screenshot from "The Godfather: The Game"
Electronic Arts via AP
The virtual Don Vito Corleone, left, requests a favor in "The Godfather: The Game."
updated 3/30/2006 4:56:25 PM ET 2006-03-30T21:56:25

Even if you've seen the movie a hundred times, the video game version of "The Godfather" is an offer you can probably refuse.

Electronic Arts Inc. is known for its video game adaptations of popular films like "The Lord of The Rings" trilogy and the "James Bond" series.

"The Godfather The Game" (Rated M, $39.99 for Xbox, PlayStation 2 and personal computers) is probably the company's most ambitious attempt to blur the line between cinema and gaming.

But most of what made Don Vito Corleone and his family so compelling has largely been lost in this digitized re-imagining of love and loss amid gang warfare in the New York of the 1940s and 50s.

Comparisons to other open-ended crime sagas like "Grand Theft Auto" are inevitable — and often favorable.

You build a reputation among five mob families and follow a violent path of ascendence from unknown street punk to Godfather to Don, the boss of all bosses.

The game only loosely follows the film, though, and as such a lot of side missions and subplots that get fleshed out here are never even mentioned in the movie.

Fans will almost certainly enjoy interacting with some of the principal characters and exploring the vastness of this game, which encompasses parts of Manhattan, Brooklyn and New Jersey, even if it is mostly peripheral.

The action is plentiful and relatively easy once you master the controls. I made short work of most enemies, either grabbing them and beating them to a bloody pulp or shooting them outright. It's only when faced with dozens of enemies at once that you truly risk sleeping with the fishes.

The visuals on the PS2 version I tested were disappointing, with fuzzy graphics and sometimes jerky animations.

And the many cinematic interludes also lacked the editing and compositional brilliance of the film. Hopefully the Xbox 360 version due this summer will give us something better to look at.

Most of the voice work is excellent and even includes original cast members such as Robert Duvall as consiglieri Tom Hagen, James Caan as Sonny Corleone and the now-deceased Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone.

One thing I can't forgive is hearing someone other than Al Pacino voicing Michael Corleone. Not having the likeness of the story's pivotal character is a major, perplexing loss.

It may not be completely fair to compare this game to what is arguably one of the finest movies ever made. But that's certainly the expectation going in. Though they both entertain, it's like seeing a painting by Leonardo da Vinci and then trying to emulate it with crayons and a coloring book.

As long as you can lower your expectations a bit, "The Godfather The Game" should offer a few weeks of diversionary fun against the backdrop of one of America's great crime stories.

Two and a half stars out of four.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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