While Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories proved that free-roaming crime games can be done on the PSP, that doesn't mean the handheld can do everything. It can't, for example, do The Godfather, at least not in the same way it was done on consoles. Why else would the driving segments and open world be ripped out of The Godfather: Mob Wars and replaced with turn-based strategy?
To be fair, Mob Wars does an impressive job of replicating the console Godfather 's action sequences. As a foot soldier in the Corleone crime family (not customizable this time, unfortunately), you'll run through a series of missions that have you beating down street scum, shooting up rival families and hiding horse heads between sheets. These are by and large identical to their console counterparts; not only do they look nearly as good, but even the more complicated actions - like aiming at specific body parts and strangulation - are easy to pull off with a little practice.
While the console versions allowed you to move freely around the city, however, Mob Wars sticks to a more linear progression. The game is divided into two segments, which you can switch between freely: Story Mode, which shuttles you along a series of missions that roughly parallel the movie's events; and Mob Wars, which replaces the free-roaming extortion and racketeering with a turn-based, card-driven strategy game that plays like a seedy 1940s version of Risk. It's actually a lot more fun than it sounds, and is much better suited for pick-up-and-play than the story mode and its long, unskippable cinemas.
The Mob Wars part of the game takes place on a map of New York, divided into conquerable territories. As each turn begins, you'll draw a hand of cards that enable you to do things like bribe the police for protection, forge a truce with a rival or call in a hit on his turf to weaken its defense. You can then hire mobsters to defend your territories, play your cards and move your goons into unoccupied or rival turf.
If it's unoccupied, you'll get to engage in a little extortion by talking to a shopkeeper and convincing him to pay protection - usually by slapping him around a little or smashing up his shop. After he caves, you'll be able to stomp into the back-room racket and buy it out. Then you can mark off another territory that's paying tribute to the Corleones.
If the space is occupied, things get a little more complicated, and you'll be tasked with pulling a hit or bombing a business, both of which require fighting through squads of mob goons. And if it's a family compound, you can take your rival out of the game by planting bombs in two different houses - just be aware that they're swarming with goons carrying tommyguns.
It's kind of a letdown that the Mob Wars portion is single-player only. It's also strange, considering signs that it was originally supposed to be multiplayer - like a card that enables you to make a truce with the Corleones, the only family you can work for - were left littered throughout the game. Even so, it works well enough as a quick, moderately strategic alternative to the story mode.
Stripped down from a car-crime game into a bizarre action-strategy hybrid, The Godfather: Mob Wars actually works pretty well, provided you're not expecting much exploration or any driving. If you've already played through any of the console versions, though, the repeated missions and cutscenes are guaranteed to get tedious. But if you haven't - or if the GTA -clone approach of the original turned you off - then this is worth a look as one of the prettier, more playable PS2-to-PSP adaptations on the market.