Electronic Arts is back with their second trip into the underworld of La Cosa Nostra. The Godfather II transports port us back in time to when the Mafia was at its peak and organized crime took in interest in any all and business ventures. Following the story lines we’ve come to love from the movies, Godfather II focuses on Michael Corleone’s expansion of his empire and all the people that helped him get him there.

The game starts with the infamous meeting of the families in Havana to divide up Hyman Roth’s empire. Unfortunately, the business is never concluded because the Cuban Revolution forces everyone to flee the country. You play as Dominic, a soldier of Aldo Trapani who happens to be the protagonist of the first Godfather game. As the revolution gets underway you’re tasked with leading Michael, Fredo and Aldo to the airport in an attempt to flee. Unfortunately Aldo is shot and killed by a sniper, but fortunately it means that you’re promoted by Michael into Aldo’s place.

The promotion comes with the task of reclaiming control of New York from the Rosato brothers. From there you’ll have to start your expansion of the Corleone family into Miami and eventually Cuba. All the while you’ll have to contend with rival families, federal investigations, CIA interference and a plot to assassinate Fidel Castro. It’s up to you to eliminate them, gain control of the criminal underground and make the Corleone family the strongest in the world of organized crime.

Being a game based on a movie there are sure to be a number of similarities to its namesake, of which there are, but there are also a few noticeable differences. The game makes Dominic instrumental in breaking Frank Pentangeli during the Senate testimony on the Corleone family, being the guy that delivers Vincenzo Pentangeli to the trial in the nick of time. Fredo also has a much larger role within the game than he ever had within the film, acting as a plot device throughout the story of the game. Unfortunately it didn’t mesh well with the films time line since it was while they were in Cuba that Michael let Fredo know that he knows that he betrayed him. The game has the the even occurring in Michael’s study towards the end of the game. Another liberty taken is the introduction of Tom Hagen as your Consigliere. Liberties aside, the story of the game is well thought out and meticulously laid out for you. The interaction between the characters is believable and makes the game play more enjoyable.

Speaking of gameplay, the Godfather II is head and shoulders above its predecessor on practically all fronts. A new feature, known as The Don’s View, allows you to view your property and that of rival families so you can plan where you want to strike. It gives detailed information of every venue, from the number of defenders, income, to the perks of owning an entire racket. The Don’s View allows you to plan and strategize the best course of action for taking over and defending your empire.

You’ll need to take over fronts that help launder money as well as the nine crime rings in the game, which provide bonuses to the family that owns it as well as providing an income. Once control over a business has been established you’ll need to shore up its defenses, either by keeping a made man present or allocating a number of guards. This constant flow of attack and defense is at the heart of the game and the very reason why it’s superior to its predecessor. Maintaining control of your empire is essential in your quest of expanding it. You need to keep the money rolling and the perks in tact.

Amassing your family of made men is also important because of their ability to specialize in a variety of different skills, from safe cracking, demolitions, engineering to medical. All of the attributes will help you take over and control the various businesses. You can also perform favors and gain information on a rival family’s family members so you can mark them for assassination and destroy their family from the ground up. You can also send your men to bomb an opponents business to serve as a decoy to a genuine takeover attempt of another premise or just disrupt their flow of income. The ability to control what your men do really makes the game stand out and is essential in expanding your empire.

The multi-player has your standard Team Deathmatch, a Demolition Assault mode which requires a demo expert to destroy objectives on the map, Fire Starter, which tasks your arsonists with setting blazes to score bonus points, and Safecracker, which obviously involves breaking into a number of safes arrayed around the map. An interesting mode is the Don’s Control, which lets two players wager cash on the outcome of their teams before guiding their team into battle. What’s really interesting is how you can use your made men within the multi-player modes and their experience there will enhance their skill levels within the single player campaign. You can take your Arsonist with a Basic skill level, play him enough that his skill can go from Basic to Advanced, and it will make him all the stronger within the single player game.

Visually, The Godfather II looks a lot better then its predecessor. The three distinctive areas, New York, Miami and Cuba all have their own unique and distinctive look that lets you know exactly where you are. You really get a sense of each area. The characters movements are for the most part fluid, but really stand out when performing an execution. The dialogue and line delivery is also well done, with plenty of strong language that you’d expect from a bunch of wise guys. The sound effects of weapons being fired, bombs exploding and necks snapping are also memorable.

While there are a lot of positives to the game, it’s also got its negatives. It’s too easy for anyone that’s played an action or strategy game before. Rival families won’t take that many actions against you as you start to take over their fronts and businesses, and if they do, they’ll only try to perform one offensive action at a time. You’re never really worrying about more then one thing at a time and you never have to worry about rival families ganging up on you. Perhaps the biggest negative though is its repetitiveness, constantly taking over businesses by attacking them in the same manner gets old after the 20th time. There are also some visual issues that crop up within gameplay. Characters will find themselves stuck on objects, within walls or each other. You’ll also notice a few glitches like texture pop-in and rendering issues which at times makes the graphics look last gen.

Overall, the Godfather II is a huge step above its predecessor adding in a lot of new and unique features that make it all the more enjoyable to play. The addition of multiplayer also puts a creative spin on using your made men to gain money and enhance their skill levels. Unfortunately, players will blow through the game because of its lack of difficulty in the single player campaign. While it’s still fun, it’s hard to justify purchasing it because once it’s finished it gives no incentive to return to it.