So here's the $60 question: if you played The Godfather when it was released six months ago on the Xbox, PS2 and PC, is it still worth playing on the 360? That depends on whether you're the type to run out and buy director's cut versions of DVDs you already own. The Godfather is still basically the same Grand Theft Auto clone it was in March, but so much has been retooled and improved that its fans will want to take a second look.
If you didn't catch The Godfather the first time, though, this is definitely the version you'll want to sample. Rather than just rehashing the movie's plotline, this videogame Godfather spins a separate narrative that runs parallel to it, following the story of a young street bastard who gets inducted into the infamous Corleone crime family. Instead of calling shots, you'll be capping thugs, stealing cars and sneaking horse heads between bed sheets on orders from the Don himself.
It's an unusual approach, but it gives you a more personal connection to the characters and setting - as do the customization options for your mob goon, which have been expanded for the 360 version. The 360 also adds a big visual upgrade to the game, but it doesn't stop at Marlon Brando's liver spots. Fresh missions are available, the cutscenes have been redirected and there's a ton of new stuff in the environment to destroy and/or use as a weapon. Better yet, you'll be able to jack new types of cars and explore different kinds of building layouts, which helps keep the indoor missions from going stale.
More surprisingly, the overall difficulty has been ramped up, which is good; while the original edition's precise aiming and easy-to-win fights made you feel like a badass, it also made it way too easy to just mow through rival families. So while you'll still have all the cool abilities - like being able to rapidly target your foes and drop them with aimed shots to the knees, arms or head - your enemies are now better at coping with them. They're smarter, they'll defend their interests with much beefier goons and they won't put up with you starting fistfights with them for too long before whipping out the shotguns, honor be damned. And if you get them riled up enough start a gang war, they'll go crazy, hunting you in cars and actively firebombing businesses that pay you protection. And they usually won't stop until you die or pay an FBI agent to make them stop.
You won't be totally helpless, however; earn a rank in the Corleone family by completing missions, and you'll be able to hire some family goons to watch your back for a while and help you rough up shopkeepers for protection money. You'll also have access to weapon upgrades that weren't in the first one, and you'll even be able to buy a few cheats off of Xbox Live.
Not everything has been overhauled, though - the six-car-wide avenues of the game's New York are laughable if you've seen the real thing, and the enclosed, grid-like design of the city feels stiff and outdated when compared to the nearest free-roaming alternative, Saints Row.
Thankfully, there's a lot to distract from the streets. The clockwork crowds roaming them are a lot more responsive, and will actually crowd around and hoot if you start a fight. They'll also get up to less friendly dealings, and you'll often have the chance to foil muggings and earn a little reward.
The shopkeepers you'll lean on for protection money - your main source of in-game income - have a little more depth to them as well. A lot of them can still be bullied into submission by smacking them around or pulling a gun on them, but all the new destructible objects give you inventive ways to destroy their businesses and get them to play ball. And sometimes, they're actually eager to make a deal, provided you'll just go and do something nasty to someone who's been harassing them.
Of course, if you didn't like The Godfather the first time, the chance to do a few favors (and blow up a few drug labs) probably won't be enough to sway you. But if you never got a chance to play the original, or if it left you wanting more, this definitive edition ought to tide you over until the inevitable sequel hits.