by Marty Demarest & r & & r & The Godfather: The Game, Rated Mature, PS2, Xbox, PC, 1 out of 5 Stars & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & believe in America and in the artistic power of capitalism. Filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola established his professional reputation, a movie empire and the careers of his family -- Sofia alone is worth it -- on the long-term success of The Godfather. The film has survived decades of controversy, chopped-up TV broadcasts, tasteless parodies, and worst of all, critical adoration. I didn't think a videogame version of The Godfather could hurt.
The film is a relatively talky affair, with only a few operatic interludes of violence. Much of the day-to-day extortion and whacking happens off-screen. Videogames, however, with their ceaseless action, are the perfect medium for on-screen whacking and extorting. This leads me out of the film and onto the streets. Moments after invoking the cool Mafia mood of the movie, The Godfather: The Game shatters it by making me hijack vintage cars and head across a drab, flat New York City to "push a button on a guy."
My favorite form of button-pushing is strangulation. It works well against the game's phenomenally unintelligent gangsters. Seeing me without a weapon in my hands, my enemies put away their pistols and shotguns and start grappling with me. Once I have them in my grip, I simply ram my thumbs down onto the controller buttons. The plastic creaks and bends like cartilage over an Adam's apple. If the game system's vibration function is turned on, I can feel my victim's quivering pulse beneath my thumbs until he collapses. It's satisfyingly quiet compared to beating his head against a nearby wall.
I could also push buttons all day by scaring nice digital Jewish girls. I just break the cash registers at their restaurants, and then take cuts off their incomes. Often their businesses front back-room operations such as shipping rackets or gambling dens. If I go in with my Tommy gun blazing, I can usually walk out with a new line of income for the Corleones. Of course I keep a little. I need to keep myself in new suits and seedy apartments.
When I'm not playing Mafia Monopoly, I'm pushing buttons behind the scenes -- scenes from the movie. Remember that horse head in the bed? Well, I helped get it there. I had to sneak past a lazy maid and a paranoid butler to do it. And remember the gun that was hidden behind the toilet -- the gun that Michael shot Sollozzo with? I put it there. But perhaps my worst crime was watching entire scenes from The Godfather re-created and regurgitated by one of the most unattractive game engines ever devised.
THE GOOD: Videogames may be the only believable way for Robert Duvall to get his hair back. He's a welcome presence, since James Caan sounds like he's smoked his charisma away, and none of the other voice-actors betray a shred of talent.
THE BAD: The car-crashy mayhem ruins whatever Mafia mood isn't already ruined by the blurry, beige-looking city. New York, according to The Godfather: The Game, is a tangled corridor of bland buildings. Sidewalks are populated with loitering pedestrians made up of three men, two suits, and one voice. Enemy mobsters display even less variety.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The Game shows The Godfather no respect.
The new one is smart and funny and action-packed, and it’s bigger and better and sleeker. And Downey does it again, this time ramping up Stark’s arrogant wisecracking, telling anyone who’ll listen (mostly women) that, via the creation of his powerful Iron Man suit, he’s brought years of uninterrupted peace to the world.