It's possible, therefore, to carry out story-based missions or go around assassinating your rival families' made men on your own, while your made men are conducting the business of intimidating business owners and stealing their rackets away from rival families. You can do all of these things yourself, but if you choose to use the Don's View to send your family members instead, the result is akin to a rather slow-paced, simplistic RTS embedded within the open world action game, and it's actually quite fun.
There are a variety of missions to choose from and you can staff up your family with a mix of made men to help you carry them out. The game also offers a variety of ways to solve every problem, from bombing to safe cracking, and, if anything, I'd say they could have applied more thought here, making it a bit harder to juggle the best crew make-up for whatever job you intent to tackle. For an assassination job, for example, an engineer can cut open a fence or cut the power so your enemy can't call for help, an explosives expert can blast open a wall or bring the whole building down, an arson expert can light fires as distractions and a bruiser can kick down a door or perform a stealth kill if you catch your victim unawares. There's also a medic class who can heal your crew members and you, and a safecracker who can unlock doors and rob safes. It's up to you who you want to bring along for each mission and how you want to deploy them.
Mission-wise, you can assassinate, detonate, burn, rob and beat down your targets and intimidate business owners through various means to take over rackets and solidify your control of the territory. Taking over all of each racket type grants bonuses like bullet-proof vests or armored cars, and if your enemy has those bonuses, you can knock them out of play by blowing up one of their buildings before you attack, evening the odds. All told there's a surprising amount of depth for what could have been "just another mob game."
Just about the only issues I have with the game are related to the genre itself. It would be ridiculous, for example, for me to take exception with the fact that losing all of your health, or getting busted by the cops results in as insignificant a consequence as losing a little money, because that's actually what happens, and although it's annoying, that's the convention of the genre. So while it would be fun to play a game that has a little more built-in tension in regards to avoiding risks like death and imprisonment, they don't currently make one, so it's better to pick your battles.
What is interesting about The Godfather II, however, is it does as much as it can within the confines of the genre. If the ability to shrug off a four-star police chase in GTA IV by simply putting the pedal to the metal and turning a few corners stuck in your craw, then The Godfather II will salve that owie. The police in The Godfather II are insanely capable at hunting you down. You can avoid a chase altogether by leaving the scene of a crime (as denoted by a yellow or red search area on your map) before they arrive, but once you've gotten the attention of the law, don't expect to lose it until you get arrested or die. Now if either of those actions had real consequences, we'd be talking about some serious fun.
Bottom Line: The Godfather II does a great deal right, and if you're a fan of the open world genre, you'll probably enjoy the hell out of it. If you've never played or enjoyed an open world game, I'd probably still recommend you try The Godfather II. There are certainly worse introductions to the genre. GTA IV, I'm looking at you.
Recommendation: Buy it. Just remember, it's not personal. It's only business. Also, don't ever ask me about my business, Kay. And leave the gun, but take the cannolli. OK, I'll stop now.
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game..
Russ Pitts counts Michael Corleone as a personal hero, and prefers to pretend the third film doesn't exist. His blog can be found at falsegravity.com.