and choose how to allocate your family members, such as setting them to defend a business or launch an attack on a rival.

Through the actions you take, you can alter even more complex systems in intriguing ways. There’s a constant “Heat” system that dictates how much police pursue you, meaning you need to be careful about how much you take on other families in the open. You can also do favors for influential people like CIA agents or judges, which grants you further bonuses or more cash to use.

The Godfather 2’s interactive map gives you an even further degree of control over your empire.

Electronic Arts

The amount of thought and detail put into The Godfather 2’s crime simulation is astounding, especially when you consider this is the same game that features such a ham-fisted adaption of the film’s story. To this day, The Godfather 2 has one of the most immersive cities of a crime game, simply because of the degree with which you get total control.

In some ways, it feels like the precursor to what other crime games would do with their cities, but nothing has managed to go as in-depth as The Godfather 2. The interlocking systems of the crime families and city are utterly captivating, creating a phenomenal feedback loop that keeps you pushing for more control, fighting for every inch of the city until it’s yours.

It’s honestly a shame that these great systems get buried under everything The Godfather 2 struggles with. At a glance, it seems like a dull movie tie-in or a GTA clone, but those complex systems give The Godfather 2 such a unique flavor if you can deal with the slog to get to them. It’s tantalizing to think what a modern game could achieve if it took inspiration from The Godfather 2’s systems, and ditched all the baggage.

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