We recently had the time to speak with Dave Woldman, Producer for the upcoming title The GodFather II.
TheGameReviews:The Godfather movies are regarded as cinematic masterpieces. What have you done to capture that feel for the player?
Dave Woldman:The team members are all huge fans of the Godfather films, and creating a game based on something that has such a passionate following creates some unique challenges and pressure. They developed and established a very clear and recognizable view into the classic mobster lifestyle. Instead of simply retelling the story of the films verbatim, our goal was really to insert the player into the world of the Godfather and let them craft their own story while being able to interact with all the characters and see their story intersect with the coolest moments from the film.
The settings of New York, Miami, and Havana afforded us the opportunity to create a wide variety of content that faithfully represents each city during the 60’s. We’ve really had a lot of fun trying to capture the essence of the time and make it come to life in a video game. From the political uprising in Havana to the “mod scene” in Miami, the game will give you a different and cool picture into this historical era.
The development team took a lot of time to ensure everything from the look and sounds of the weapons in the games, the dialog and slang, to the radio stations you will hear while driving feel appropriate to the time period and echoes the feelings and mood established in the Godfather universe.
TGR:It appears that many of the movies stars have returned to reprise their roles this time around, including Robert Duval. What was it like working with them and how do you feel they will impact the title? Al Pacino appears to be absent again. How will that impact the title?
DW:In this go around, all of the key characters from the film return to provide a solid link and attachment to the fiction. You will see and interact with most of the iconic characters, including Fredo, Hyman Roth, Frank Pentangeli, and even Senator Pat Geary. We’re very fortunate to have Robert Duvall reprise his role as Tom Hagen when he joins your family as consigliore. He’s an amazing professional and jumped right back in to his role. Having them in the game is a pretty powerful experience for big fans of the fiction… nothing like being present when Geary is blackmailed and then being able to talk to Tom about how the body needs to be disposed of.
Pacino is not in the game, but the Michael character is included in many ways as the players mentor. The Godfather II game is all about the rise of Dominic set in the fiction’s organized crime world.
TGR:What are the biggest changes from the first game that you have implemented to make Godfather 2 better than the original?
DW:The Godfather II feels like an evolution of the franchise to me in many ways. Following the release of the first game, the development team challenged itself to examine all the feedback and critical reviews to chart a course in creating a better and more in depth game. Listening to the community allowed us to figure out what resonated with the fans and tried to understand how we could grow the franchise and improve the overall gaming experience.
It was evident that gamers really enjoyed how the game incorporated the story of your character with the Godfather universe. They appreciated the way a new character could be integrated into a fiction they really loved in a way that felt real and meaningful.
However, it became apparent that players also wanted that feeling of being in control, to be the guy who calls the shots and runs the family. The first game put the player as a “lone wolf” type hero, a man on an island set in the Godfather world. This time around the goal of The Godfather II became “Act like a Mobster, think like a Don.”
To this end, while enhancing the core action gameplay, we have incorporated all new mechanics and game systems in an attempt to make the player feel like a Don; learn what it means to control and grow a family. Players will now be able to build their own family from the ground up, from recruiting and investing in their skills, all the way to promoting them up through the ranks.
Additionally, as a Don, the player will not always have to be the one in the middle of the action; he will be able to command his family to do his bidding while focusing on other ways to strengthen his family and weaken his rivals.
TGR:We noticed that the original was published on multiple platforms that seem missing this time around, including the Wii, PSP, and PS2. Can we expect a port to be made to any of these platforms in the future? If not, why were they eliminated this time around? We noticed the Wii version actually had the best critical reception on most aggregates.
DW:We felt that in order to truly deliver on the vision of The Godfather II we really had to focus and take advantage of what the next gen hardware has to offer, including online connectivity. The next gen hardware is simply more robust and allows for a higher visual bar and immersive experience.
A next gen hardware focus enables higher-resolution textures, longer draw distances, and better frame-rates. But we also harnessed the power of the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 to make gameplay improvements as well. We were able to create an all new Artificial Intelligence system to make our characters act and react more intelligently. We also have a persistent population of characters, each with a memory and motive system, to drive their behaviors. What this means is that everyone you see in the game, from your own made men to the bum on the street, is a unique character – someone who thinks and will behave in life-like way. All of these improvements would not have been possible on some of the other platforms.
The BlackHand Edition on the Wii was definitely a lot of fun and did have a good consumer following. In fact the dual controllers on the Wii was a direct inspiration for our new BlackHand combo system- the left trigger representing your left arm and the right trigger your right arm. Because it came out a year later than the original ps2/xbox/ release, it also gave us the opportunity to sweeten and polish some of our existing mechanics… AND experiment with what it felt like to have a single crew member with you. That experience ended up feeling so rewarding we pushed it even further in GF2 with the creation of a complete family under your control.
TGR:Last year we saw the critically acclaimed Grand Theft Auto IV launched along with Saints Row II. What have you done to make sure that the Godfather 2 stands out among the competition, specifically the upcoming GTA DLC?
DW:The Godfather II will be a unique gaming experience unlike anything else in the genre. While there are clearly many similar mechanics, the underlying motivations and structures of the games have diverged vastly now with The Godfather II.
The Godfather II puts the player in the position of a Don of a family, no longer simply the “enforcer” or “soldier” taking orders/missions from others around him. As the Don, the player will need to build his own family from the ground up. You’ll be recruiting your own Made men in the world, investing in their skills, promoting them up through the ranks, arming them, and sending them out to do your bidding.
Once you’ve built your family, we wanted you to actually be in charge of them. As Don you’ll be able to choose how and when to use your Made men, either by commanding them directly in battle as part of your crew, or doing jobs for you in another part of the world- bombing rival family rackets, attacking their businesses, or defending your own.
As the Don, the player will be able to manage their own criminal empire using the Don’s View – an all new 3D representation of all three cities showing the status of all the crime rings, all the battles in progress, and the locations of your jobs and contacts. Players will decide which crime rings to go after, and how to weaken their rivals by bombing rival businesses, managing their own defences for critical rackets, or even hunting down and killing rival Made men.
The unique combination of strategic gameplay mixed with action and set in the Godfather universe creates a unique package that will set this game apart from the rest. When you couple that core strategic gameplay with the high action of BlackHand hand to hand gameplay mechanics, The Godfather 2 has a truly unique and fun game that you have to experience for yourself.
TGR:How has development fared to date? Were there any moments that stood out to you? Can we expect the same experience on all of the three platforms? Has a firm release date been set?
DW:Overall it has been both a very challenging and rewarding development process. As far as a memorable moment, I’d have to say it was around our Alpha Milestone when all of our core game systems came together and we could see how everything was going to work as a system….. that the families would attack you and each other correctly… that the police would respond appropriately… that your Crew would be effective fighters at your side. It was a very important time to validate that we could merge both the action and strategy genres together for a unique gaming experience.
The Godfather II will be coming to the PS3, X360 and PC on February 24 in NA and February 27 in EU.
TGR:Can we expect to see a demo in the near future for the title released on either PSN or Xbox Live? What type of support for the title is planned after launch, any word of DLC?
DW:We do have some plans for DLC that I think fans will find pretty cool, and pretty different for the open-world genre, but they’re all top-secret for now. I wish I could tell you, but the Mafia code of silence forbids it! Stay tuned for updates!