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Arts & Entertainment

No more idle hands to do the Don's work in 'The Godfather: Blackhand Edition'

| Friday, May 4, 2007

Most video games based on movies stink, so I was highly skeptical about "The Godfather: Blackhand Edition" for the Nintendo Wii.

Electronic Arts pulled it off, seamlessly intertwining the plot of the greatest mafia movie ever made with best attributes of the "Grand Theft Auto" series -- as well as beautifully re-creating New York City in the 1940s.

It's a match made in Hell's Kitchen, capisce?

Previous incarnations of "The Godfather" game were released last year on the PS2, Xbox and PC, but the new "Blackhand Edition" KOs them all. It has 40 more missions, an improved map, spruced-up graphics and a Hit Squad to help you do your dirty work. Even without the extras, the Wii version is tops because gamers use the Wiimote and nunchuk as virtual hands for punching, strangling and shooting.

EA spent eight months tweaking the game's Wii controls, and it shows. It's disturbingly satisfying to slam shopkeepers into walls and throw gangsters off buildings, and it's easy to target kneecaps, shoulders or foreheads.

Physically acting out the role of an up-and-coming Corleone mafioso in "Blackhand" is incredibly immersive. Your character is nearby during iconic moments, such as when hitmen shoot Don Vito Corleone -- spilled oranges included -- you take part by helping his weakling son, Fredo, frantically drive the Godfather to a hospital. Your many ancillary roles never feel disjointed.

There always seems to be another task for you, such as doing personal favors for the Don -- whose voice was recorded by actor Marlon Brando before he died. Robert Duval (as Tom Hagen) and James Caan (Sonny Corleone) also reprised their roles to voice their characters.

Their characters look good, too, as do the explosions you can cause -- which only encourages more thuggery. EA paid exquisite attention to details, even letting you customize your gangster right down to his tie pattern.

The most-violent game for the Wii takes about 40 hours to complete, but if you're a fan of "The Godfather," the stellar "Blackhand" almost seems too short.

'The Godfather: Blackhand Edition'

A-

Developer: Electronic Arts

Publisher: Electronic Arts

Platform: Wii

Genre: Action-adventure

ESRB: Mature

Retail: $49.99

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