All right, I lied. While Don Vito doesn't actually make his undead debut in this game adaptation of the classic movie, the depth and fun presented by "The Godfather" is a sure winner. In this version, the series, the player creates and controls a young Italian boy, gives him a name and then lets him loose in the world of 1950s New York. In the beginning of the game, the boy's father is brutally murdered by Don Barzini and his thugs. Confronted by Don Corleone, he is told to "save his anger," and then runs off in confusion. Years later, his mother shows up at the wedding party seen in the beginning of the first movie claiming she needs help.
The plot is instantly recognizable, with your character acting as an enforcer, delegate, assassin and eventually capo for the Corleone family. It follows the plot of the first movie fairly closely, with small elements changed (your character takes the place of Enzo the Baker; Don Barzini's assassination is much more important).
The gameplay is excellent, challenging, fast-paced and rewarding. While the main plot has missions that the player must complete, the true meat of the game lies in the hundred-odd businesses along the southern end of Manhattan. The player can enter these stores, and through bribery, persuasion or force, extort "protection money" from hapless proprietors. Stuck-up shopkeeper not cooperating? See how ballsy he is after you slam his head into his own cash register. You can also take on contract hit missions from characters like Tessio and Clemenza. Combined with a vast array of upgradeable weaponry and the ability to pay off police officers and FBI agents, as well as start mob wars with enemy mafiosos, "The Godfather" provides plenty of things for the enterprising gangster to do.
The characters are superbly crafted, doing justice to the original cast in both look and sound. Fans of the movie will love being the one who actually hunts down the four Dons, takes out Paulie and Tessio and learns the tricks of the trade from Luca Brasi.
The replay is fairly solid, but not expansive enough to require a buy.
"Godfather's" greatest problem is repetitiveness. The city itself is varied, and while it feels a bit closed off, it still serves its purpose well. But inside, the buildings are all the same. I mean, all the same. All bakeries are the same. All hotels are the same. All clubs are the same—would it have killed the designers to give the interiors a few more rooms? The monotony of the levels makes it harder to enjoy collecting money. Sure, it's fun to knock over hotels, but after a while, it feels like you've hit the same joint 50 times.
All in all, "The Godfather" is a serious game that tastes like "Grand Theft Auto," but proves to be original and innovative in its own way, and does honor to the legendary film trilogy. "Godfather: Parts II and III" on the next-gen systems? Sounds like an offer they can't refuse.