This is a tough neighborhood; you could use some protection.
Goldeneye 007. Spider-Man 2. The Chronicles of Riddick. The Godfather. Yes, EA's adaptation of the classic mobster film belongs in the pantheon of movie-based video games that are actually good. No… great. The Godfather is an open-world crime game with an involving story and tons of gratuitous violence. So yes, it's a Grand Theft Auto clone, but it executes the formula as smoothly as any imitator I've played, and the production values actually give GTA a run for its money.
One of the best things about The Godfather is how it integrates your no-name character into nearly every major event of the film without feeling inauthentic. A syndicate as large and complex as the Corleone Family has numerous thugs to do its bidding, so it doesn't feel like a stretch that your playable avatar could be involved in all of these robberies and assassinations. Only the "Baptism by Fire" mission at the end really pushes the limits of plausibility, but the chance to take out all four rival bosses almost single-handedly is so cool that it's worth the stretch. Naturally, you move up in the organization as you pull off increasingly dangerous missions for the Family, and eventually you will report directly to Vito and then Michael as one of their most trusted underlings. Although both of the Godfathers are lacking the original actors for their voicework (Brando recorded some lines which were later reproduced by a sound-alike), Sonny Corleone and Tom Hagen do benefit from the talents of James Caan and Robert Duvall (respectively), and for once, using celebrity voices works wonders. Famous name or not, all of the characters sound great and say exactly what you would expect them to, based on the movie. The only exception is Michael Corleone, who looks and sounds different because Al Pacino's likeness could not be used. Portions of the original script are used wherever possible, but the new writing blends in seamlessly.
The only flaw I can expose in the game's storytelling is that some of the more dramatic moments are glazed over with only passing references by the main characters, so if you have not seen the movie in a while, it can sometimes be hard to connect the plotlines and keep the character names straight. EA probably realized this would be a problem, because they packed in a couple dozen movie clips (only mildly compressed) that more or less fill in the gaps as you progress. The reason I'm raving so much about the story and production is that they really do help to pull you into the game and make you care about the next mission, and they pull it off without tarnishing the classic film in any way. Not even the latest Pixar or Dreamworks movie-to-game adaptations manage to do that, and they don't have to deal with the winding narrative or morally ambiguous subject matter or mouth-foaming admirers of Coppola's The Godfather.
The actual gameplay should be extremely familiar to anyone who has played the recent GTA games; there are some differences, but they're pretty minor. Missions are just as long or longer than those in San Andreas, but there are frequent checkpoints so you can fail without having to replay the whole thing. The so-called Blackhand Edition for Wii has some additional hand-to-hand fighting moves that can be useful in the early missions (before you have found decent weapons) and are still used for interrogation purposes later on. The gesturing is not as complex as Wii Sports Boxing, and that's probably for the best. You control each fist independently and can perform jabs, hooks, or uppercuts. If you grab someone with Z and B, you can use both controllers together to throw him around the room or slam him into nearby walls and objects. It's not a perfect system, but the implementation is effective enough, the idea is cool, and most of the Blackhand feature is purely optional for those of us who prefer to fill our enemies with lead rather than knuckles.
It should be no surprise that the shooting elements also benefit from Wii controls. The game has a very good lock-on feature with upgradeable accuracy, or you can press the plus button to enter free aim (pointing) control at any time. The remote-nunchuk combo lets you move around and aim freely at the same time, which can be useful in a crowded area where the simple lock-on may be too slow or indiscriminate. These two methods of shooting can also be combined by locking onto an enemy and then pointing at the screen for more precise control of the reticule. I found this feature to be the extremely useful in most situations, and it's stress-free because the camera is already taken care of with the lock-on.
There are still some things that GTA does much better – and GTA IV will surely add to this list. For one thing, the environments are flatter and less complex in The Godfather. There aren't many vehicles to choose from, and most of the ones you do find are pretty slow. Although you'll appreciate the original Godfather music, it can be very sparse at times, and there's certainly no network of radio stations as we've come to expect with each new GTA.
Nevertheless, The Godfather is the only game of this type currently available for Wii, and it's great on its own merits despite the inevitable comparisons to Rockstar's series. Not only is this a deeply involved action game driven by a classic storyline, but it also brings longevity to a system sorely in need of beefy, single-player games. You can play through the main story missions in about ten hours, but it will take at least twice that to take over all five families, shut down Sollozzo's drug cartel, and earn enough respect to unlock all of the abilities and perks. If you've long finished Zelda and Super Paper Mario just didn't hit the spot, appease Mick Jagger by making your next Wii game a black one. Maybe Nintendo will soon follow with the console itself.