"Organised crime excites me," quips a stony-faced Hunter Smith. It's one of the more surprising - slightly scary in fact - openings to a demo we've experienced recently, but it transpires the Godfather 2's producer is merely voicing a thought he reckons we've all probably had at some time or another. Put simply, whether you're talking about Michael Corleone, Al Capone or even shrink-obsessed Tony Soprano, Mafioso types and their various shady dealing are bloody cool.
"There's certainly a dark public fascination with mobsters; the idea that - even though he might run the rule over a sprawling criminal underworld - Tony Soprano's daughter could be
going to school with your kids. And this is kinda what Godfather II is all about," explains Hunter. "We see the films as a great
frame of reference, but we're trying to explore the fantasy behind the concept, and -
crucially - how we implement that fantasy into a videogame. We believe what we've come up with is truly unique."
The Godfather, after all, is a puppet master - the mastermind at the pinnacle of his crime empire. The problem with EA's first title was by the time hero Aldo had made his way up from Italian street punk to mafia top dog, the game was all but over. This time round, you'll have the chance to become the actual Godfather himself right off the bat. "Our mantra is: act like a mobster, think like a Don," claims Smith. "We're determined to take all our perceived strengths from the first title and hike them up to the next level".
Godfather: Total War
Brave words, but trying to reconcile the action of the first game with pulling the strings as the head of your own crime syndicate is a daunting task. Naturally, comparisons between Godfather II and GTA IV are inevitable, but they're also way off the mark. In a daring move, Smith's team are challenging gamers to throw off their preconceptions about the sandbox genre. Forget Grand Theft Auto; this is Scarface meets Total War, RPG meets action, as the EA Redwood team decided to utterly gut and renovate what many mistakenly derided as little more than a flawed GTA clone.
In truth, The Godfather was much more than that; its brave and innovative racketeering and territory mechanics complemented solid scrapping and shooting. But this sequel is so much more. During the planning stages of Godfather II (the team commenced development straight after the first offering was shipped), Smith's team created a gigantic board game to research and examine the potential complexities of development.
It's not hard to see why. The truth is, we were completely baffled within about five minutes of the presentation's intro, such is the massive ambition of what Smith and his team are trying to achieve here. So, instead, we'll try and let the game do the talking for us...
Leaping into Godfather II at around the five hour mark, we're currently in control of a decent portion of Miami - one of two new cities in the game alongside good ol' New York. Our 'family' consists of a don (us), one underboss, three captains and four soldiers - a 1-1-3-4 formation guaranteed to put the willies up our gangster rivals. Each member has their own distinct personality, background and speciality - and all have the potential to rise through the organisation, should you decide they're doing enough to justify a promotion.
Meanwhile, our rival families - far from resting on their laurels - have been busy Bugsys. Smith is fiercely proud of the "emotional rather than rational, human-like" AI that'll motivate your in-game opponents. "For every action there's a reaction," he claims, hinting that learning how to manipulate the game's fairly complicated system of alliances (which could well consist of perk sharing) and betrayals between various factions will be key to gaining total control.