When you boot up The Godfather on your PSP, you're greeted with the familiar Paramount movie fanfare, which is followed by an Electronic Arts logo, and then a superbly technically accomplished cut-scene movie.
The first time the Paramount stars swirl into the screen, you're left in no doubt that you're about to sit through a genuinely cinematic experience. The umpteenth time they swirl in, you'll be hammering all of the buttons on your PSP, desperately, but futilely, trying to skip through it.
And that, in a nutshell, is the problem with The Godfather on PSP: it thinks it's a movie, when actually it's a game based on a movie.
The game consists of two main play modes: Story Mode, and Mob Wars. Story Mode sees you take on the role of a bit-part mobster from the Corleone family (y'know, the one from the movies?). In this part of the game, you have to work your way up through the ranks of the family by completing a series of on-foot missions, which largely consist of hitting or shooting people.
Each of these Story Mode missions is book-ended by cut-scene movies that are all, like the one at the start of the game, extremely technically accomplished. Given that most of them feel like they're longer than the missions themselves, however, it's annoying that they're impossible to skip.
The other part of the game, Mob Wars, is a turn-based strategy game, in which you have to take over New York, territory by territory, by recruiting mobsters, running rackets, and playing cards from your hand to give yourself an advantage over your rival families.
As with the Story Mode though, the Mob Wars mode basically boils down to a series of on-foot missions as you take direct control of one of your gangsters in order to take over new territories, take out other families, and acquire new and illegal enterprises.
And that's where the problem lies: while the cut-scenes are superb, the on-foot missions are, without exception, brief, boring, and largely a fight against the convoluted control system. It's frequently difficult to see what's going on as the game's camera ends up pointing the wrong way, and switching between targets is little more than a lottery as you desperately tap the L-button hoping that your target will eventually alight on the enemy you want to hit.
Extortion is even more inane, as you try to make sense of a series of on-screen bars and meters that would make a daytime quiz host blush, that apparently represent the act of threatening your target, but without scaring them too much, or knocking them out.
A further problem is the way the game shoehorns the two different modes into one – forcing you to play through one in order to gain advantage in the other. It just feels artificial and contrived, as does the decision to allow you to unlock clips from The Godfather movie by playing through the Story Mode.
You'd think that its rich cinematic heritage would be Godfather: Mob Wars strongest suit, right? Well yeah, but actually, seeing unlocked clips from the actual movie just goes to show that in spite of all their technical achievement, the game's cut-scene movies aren't a patch on the real thing.
And actually watching snippets isn't really as good as watching the real thing. Which pretty much sums up the game: if they'd wanted us to watch The Godfather movie on our PSPs they should have just put it on to UMD.
Instead, EA has given us a bunch of movies that aren't as good as the real thing, and a series of third-person action missions that are nasty, brutish and short.