As compared to the leaping and beeping platform video games of the past, today’s games rely heavily on in-depth story, creative characters and an iridescent sheen. I mean, they’re practically movie-like. With that in mind and with a desire to excite gamers and movie buffs alike, Electronic Arts created The Godfather: The Game.
EA started with a Grand Theft Auto-style open world and wrapped the Godfather story around it. The movie’s familiar music and character voices (including Marlon Brando, Robert Duval and James Caan) lend a compelling nostalgia to the opening scenes of the game. But from there, it’s all bare knuckles, crime and bloodshed. Come to think of it, forget the nostalgia, the Godfather movies were all bare knuckles, crime and bloodshed, so why shouldn’t the game be, too?
A Thug by Any Other Name
Godfather revolves around a guy you design using a create-a-character tool called Mobface. After shaping your own muscle-bound Bruno or wiry-tough Tony you become an unofficial thug for the Corleone family in the 1950s. Then, you can strong-arm your way through the main story and its quests, accept special “hits” or simply wander about stealing cars and busting heads in New Jersey, Hell’s Kitchen, Midtown, Little Italy and Brooklyn.
The central story takes you on 18 different Corleone family business assignments—ranging from knocking off a rival boss to giving someone a horse head he can’t refuse. These quests are designed to represent mob activities that go on behind the scenes of the movie’s core action. For example: After Sonny is murdered at the toll booth in the movie, you’re the one who chases down the killers and deals out the family’s “justice.” (There are film canisters hidden throughout the game that reward you with clips from the motion picture.) As you perform the assigned services, you become more trusted by the Corleones and move up in the ranks from enforcer to, possibly, don.
Along the way, your character has the responsibility of extorting local businesses and taking over illegal rackets (brothels, gambling joints). Of course, to be a successful extortionist/hit man you must learn the game’s hand-to-hand mechanics (wall sliding, peeking around corners, strangling, punching) and various weapon controls (head shots, knee-cap blowouts and specialty kills).
Et tu, Brute
Which all means that The Godfather wears its M rating with pride. You use weapons of the era, ranging from shotguns to Molotov cocktails, and are expected to violently kill many people (police included). And although dead bodies fade after about 15 seconds, there’s a whole lotta blood splatter and screaming goin’ on before that happens. Characters steal, lie, cheat, smoke and drink. The s- and f-words are ubiquitous. And God’s name is taken in vain on numerous occasions. If that wasn’t enough, you also meet prostitutes—dressed in bra and panties—that will offer up sexual innuendo if you stop to chat.
All your senselessly violent activities gain you money (for purchasing better weapons and fancier clothes), but that’s not the real currency of this game. Every action you take is designed to earn a twisted kind of respect. Respect from the shop owners, from other gangs and especially from the family. People everywhere begin to fear you, and conversation on the street goes from “Watch it, buddy!” to “Oh, it’s you, sir.” This street respect grows into power and leaves you, at the end of the game, as the king of your domain.
So, Should Gamers Refuse This Offer?
This overarching theme is an alarming problem with The Godfather: The Game. You can say it’s only a game, but to pound this kind of philosophy, hour after hour, into a gamer’s head is truly … criminal. Sure, it may very well represent the attitudes of the original movie characters, but it conspicuously leaves out the wages of their sins—their eventual destruction.
Scripture paints a man of respect as one who is above reproach; a temperate, prudent, gentle, uncontentious person—a person rarely found in your typical action/adventure video game. A person never found in The Godfather.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.