You might as well get used to hospitals, though, because you'll die often in The Godfather. Some of the missions are quite difficult, usually because you have to face dozens of mobsters all by yourself. However, unlike in previous versions of the game, you can now recruit lower-ranking mobsters to be part of your crew. For a price, these men will follow you around and provide backup in gunfights or act as triggermen while you drive. As you ascend in rank within the Corleone family, you'll be able to recruit better and better men to fill out your crew. The artificial intelligence of your allies is relatively good, and you'll definitely notice a difference having a crew around. It still doesn't take much to get your crew--or yourself--killed. A single round from a shotgun can take you down in an instant, and if you get caught in the crossfire of a couple of tommy gun-wielding wiseguys, you'll get cut down immediately. You can find health tonics from time to time, but you'll need to take cover and plan your attack wisely if you want to live.
The gunplay in The Godfather is simple but fun. You can lock on to enemies with the press of a button, and you can duck or back up against a wall for cover. If you want, you can switch to free aim mode, which controls a lot like your standard first-person shooter, where one stick controls your movement and the other controls your aim. The guns in the game range from a .38 special revolver to a tommy gun to a snub-nosed shotgun. There's also a variety of other weapons, including Molotov cocktails, sticks of dynamite, garrote wires, and lead pipes. All of the guns can be upgraded at back-alley arms dealers. You can carry all of these weapons at the same time, too, effectively turning you into a one-mobster army. There are more than 40 scripted execution moves as well, and you're rewarded for your brutality in the form of respect.
If you prefer to get your hands dirty, you can simply beat the life out of anyone you encounter. You lock on with the left trigger, and then use the right analog stick to throw punches, slam opponents into walls, or even toss them off rooftops. You can also strangle your enemies and perform neck-breaking execution moves.
Combat is fun overall, especially because you're given a healthy set of options when it comes to executing people. The AI is fairly good for most of the enemies. They'll often run for cover, team up on you, and duck behind objects. Occasionally, though, you'll run into some glitchy or just plain dumb enemies. Sometimes an enemy won't be facing you, but somehow he'll be pelting you with lead. Other times enemies will just run up to you as if they can't wait to get blasted in the face with a shotgun. Despite the infrequent AI oddities, the combat in The Godfather is a bloody good time.
As you indiscriminately waste people, extort businesses, and complete missions, you'll earn respect points. When you earn enough respect, you level up so to speak, and you can distribute skill points to learn new abilities and improve your stats. You can level up fighting, shooting, street smarts, speed, and health. These bonuses, along with the upgraded weapons, help tremendously later in the game as the missions become more difficult.
The Xbox 360 version of The Godfather looks underwhelming in standard definition, but it's slightly better in high definition. There are some fantastic fire and explosion effects, and the city of New York looks and feels alive with activity; but you'll still see some blurry surfaces and jerky animations from time to time. When driving around town you'll also notice some of the larger skyscrapers popping into view a little late, which looks awkward. The frame rate isn't exactly smooth throughout, but it keeps pace fairly well and never drops to critical levels. Overall, the game is nice to look at mostly because of the way it authentically re-creates the look and feel of the film, but there are few technically impressive moments in the game.
The Godfather also comes complete with a few accoutrements of Xbox Live, but don't get your hopes up too much--for all intents and purposes this is still an offline, single-player game. You can unlock almost 40 achievements to boost your gamer score. Some of these are as simple as purchasing a safe house or extorting 10 businesses. Other achievements require more time and effort, such as becoming Don of New York City. There's also an online leaderboard where you can upload your stats to see how you compare to other mobsters around the world. On top of all that, there's an available option for Xbox Live Marketplace in the in-game menu, so it's not much of a stretch to suggest that Electronic Arts will be releasing some sort of additional premium content after the game is released.
With the sheer number of businesses to extort and missions to complete, you can easily spend 20 hours working your way up through the ranks and eliminating other families before finally becoming the Don of New York City. If you're a fan of the film, you'll appreciate the way the game pays tribute to the movie. Even if you've never seen the film, the satisfying combat and challenging missions make this game worth playing. However, if you've already played other versions of The Godfather, there's no compelling reason to once again spend full price for what is essentially the exact same game. If you haven't played the game before, though, this is definitely the best version to get.