Platforms: PlayStation 2, Xbox, PC.
Publisher: EA Games; Rating: M.
It seems as if EA Games has been advertising its game based on "The Godfather" movie and novel for ages now -- but it's talk about a game that was well worth the wait.
Not since the arrival of Nintendo's "Metroid" re-imagining has an action/adventure title brought so much -- from a well-structured plot to gameplay that sucks you in and makes you never want to put down your controller.
You play this open-ended story as an entirely new character -- no one from the novel or movie -- but the character's story is seamlessly woven into the plot, and the story never loses its pacing.
The overall goal is, of course, to become Don of New York. To do this, you go on an all-out quest to take over business, buy off police and siphon off rackets and warehouses to squeeze out the other mob families and eventually run it all.
"The Godfather" features the closest thing you will find to "Grand Theft Auto"-style gameplay; you spend lots of time either shaking down business owners and fulfilling side missions given to you by either Sonny Corleone or other members of the family.
You're given a wide variety of weapons to use, and the game features a good challenge that will make even experienced gamers devise strategy when making moves on rival families.
The presentation is admirable on every front -- from the faithful renderings of all the major characters and the sheer scope of the New York City landscape to the superb voice acting (although having Luca Brasi talk so much was weird). You really find yourself quickly immersed in the game's movielike quality.
You always wonder what epic movies could look like if given the proper treatment in a video game format. Most of the time what you see are translations such as "The Matrix" or other sci-fi fare, but in this case you will quickly be awed by the grandeur of "The Godfather" video game, and that's a tribute to the source material. At the risk of sounding trite, this game is truly an offer all gamers cannot refuse.
-- Chris Campbell, Scripps Howard
'MLB 06: THE SHOW'
Platforms: PlayStation 2, Sony PSP.
Genre: Sports. Publisher: SCEA.
Sure, "The Show" is merely an update of an existing sports franchise -- and this happens every year. But goodness, what an update. It's comparable to spending a lifetime watching the same episode of "Laverne and Shirley" on a 10-inch black-and-white TV, then seeing the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy on a 70-inch HDTV.
"The Show" has a multitude of updates and improvements, and the level of detail that went into this game is reflected everywhere, from in-game action to the various gaming modes. Some of them were sorely needed, while other ones merely give little "ahhh" moments here and there to present a baseball experience like real life.
The franchise, career and season modes are all deep, it's just a matter of what kind of managerial experience you are looking for, with the franchise mode by far the most in-depth. Heck, you can alter the menus at the ballpark if you want.
On the field, the action is as stellar as last year's, with only minor tweaks here and there. Most of this is done in player animations, from the way they field, catch and slide into bases. All of this, from getting new bats from the dugout or spontaneously arguing bad calls, makes for a realistic game from start to finish.
The graphics have not always equaled those produced in the past by EA or 2K, but they certainly don't discourage play from gamers. Plus, "The Show" is aided by probably the best vocal work ever done for a sports game; nothing in the Madden, FIFA, NBA or any previous MLB game can compare.
Everything that was done to "MLB 06: The Show "is worthy of praise, and since it will be Christmastime before the PS3 arrives, PS2 owners should not hesitate to pick up this game.
-- Chris Campbell, Scripps Howard