Deviating sacrilegiously (but necessarily) from some areas of the original movie's plot, you play as Dominic, a soldier under the previous game's protagonist Aldo Trapani. After a brief encounter in Cuba, Aldo is killed by rebels, leaving you as the new Don of New York. It's not all parties and fireworks though, as New York has been influenced by the Carmine family. It's up to you to win back your turf.
The Godfather II spans three locations - New York, Florida and Cuba - in its 12-hour single player campaign. There is also a full multiplayer mode.
After overcoming the introductory section in Cuba, you're quickly placed into the action in New York. It's from here that you start to build up a family of henchman, obliterating all of the enemy families that stand in your way. Buried deep within The Godfather II's obviously-GTA influenced sandbox gameplay is a lot of unexpected depth. In order to control the game, you'll have to obtain business'. Business' can be secured by simple gunfights and bribery, but it's holding onto the business' where The Godfather II becomes interesting. Opposing families will not stand back and watch you exploit the loot from rackets they once owned, thus you'll have to employ guards. Naturally guards cost money so you'll need to check your daily monetary balance to ensure you can afford a decent number of guards. Not only do you have to manage your finances, but also your family of henchmen. Each henchman has a unique ability, allowing you to conquer the enemy in numerous ways. Demolition men can bring buildings to the ground, technicians can cut the power, medics can revive your team and so on. In fact there's tons more we could say about The Godfather's depth but it's best explored for yourself as you develop your own playing style.
The Godfather II has a good sense of pacing. The game offers you a bit of leeway everytime the experience warrants something fresh. A new family member with a different ability opens up new possibilities and reignites a sense of reward. Not only that, but as you see your empire slowly grow, you really begin to feel the smug satisfaction that real Don's must experience. Sure, your ever expanding bank balance is useless aside from buying needless upgrades for your family but who cares?
A good sandbox game should allow the player to experience the game however they see fit. And while The Godfather II isn't exactly filled with the kind of side-quests and sub-games you'd expect from a Grand Theft Auto, you're still free to achieve the overall aim - to run the three available cities - whichever way you please. Naturally the game does have signposts to keep you from getting lost, but it's up to you which business' you exploit and when you take them.
In order to keep you in control of the action, The Godfather II incorporates a tidy-map system known as The Don's View. This keeps you up to date on your growing empire, the activity of rival families and the development of your own.
Keeping in tradition with the 50's/60's American mafia theme, The Godfather's soundtrack is suitably "classic jazz" - music which is no doubt forgettable to the casual-rock elitist, but something we'd happily spin in the PushSquare office.
There are a few moments early on in The Godfather II where you'll be a little overwhelmed by the wealth choice available. The game does a decent job of signposting you but the information all comes a little too fast early on. There's no doubt that simple perseverance will get you through these early moments, but it's a downer none the less.
In order to take out rival family members permanently, you'll have to meet the demands of certain kill objectives; otherwise the enemies will recover. At times these kill conditions can be unbearably vague, wasting your time as you wait for them to recover due to an inevitable mistake.
Everything about The Godfather II is too easy. Gunplay is far too simple due to aim assist and powerful weapons, which only gets easier as you obtain bonuses and level up your family. This makes obtaining, defending and generally beating the game quite simple; thankfully the wealth of depth still keeps the experience quite long.
Given the scale of The Godfather II's sandbox gameplay, it achieves its presentation with mixed effect. The game is littered with technical glitches, none of which break the experience but are disappointing nonetheless. Dropped weapons float inches off the ground and scenery drops into view directly in front of you. The game is also needlessly dark, even when the gamma settings are turned right the way up.
The Godfather II has a full online multiplayer component which we will cover in more detail as soon as we've spent more time with it.
By mixing just about every video game genre imaginable, The Godfather II achieves its overall aim of making you feel like the head of a mafia family. While the general gameplay can be too easy, when you take the experience as the sum of its parts, it's fun regardless.