Are you one of the people who kept on playing the urban sandbox games after your local newscaster got tired of claiming that the devil came packaged with every copy of Grand Theft Auto 3? Some one must've kept on playing them after GTA III; they kept on coming around and around, though that's died down a bit, letting the European and East Asia murder simulator genre known as World War II games reclaim its throne and reign. But now we have The Godfather, probably one of the most media-hyped sandbox releases sent the last console Grand Theft Auto, all in party from Francis Ford Coppola's condemnation of the very idea of it; that it's being released by EA; and it's could possibly be the last of its kind for the generation of the Gamecube, PlayStation 2, Dreamcast, and Xbox, and a hell of a lot of unprecedented console emulation.
But you play as a lowly thug, into crimes besides entertainment piracy. After your father was killed by opposing gang members, Don Corleone gives you a place in his family years after the murder. You start out a nobody, but don't let that get you down; your character's physical appearance is totally customizable. So even if you have as much power as Aunt Estel in this family, you can alter him to look like a king. And if you're lucky, you can model him after a celebrity you like and mine happens to look like Cat Stevens, circa 1974.
So you got your threads on, along with a tan and a mighty beard. What next? It's time to get acquainted with the neighborhood. In other similar games, the city is a rather static place. Buildings that you could were only the ones that were necessary for the mission and closed up afterwards, or were shops selling bullets and car oil. In Godfather, the same applies; the shops you can enter serve a larger goal: to take over the neighborhood. But there's a huge amount to enter, most with multiple rooms and floors. The buildings serve a bit of more purpose since you can talk to people. Yeah, you can hear what they have to say in their heavily stylized accents before inject a couple of Tommy Gun bullets into their stomach. You know, only if you want to.
Now you have to be a jerk. That I understand. It's part of the life. At the beginning of the game, you only have enough to afford one green colored eye and a big forehead. None is left over to get a nice overcoat and hat, one that says that you're far too important to be arrested by the police after you burn down a business. So how do you get that respect? It's got to be earned. Get into the business and tell people that have to pay up for protection. Try to persuade them passive-aggressively, with verbal abuse, bashing their merchandise, or grabbing them and pushing them against the counters. Or maybe pop dollar bills out of the cash registers by bashing their head against it, which I believe is also how Italians say hello. Very touchy-feely people as videogames tell it.
And that's the most fun you'll have with The Godfather, at the beginning. The adage plays itself true in this game, where the anticipation is much better than the actual receiving. For the first couple of hours (naturally, being a game of such open-ended size, you can make it last as long as you like), you're promised and described the perks of being a made man. And when you finally achieve it, you realize how much fun you had just trying to get there. As the game progresses further, the missions become a bit redundant, most consist of leaving your crappy and violent neighborhood to go to another crappy, violent neighborhood and take over their warehouses. It becomes less hands-on and more weapons assault, lacking the nitty-gritty of the being a thug, when you were in touch with the common man and driving him through a storefront window.