The Godfather 2 Preview: New Media and Details

Electronic Arts' The Godfather II (360, PS3, PC) is not a "movie game." While there are moments where the player's path will cross with events adapted from Francis Ford Coppola's sequel, the gameplay unfolds in a non-linear fashion, all within a 1960s, post-Godfather timeline.

Though the standard GTA elements are firmly in place, The Godfather II's real hook is its mob warfare strategy component, dubbed the "Don's View." An EA rep mentioned that the team spent time building a basic strategy game from the ground up. The result is a Risk-like meta-game that may help keep The Godfather II from being labeled as "just another GTA clone." nope Rather than starting from the bottom and rising to the top, players will begin the game as a Don--not Michael, but another character created for the game--in full control of the Corleone family. Expanding on San Andreas' territorial gang wars, Godfather II features a significant strategic component, with AI-controlled opponent families fighting eachother and the player for control of territories across three cities.

The "Don's View" amounts to a 3D strategic map (pictured above, right) of those territories, allowing for a full view of every piece of the pie. Rival mobs are color coded, and currently contested areas are marked by fires.

After completing a mission to capture a rival territory--typically a matter of blowing away a mob of thugs--your family will acquire a new racket. Rackets range from gun running to drugs; the income from each will not only fund your criminal activities, but also grant your family various bonuses. For example, during the demo we were shown, capturing an arms racket awarded the family with an increase in overall gun clip size.

Each family has its own branching tree, consisting of a group of Made Men on the rise. Up to three of these men can be taken out on missions for backup, and as each possess a certain skill--such as engineering or demolition--they will need to be combined carefully depending on the scenario. These capos can also be leveled and upgraded in skill, becoming unique lieutenants that slowly increase in power.

Dons will also need to allocate a number of guards to defend their territories, which are then directly placed in the game as NPC guards. The strategic view allows for a view of rival guard counts, which players will be wise to note before attempting missions. As family members can also be used for defense, expanding your revenue stream will require a balancing act of resource allocation.

During gameplay, constant updates flash on screen, telling the player what territories were just captured by the AI rivals. Though AI families won't eliminate themselves, the player can complete a mission to wipe a family off the map, increasing the size of his or her empire. Considering the board game-like nature of this component, a multiplayer version of it would seem logical--but while a multiplayer mode will be included with the game, EA is keeping the details a secret for now.

The meat of the game offers a heavy dose of violent action and "mature themes." Topless strippers, sick scenes of torture, and plenty of old-fashioned gunplay was shown off. There were a few interesting scenarios of note--complex plot elements within missions, alternate approaches to territorial assaults, and surprising instances of family-on-family warfare kept the demo interesting.

But while the standard M-rated trappings may sell the discs, the strategic aspect of Godfather II--while certainly not likely to have an endless amount of depth--sets the game apart, and is the main reason I'll be following the game up to its February release.

The Godfather II is set for a February release on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.