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The Godfather

Few movie-to-game adaptations have garnered as much attention and speculation as EA's take on The Godfather, which finally hits stores later this month. Casting players as a random wiseguy in the Corleone crime family, it combines free-form, Grand Theft Auto-style gameplay with a plot that follows the epic Mafia film from behind the scenes.

We've spent some hard time with this gangland simulation, and we can say that the driving feels great, the violence is intense, the story is riveting and New York is huge and fun to explore. And while the free-roaming gameplay will be instantly familiar to fans of Grand Theft Auto, calling Godfather a clone doesn't do it justice.

For starters, gunfights are much more natural in Godfather, and it's easy to aim at specific body parts once you've locked onto your enemies. But the real fun is in the simple hand-to-hand combat system, which will make you feel like an absolute badass. Dubbed "the black hand," it's similar to Fight Night, where the right analog stick is used like a pair of swinging fists. Flick it upward and you'll jab, pull it down and up and you'll deliver an uppercut. It's even more effective when you grab your enemies by the lapels, which also lets you shake them around, slam them into walls, shove them through windows or just snap their stupid necks. Strangling or garroting them is also an option, although feeling their heartbeats fade through the controller's rumble motor is creepy.

While most of the Mafia guys you'll fight are armed, few of them will actually use their guns if you don't pull yours first. This could be a bug (after all, it's a preview version of the game), but we like to think it's a reflection of the code of honor that the Corleone family embodied. Honor also weighs on you as you play, as passersby, cops and other Mafiosi will all treat you differently depending on the things you've done.

Your reputation also affects your success in racketeering, which is your main source of income and influence outside of contract hits and story missions. Playing like an elaborate game of Risk, protection rackets let you take over New York one business at a time, as you force the owners to pay you and then muscle in on the illegal operations they're running in the back room.

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