Dragon Ball Z_Part 3

Infinite World will strike up feelings of deja vu for those who've played DBZ: Budokai 3. That shouldn't come as a surprise since both games were developed by Dimps. Unfortunately for Budokai 3 fans, Infinite World lacks a couple of the best fighting mechanics from its predecessor, namely the Beam Struggles and Dragon Rushes. Those two features were integral in making Budokai 3 a critical success because they helped re-create the intense power struggles that are so central to the drama of the DBZ anime. Considering how much Infinite World feels like a sequel to that game, you will likely get the disappointing feeling that this is a neutered expansion pack.

Infinite World looks as good as any other DBZ game on the PS2. The overworld map is a bit bland, as is the level design in the minigames that are scattered through Dragon Mission. In that battles themselves, though, the colors of the characters, transformations, and Ki blasts are lush and vibrant. The soundtrack is a bit ordinary, but you can choose between the English and Japanese voice tracks that DBZ purists will surely appreciate.

While its budget price may make Infinite World a tempting purchase, previous DBZ games on the PS2 have tread this ground already, and have done so with much more robust fighting systems. You would be better off revisiting Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 3, a superior game where the series' fast-paced combat was used to much better effect.

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Dragon Ball Z_part 2

Despite the prevalence of minigames in Dragon Mission mode, Infinite World is still all about the combat. You fly around a battlefield with your opponent and exchange a variety of Ki beam blasts, grapples, and melee combos. You have a healthy variety of attacks, a Ki Burn ability that gives you increased speed and strength for a short period of time in exchange for Ki energy, and the ability to transform into a Super Saiyan. You can speed burst around the battlefield, but you'll have to use it wisely and avoid taking too many hits since they contribute to a fatigue meter. Once the fatigue meter reaches full capacity, it will temporarily stun you, leaving you defenseless against devastating combos and also downgrading you from an advanced form like Super Saiyan back to your default form. Overall, though, the battles are fast paced, the AI is relentless, and winning takes quite a bit of skill and strategy since not effectively evading attacks, Ki charging, or Ki burning will result in an easy defeat.

Those compliments aside, there are a few issues with the battle system. The AI is exceedingly difficult, even at the "Easy" and "Very Easy" difficulty settings. The computer opponents are just as fast and bloodthirsty, no matter what difficulty setting the game is set at. The only differences between easy and hard are how quickly your health depletes, how long it takes to recharge your Ki, and how long you stay fatigued. Still, you will have many fights that challenge your patience and tempt you to chuck your Dual Shock at a nearby wall.

Battles become more manageable when you buy advanced skills and abilities from the Warrior's Room. For each battle in the game--even those that you lose--you will earn Zeni that can be used to buy stronger Ki attacks, items such as Senzu beans that recharge your health in battle, and attributes like Fighter's Body that increase your base health. The system works fine, as long as you edit your character before going into battle and assign those acquired abilities to your few allotted slots.

The problem comes in knowing how to do this and in what abilities to purchase. At one point, Infinite World alerts you that you can purchase things from the Warrior's Room, but it provides no tutorial explaining how the system works or how the abilities benefit you. The Warrior's Room is also located on the main menu, forcing you to leave Dragon Mission mode in order to use the Zeni you earn. At first glance, you wouldn't think the two are so dependent on each other; but when your opponents in Dragon Mission suddenly possess twice as much health and strength the Warrior's Room becomes invaluable.

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Dragon Ball Z_Part 1

Dragon Ball Z games have run the quality gamut from terrible to very good. Infinite World lands somewhere in between. There are only three main modes in Infinite World: Dragon Mission, Dragon Duel, and Fighter's Road. Dragon Mission is the game's story mode, taking you through the Z and Dragon Ball GT sagas in a condensing of hundreds of DBZ episodes. This amalgam covers all of the major battles including, those versus Vegeta, Frieza, Cell, Buu, and more.

You guide Goku along an overwold map in order to trigger battles and minigames. You’re also free to replay earlier battles as an easy way to build up your bank account. Extra Zeni (money) can be used to purchase upgrades for you character in the Warrior’s Room shop. Short animated cutscenes from the anime play before and after every boss confrontation and give you an indication of what's going on in the story, but they won't make a great deal of sense if you've never watched the show. The bosses get increasingly difficult as you progress through the story mode, but for the most part they play similarly, and your strategy for taking down two different bosses like Vegeta or Frieza won't differ very much.

A smattering of minigames allow you to experience cherished scenes from the anime such as guiding Goku along Snake Way, capturing Bubbles the monkey, and other memorable moments that don't involve outright combat. Unfortunately, these side minigames are poorly designed and overly simplistic. The mission on Snake Way, for instance, has you running along the winding path moving from checkpoint to checkpoint. Another minigame has you training Goku in your space capsule by hitting a series of button combinations. It may be nice fan service, but these minigames really only serve to bring the combat to a grinding halt without being entertaining enough to justify the interruption.

Dragon Duel is the two-player versus mode in Infinite World. You can fight a friend or computer opponent with any of the game's more than 40 warriors. You have the option of playing as any of the fighters, either without their more powerful skills and attacks or with customized power-ups you can purchase from the Warrior's Room shop. Fighter's Road is a secret mode you can unlock after playing Dragon Mission, pitting you against more than 100 opponents across four maps. It's similar to Dragon Mission mode in that you guide a character from fight to fight on an overworld map, but it also provides you with an opportunity to unlock new warriors and earn more Zeni.

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GTA IV_Part 2

New abilities in Niko's arsenal include scaling fences and walls anywhere he can get a foothold, shimmying along ledges, and, most importantly, taking cover behind objects. The ability to stick close to walls, parked cars, and the like at the touch of a button makes GTAIV's gunplay a huge improvement over that in previous games, and, in tandem with the new targeting system, it also makes it a lot easier. Enemies are rarely smart enough to get to you while you're in cover, and given that you can lock your targeting reticle on to them even when they're hidden, all you have to do is wait for them to poke their heads out and then pick them off with a minimum of effort. Locking on to enemies targets their torso by default, but you can use the right analog stick to fine-tune your aim and kill them more quickly with a headshot or two. Playing without using the lock-on feature is viable if you're using a mouse and keyboard, but makes things more difficult on the Xbox 360 controller. You'll need to master the technique at some point, though, so that you can shoot blindly at enemies from positions of cover when you dare not poke your own head out to line up the shot.

Given the amount of trouble that you get into as you play through the story mode, it's inevitable that the police are going to get involved from time to time, even when their presence isn't a scripted feature of your mission. Liberty City's boys in blue are quick to respond when you get flagged with a wanted level of between one and six stars, but they're not nearly as tough to deal with as their counterparts in previous GTA games. They don't drive as quickly when pursuing you, they rarely bother to set up roadblocks, and you'll need to blow up practically an entire city block before the FIB (that's not a typo) show up. Furthermore, you're given an unfair advantage in the form of your GPS system; when you're not using it to plot a valid route to any waypoint of your choosing, it doubles as a kind of police scanner. Any time you have a brush with the law, the GPS shows you the exact locations of patrol cars and cops on foot in your area, and highlights the circular area (centered on your last-known whereabouts) where they're concentrating their search. To escape, all you need to do is move outside the circle and then avoid being seen for 10 seconds or so, which is often best achieved by finding a safe spot and just sitting there. It's not a bad system in theory, but in practice it makes dodging the law a little too easy, especially when your wanted level is low and the search area is small.

When you're not running missions for criminals, taking part in street races, stealing cars to order, or randomly causing trouble, you'll find that there are plenty of opportunities to unwind in Liberty City. Some of these optional activities offer tangible rewards that can prove useful in missions later on, whereas others are just a fun way to kill time and take in more of GTAIV's superb humor. For example, you can watch television, listen to numerous radio stations, check out some genuinely funny shows (including some big-name acts) at cabaret and comedy clubs, and use a computer to surf the in-game Internet.

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GTA IV_Part 1

Stepping off a boat in the shoes of illegal immigrant Niko Bellic as he arrives in Liberty City at the start of Grand Theft Auto IV, you can tell immediately that Rockstar North's latest offering is something quite special. Yes, this is another GTA game in which you'll likely spend the bulk of your time stealing cars and gunning down cops and criminals, but it's also much more than that. GTAIV is a game with a compelling and nonlinear storyline, a great protagonist who you can't help but like, and a plethora of online multiplayer features in addition to its lengthy story mode. The PC version adds a customizable radio station and a video editor to the package, and also ups the multiplayer count from 16 to 32 players. It's not all good news, though; the game suffers from some noticeable performance issues even on rigs that far exceed the unreasonably high recommended system specifications, and you need to be signed in to Windows Live to save your progress in the single-player game. This should have been the best GTA game yet, but it's inferior to its console counterparts.

One of the many things that set GTAIV apart from its predecessors is Liberty City, which is more convincing as a living, breathing urban environment than anything you've seen in a game before, and which bears little resemblance to its namesake in 2001's GTAIII. Liberty's diverse population believably attempts to go about its daily business, seemingly unaware that several criminal factions are at war in the city. Niko has no such luck. He's compelled to start working for one of the factions shortly after arriving, when he learns that his cousin Roman has some potentially fatal gambling debts. Niko's military experience makes him a useful freelancer for employers in the business of killing, and though his reluctance to carry out their orders is often apparent, he does whatever is asked of him in the hope that completing missions for other people will ultimately give him the means to complete his own.

But Niko doesn't have to do everything that's asked of him. On several occasions as you play through his story, you'll be presented with decisions that afford you the option of doing what you think is right rather than blindly following instructions. You don't necessarily have to kill a target if he or she promises to disappear, but you have to weigh the risk of your employer finding out against the possibility that the person whose life you spare might prove useful later in the game, or even have work for you in the form of bonus missions. To say anything more specific on this subject would be to risk spoiling one of GTAIV's most interesting new features, but suffice it to say that every decision you make has consequences, and you'll likely want to play through the game at least twice to see how the alternatives unfold.

Grand Theft Auto IV's story mode can be beaten in less than 30 hours, and there are so many optional activities and side missions to take part in along the way that you can comfortably double that number if you're in no hurry. The majority of the story missions task you with making deliveries and/or killing people, and play out in much the same way as those in previous games. With that said, most of the missions are a lot easier this time around, partly because Niko is a more agile and efficient killer than any of his predecessors, and partly because the LCPD seemingly has better things to do than hunt down an illegal immigrant who's gunning down undesirables all over the city. Some of the more imaginative missions sprinkled throughout the story include a kidnapping, a bank heist, and a job interview. The cinematic cutscenes associated with story missions are superbly presented and are the sequences in which the game's characters really shine. Without exception, the characters you encounter benefit from great animation, great voice work, and superbly expressive faces. They're not always so impressive when they join you on a mission and refuse to do what they're supposed to (for example, not following you on an escort mission, or failing to negotiate a doorway). Nevertheless, these problems are few and far between, and they're made less painful by the new "replay mission" option that you're presented with whenever you fail.

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Star Wars_Part 2

The star of the visual parade is the robust physics engine that powers your most impressive moves. Using Force grip, you can grab and fling any number of objects, including your enemies; with Force push, you can shove items and foes out of your path. These skills and their variants deliver the game's best moments. Whether you're flinging Felucians into each other or offing swarms of rebels with a burst of energy, there are a number of "did you see that?" moments that will have you grabbing your friends to show them your saber-slinging prowess. Nevertheless, it's disappointing that these moves can't be strung together more easily. The controls can be unresponsive and sometimes lack the fluidity of the other versions. At times, you might be mashing on the square button and wondering why you aren't swinging your saber, or tapping X but not making the corresponding jump. Additionally, it's odd that the triangle button does double duty, activating both Force push (if you tap it) and Force grip (if you hold it). The other versions use separate buttons to perform these powers, which is a more logical choice and feels more intuitive.

Although the environments aren't totally cluttered with useful objects, this actually works to the game's advantage, considering that the targeting problems prevalent in the other console versions are diminished as a result. There are still some moments when you'll grab a different object than you intended, but given that there are fewer objects to grab, these moments will provide only the occasional frustration. The annoying camera of the Wii version has been leashed and tamed a bit on the PlayStation 2 thanks to the right analog stick, which gives you the full camera control that you would expect. However, many of the levels are claustrophobic, which makes it difficult to move the camera into helpful positions, especially when you are fending off multiple enemies.
Nevertheless, the game moves along at a relatively quick pace, so between droid encounters and boss battles, you'll always be in the thick of the action. You won't find much challenge here; there are plenty of health drops scattered around, including respawning ones during boss battles. Should you die, you'll restart at the most recent checkpoint with all of the damage you've already done to your enemies still intact. This is probably for the best because it keeps the pace moving. Some variety comes by way of Force Unleashed's God of War-style quick-time events, which result in some terrific, flashy-looking moves, whether you're smashing on an opposing Jedi or defeating a rancor in a series of thrilling acrobatics. And it's a welcome sort of variety, given that you'll be visiting the same exact levels several times over.

Unlockable costumes and other extras won't give you much reason to return, but some extra levels lengthen the playtime over the mostly similar Wii version. So if you're in the mood to slash up Jawas, this is your chance, though The Force Unleashed may not be as raucously entertaining as you may have expected. Nevertheless, if you've got six or seven hours to kill, this is a fair way to spend them, particularly if you're a Star Wars devotee looking to fill in the gaps between Episodes III and IV.

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Star Wars_Part 1

You hear the big chord and the brass fanfare, and you know what's coming. It's easy to get excited when you hear the rousing Star Wars theme, though the franchise has hardly been known for exceeding expectations in recent years. If you're interested in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed for its story and theme, you won't be disappointed: It supplies a weighty plot with a few stunning surprises. If you're more interested in the action, you'll find that the game is a mixture of fun and frustration that you'll get some enjoyment from, but ultimately fails to live up to its potential.

You're cast as Galen Marek, aka Starkiller, Darth Vader's secret apprentice. The Clone Wars have ended, and Vader orders you to hunt and destroy the last of the remaining Jedi. Exploring the universe from this dark perspective is remarkably compelling. The story is brief (expect to finish the campaign in about seven hours), but it contains multiple twists, features some friendly and not-so-friendly faces, and is both explosive and remarkably intimate. You'll interact with Vader, of course, but Starkiller spends most of his time with an android called PROXY and his female pilot, Juno Eclipse. Sharing the details of the trio's adventures would spoil too much, so suffice it to say that you'll grow remarkably fond of Starkiller and his companions, and their moral conflicts carry a lot of weight.

Unfortunately, the game's limited visual capabilities somewhat soften the story's dramatic impact. The cutscenes are rendered within the game engine, and are undercut by stiff animations and abrupt, jarring transitions in and out of gameplay, as well as some odd-looking character models and occasional glitches, such as blinking geometry. Audio also takes a hit, which is odd, considering that much of the voice-over work is lifted directly from the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 version of the game. Poor compression is the culprit here, and it makes the dialogue sound as if you're listening to it on an old record player.

That's not to say that Force Unleashed looks and sounds bad, considering the aging hardware pumping these elements out. The moderately sized environments are fairly detailed, and the saber action and powerful-looking Force abilities produce flurries of particles and other special effects. However, there are some brief moments of slowdown not seen in the Wii version, which uses the same graphics engine (and looks essentially the same). John Williams' music and some original tracks, as well as the familiar swooshes of sabers, sound like you'd expect, and they only occasionally suffer from the poor compression to which the voice-over was subjected.

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The Lord of the Rings_Part 2

Working with other players is a great way to shore up your defenses, and The Lord of the Rings: Conquest features a cooperative campaign mode for two players, both locally and online. However, when you're going it alone, you'll find that not only is friendly AI unhelpful, but the enemy AI also sees you as public enemy number one. You'll have to destroy the lion's share of the enemy forces and be vigilant for attacks that can kill you instantly (such as fire arrows, backstabs, and anything a troll or ent does). You have a limited number of lives, and with so many ways to die, they can go quickly. Restarting the level is mildly tedious, but it can be a blessing in disguise when a mismatch between friendly and enemy spawn rates has you facing an insurmountable tide of foes.

It can be frustrating to be a grunt, so it's fortunate that The Lord of the Rings: Conquest offers many ways to make your battlefield presence more formidable. The simplest of these involve mounted weapons such as catapults and ballistas: powerful yet destructible machines of war that can be a blast while they last. You can also mount horses or wargs and ride through enemy ranks, sword a-swinging. Taking control of an ent or a troll lets you grab, smash, and throw enemies to your heart's content, and rampaging around on a massive, lumbering oliphaunt is unwieldy fun. Occasionally throughout the campaign you will also get the chance to play as heroes, such as Gandalf, Aragorn, Sauron, and the balrog. These units are powerful versions of the normal classes with their own unique special attacks that let you wreak all sorts of havoc. There is a pleasing variety of heroes featured throughout the campaigns, enough that there is an entire online mode dedicated to hero play.

Hero Deathmatch is just one of the 16-player online modes available in Conquest. There is also normal Team Deathmatch, as well as Lord of the Rings versions of Capture the Flag and Territories. Everyone chooses a soldier class to begin with, but the many maps feature the aforementioned machines and mounts to spice things up. When a team reaches a certain percentage of points needed for victory, the top-scoring player will be offered the opportunity to spawn as a hero. It can be tough to break a team's momentum at that point, but success really depends on the players' willingness to work together. Playing against human opponents is both more exciting and more frustrating. It's more satisfying to work with human teammates to kill characters with human minds behind them, but those same human minds are more capable of getting the best of you with aggravating combat techniques. This makes online battles legitimately challenging, so you'll want to polish your skills in the campaigns first.

War is messy, and The Lord of the Rings: Conquest isn't a clean gaming experience. Combat can be as exasperating as it is exhilarating, and playing solo can be a trying endeavor. Nevertheless, these pitfalls are somewhat compensated for by two epic campaigns that draw you into a rich world in new and exciting ways. Fans of this world will get the most out of The Lord of the Rings: Conquest, but gamers who are looking to battle in an epic setting and willing to weather some frustrating elements will find plenty of excitement on this journey through Middle-earth.

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The Lord of the Rings_Part 1

The Lord of the Rings universe is full of memorable battles. No matter whether they are staged in a cramped burial chamber or on a vast, open plain, each clash of arms teeters between exultant triumph and agonizing defeat. In The Lord of the Rings: Conquest, you'll experience your fair share of both. There are abundant thrills in both the good and evil campaigns, from attacking oliphaunts with catapults on the Pelennor Fields to burning the ringed ramparts of Minas Tirith. However, the frantic combat can often devolve into a button-mashing frenzy as you try to avoid the many varieties of death (some unpleasantly cheap) that await you on the battlefield. These frustrations may prove to be too high a cost of entry for many, but if you're willing to brave the pitfalls (or are a big Lord of the Rings fan), then Conquest has many hours of satisfying and immersive action for you to enjoy.

The best hours you'll spend in Conquest will be in the campaigns. The War of the Ring campaign puts you on the ground in the most memorable battles from the books, taking a few detours from canon along the way. The well-crafted, immersive environments mirror those of the movies, from the filthy industrial pits of Isengard to the crumbling walls of Osgiliath, and the score draws on themes from the movies to make battles feel more dramatic. As fun as the War of the Ring campaign is, there's an exciting novelty to playing as the forces of Mordor in the Rise of Sauron campaign. In this alternate storyline, the ring bearer fails in his mission and the once-ebbing tide of evil flows forth across Middle-earth, scouring all in its path. Cutscenes between levels use footage from the movies to craft a believable narrative around your dark exploits, and it's morbidly thrilling to destroy beloved locations and heroes. The last level in particular is so delightfully sinister that you'll likely find yourself cackling with malicious glee.

During most of the battles, you'll be fighting as one of the rank-and-file soldier classes. The warrior, the archer, the mage, and the scout all have their own unique strengths, weaknesses, and special attacks. From the mage's firewall to the warrior's whirlwind sweep, each class can perform a number of pleasingly powerful special attacks by drawing on energy gained from fighting and surviving. As deadly as each class can be, they are also vulnerable. An archer can easily mow down a warrior from a distance, but if the warrior manages to close the gap, there isn't much that the archer can do to survive. Close combat is brutal and chaotic, and once you get knocked down, it can be very hard to get up. Because fights favor the soldier who lands the first strike, they often become frantic button mash-offs. This can be tense and exciting, but it also makes defeat bitterer than it ought to be.

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HAWX Updated_Part 2

This first mission gave us the goal of defending the heart of Washington from PMC cargo planes dropping ground forces. It required us to divide our attention between enemies in the sky and those below. With such a huge altitude difference, this is where co-op strategy really comes into play, given that you'll probably want to divide your team into antiair and antiground forces. Taking out enemies in the air is definitely trickier because they can dodge and juke your missiles even when locked-on. Ground forces are usually easier, in that you're required to make a quick pass over the earth below, and your only real challenge is making sure that you don't get so low that you smash into a building.

The next stage in this mission took us from defending a bunch of politicians on the ground to one very important politician in the air, given that we had to escort Air Force One and keep it safe from a flurry of Russian MiG-23 jets. In this scenario, a good co-op strategy would be to let a pair of pilots play defense and the other two offense. That is to say, some players remain close to the president's plane and the others go take on the enemies before they get within firing range. Although our group was a little more scattered and freewheeling, we still managed to keep the president safe and sound.

The next mission brought us to the Midwest, above the skies of downtown Chicago. In this scenario, PMCs have installed a massive radar jammer in the city. Your role is to defend an AWAC used to detect enemy units as it flies over the city. The trick here is that you have to stay within a relatively small radius surrounding the AWAC because getting too far away will wreak havoc on your in-flight instruments, turning your heads-up display into a static-filled mess. If you're successful here, you can move on to the next stage of the mission, which involves defending ground troops on the streets below. As you'd imagine, this gets awfully difficult when it involves buzzing in close to the towering skyscrapers that make up Chicago's skyline.

Thus concluded our time with this pair of America-focused missions from HAWX. Other chapters in the campaign will bring you to places such as the Middle East, South America, and the Caribbean, so there should be a lot for globetrotters to enjoy. No release date has been announced, but you can expect to see more on HAWX in the coming weeks and months.

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HAWX Updated_Part 1

Just last week, we brought you our first hands-on look at the co-op feature found in Ubisoft's upcoming air-combat game HAWX. Based on a gameplay session at a London press event, we told you about the basics of piloting a jet fighter in a team of four and how the game ties into the greater Tom Clancy universe. Recently, though, Ubisoft held an event in San Francisco to give American press a chance to experience a few brand-new co-op missions: Washington DC and Chicago.

Before jumping into co-op, we acclimated ourselves to the game's controls by taking a sneak peek at the public demo, due to be released in February. This mission takes place in the skies above Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and offers a tutorial on the game's accessible control scheme. You're guided through the basics of moving through the sky and firing your weapons, plus a few advanced techniques such as drifting (which is essentially a way of performing a midair U-turn). It's all pretty simple stuff, at least on the default difficulty. However, you have the option to move to advanced difficulty, which makes piloting your jet substantially more challenging because it removes the various assists that keep your plane on the right track.

Having conquered the air drones terrorizing the skies of Brazil, we moved on to the first America-based mission in the game, which was Washington DC. Prior to the mission, we had the option to choose our aircraft, a process in which you need to consider the requirements of the upcoming mission against the attributes of various jets. Things such as air-to-air versus air-to-ground capabilities are key, but each plane also has attributes for speed, handling, and armor. We settled on the F-22 Raptor, a great balance of each.

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The Godfather II Updated_Part 2

Of course, you're not the only one managing the operations of a family filled with thugs and criminals; there are plenty of rival organizations out there looking to cause you trouble. Early in the game, your primary source of conflict is the Rosato family, the crew that operates the bulk of rackets in the modest-sized chunk of New York City that makes up the game's first act. You begin by taking over their businesses, but as the story progresses and the possibility of a truce becomes less and less likely, it's revealed that you need to do more than cripple their income; you need to take them out entirely.

To do this, you'll need to stage contract hits on the various family members. But it's not enough to kill them however you see fit; you need to know the right kill condition to send the appropriate message. This requires you to do a favor for people of interest, and if you fulfill your obligation (usually an act of violence on an enemy of theirs), you'll learn the kill condition. Some rivals need to be thrown from a building, some choked, and others run over with a car, to name a few.

If that all sounds a little violent for your tastes, it's only the beginning. The Godfather II is an intensely violent experience that routinely surprised us with the level of potential for sadistic combat. At its core, the game is a straightforward third-person action game with a few guns and melee weapons to go along with a lock-on targeting and cover system. But when you wear down your enemies' health, you can execute them in some truly horrific ways. The most gruesome is probably the baseball-bat execution, followed closely by the Tommy gun--both of which involve shoving these weapons into someone's mouth and your inevitable wince in response.

Later in the game you'll move your operations to Florida, and eventually Cuba. The core mechanics of the game remain the same, but the scenery changes from Brooklyn townhouses to pastel-colored art deco buildings and Spanish architecture. The number of rival families you need to deal with also grows as the story expands into a web of shady alliances, corrupt government officials, backstabbing friends, and so on. Although you don't have much control of the story proper, you at least feel pretty invested in all of this crime and corruption due to your ability to strike deals with a number of government officials and keep favors from them until you find the right time to call them in. We'd like to give you an idea of how the story plays out, but with so many turns and twists, almost anything would be a spoiler.

At the heart of all of this is something called the Don's View. This is a screen that lays out the entire city in a fully movable 3D map, detailing all of the businesses, people of interest, and missions available to you. You can manage the number of guards stationed at your rackets, call in strikes on rival businesses, send your made men to defend a racket that's come under attack, and keep tabs of how close you are to controlling an entire crime ring. You can also examine the makeup of rival family trees, examining them before calling in a contract hit. Giving you a lot of ability to stretch your strategic muscles definitely seems to have been a big goal for the developer.

Altogether, The Godfather II should offer a few interesting twists on the open-world action genre that has become so common these days. You can expect to see our final word on it when the game is released on February 24.

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