The Godfather: The Blackhand Edition for [Wii] (Old game reviews)

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Fantastic Wii-specific controls are the highlight of this best version of EA’s gangland hit.

It’s about time we got a Wii-make that adds more than it takes away. Publishers have found it easy to add a few motion controls and new levels to existing games as a means of filling the first-generation Wii software drought, but most of the efforts have been less than inspired. The Blackhand Edition of EA’s popular The Godfather bucks the trend, however, by adding excellent controls and enough new content to make it the best version of the game available.

The core gameplay hasn’t changed at all since we saw it on the Xbox and PS2. The Godfather is still a GTA-style meander through the periphery of Puzo and Coppola’s story, with voice acting both lifted from the films and created anew, plus a lot of cutscenes and enough strong-arm and diplomatic free-form content to keep you busy for a while.

Actually, it’s not quite true that the game is the same; it’s been greatly expanded. There are 30 new missions, basically doubling the game’s content, as well as new hits, favors, weapons, cars, tactics and more. And EA has done a great job integrating it. If you haven’t played the game before, none of the new material glaringly stands out as after the fact.

More importantly, this is one of the best ways we’ve seen to integrate motion sensing controls into a familiar game. You’ll press a button on the nunchuck to target an enemy; hold it and press the remote’s trigger to grab. From there you can swing one controller forward or sideways to throw a punch, or move both in tandem to bodily slam the guy into a wall or automobile. Twitch the two controllers in the same direction and release the held buttons to perform a throw.

The action is all effortless, and you’ll probably be performing ‘advanced’ moves long before the game provides instructions on how to do so. The system is that easy and intuitive. We ended up using a better array of varied tactics over the course of the game, since it was more fun to do so than before; slamming a guy into the wall with a little flick (it really doesn’t take much movement) was a lot more entertaining than more button mashing.

It works during gunplay, too. The same lock-on control used in melee works to target a foe, which paints him on the chest with a reticule. Use the remote to aim at other body parts for location-specific damage. Chances are, if you’ve already played the game on the PS2 or Xbox, you’ll end up getting a lot more bonuses for kneecap and headshot kills, not because they’re easier, but because the aiming system feels natural. Flicking the d-pad activates the free-aim mode, which is far more usable than before.

Of all the new controls, the only thing we don’t like is using the remote’s d-pad to control the camera. Most of the time it’s not necessary, which is great, as the smart camera points the right direction far more often than not. But the d-pad simply isn’t in an optimal position to handle something as touchy and (occasionally) crucial as the camera.

One interesting thing about The Blackhand Edition is that it’s been rated Teen for the family-friendly Wii rather than Mature as it was on the other consoles, but it doesn’t feel noticeably watered down. There’s still some foul language — enough to set the scene and probably more than appeared in the Godfather films — and the brutality of some missions is untouched. Or maybe the ESRB just went easy on EA. Regardless, you shouldn’t be put off by the rating.

What hasn’t been changed is the presentation, which feels more and more behind the times. Not necessarily because of the Wii’s graininess in comparison to other new systems, but because this New York is filled with far more black facades than it is working buildings and businesses. Prepare to spend real time learning to navigate Little Italy and, for that matter, the rest of the city, as every street in each neighborhood looks pretty much the same. We relied on the mini-map to get around here far more than in most GTA clones.

We haven’t been bowled over by most of the Wii-makes hitting shelves so far, but The Godfather is a definite exception. The controls and extra content more than make up for the fact that the game already looks visually dated. If you haven’t dipped into the Corleone lifestyle yet, this is the best place to start, and obsessed fans who owned the game on another console will find the new material justifies a trip back to old New York.