Scarface: The World is Yours
We find the circle of life in Scarface: The World is Yours.
PS2, PC, Xbox
One aim of your erstwhile reviewer whilst writing this article was to avoid the obvious and complete the review without making a single reference to the phrase 'my little friend'. Damn it! I've done it already. Still, if I ever have to re-write this review maybe I can gloss over this fact and pretend it never happened, much like Scarface: The World is Yours the game imagines an alternate version of the already alternate reality of Scarface the movie.
And if this conundrum doesn't perplex you, bear in mind that Scarface the game is similar in nature to GTA the game, which itself undoubtedly takes inspiration from Scarface the movie which in turn was based on a similarly named 1932 movie. Confused? Let's just call it the circle of life - what goes around comes around. Which is convenient, as payback in general is the theme behind Scarface The World Is Yours, the latest release from Canadian outfit Radical Entertainment.
Throwing you straight into the action after an optional combat training session and the part-recap, part-homage FMV interlude, the game picks up at the film's final mansion scene, expertly blending from movie footage to game engine. Playing the part of Tony Montana (who commendably looks and sounds as close to his real-life protagonist as image rights probably allow) and with M16 in hand a rampage ensues as you shoot your way out of your mansion, leaving a trail of bodies, blood and foul language in your wake.
From first impressions one could be forgiven for thinking that this was a typical and derivative third-person shooter and not a GTA-em-up but things are quick to change. Whereas in movie-land, Tony was king of the castle before being left for dead, in game-world Tony escapes the mansion carnage but is left with nothing. Revenge is first and foremost on the agenda and in this instance is a dish best served violently and so it is up to you to bring down your nemesis Sosa and his associates whilst rising back up the ranks of Miami's underworld using any and all means at your disposable.
The player is this introduced to the game proper via a couple of by-the-numbers 'go to A, talk to X' missions which also serve as a useful introduction to some key characters. Whilst being free to roam around, these missions are linear and must be completed in order for the game to progress. However, not soon after you have paid off a couple of crooked vice cops and gained access to your mansion the free-form fun begins.
The gameplay revolves around reputation and balls, the latter being the bravado kind - not the testicular kind. In order to build your reputation one must complete the missions on offer. These are wide and varied and range from protecting key people to wiping out rival gangs, making drops, meeting with drug suppliers and winning races. Buying what is termed exotics also increases your reputation points and these come in several categories such as henchmen, vehicles, décor and investments. The henchmen option allows you to purchase a range of hired help from a simple driver to a pilot, to an enforcer and an assassin amongst others. Some of these are playable characters in their own right with their own sets of missions which only varies the game even further. Increasing your reputation also opens up unlockables such as femme fatales, cars and weaponry which gives you even more toys to play with and new gameplay options.
The driver also offers a useful feature whereby the player can call for a car wherever they may be on the game map. This is then promptly delivered no doubt thanks in part to Tony's often abusive yet comical tirade down the phone line. This is a much neater alternative to car-jacking which only serves to increase your heat with law enforcement. If things do happen to get too hot the police will quickly track you down and bring you down, shooting to kill if necessary. In certain situations it is possible to talk your way out of trouble and - like all in-game negotiation - this is done by carefully stopping a fill meter within a certain zone. Outside of this zone leads to negative repercussions which vary depending on the situation. When dealing with drug dealers it will often cause an all out firefight but when dealing with the bank it results in the tamer penalty of being charged higher interest rates. Simple yet effective.
Vehicles are another key component of the game and there are many on offer from cars to boats. Whilst these remain simplistic in nature when compared to fully-fledged driving games they are expertly balanced, each car retaining an individual feel and being heavyweight enough not to burst into flames when being shot at by the Diaz gang or when power-sliding around corners and slamming into lampposts.
Regarding balls, a meter exists which can be filled by skillful driving and taking down enemies. In the latter case you can lock-on to your mark and fire at will but by careful adjustments on the right-stick you can also target specific body parts which fills up your balls meter quicker. Taunting enemies also fills your meter but is a risky proposition as it leaves you open to attack for a few seconds. This leads to subtle strategy decisions as once your meter is full you can enter a blind rage, becoming impervious to bullets for a short while and targeting enemies easier whilst restoring your own health on every kill. Often a necessity.
Significantly, one thing has not been mentioned yet - the in-game audio. Typically the bugbear of many games especially in terms of dialogue and voice-acting, in Scarface it is a joyous achievement. Whilst in other titles the voice-acting is noticeable for either its abysmal nature, jaded scripts or both, not so in Scarface. The game's sound designers deserve full credit for this, as of course do the cast of actors many of whom are well-known names. In particular Tony's utterances and one-liners are superbly delivered and totally believable as is his interaction with other NPCs. With certain characters and at certain times conversations can be struck up, often to humorous effect. The song list is also commendable with the original movie soundtrack included as well as a host of other tracks. Suffice to say this is one game that uses its license to full effect, from the familiarity with the locations to the characters on offer as well as the general ambience created by things such as Tony lamenting the loss of Manny and Gina or taking part in another shoot-out at the Babylon club.
There are neat touches which show an overall attention to detail and whilst their impact is negligible to the game as a whole, they help raise it far above the norm. Details such as being able to make Tony dance when in the club, or being able to urinate on dustbins which then restores your health, or the undercover police truck parked outside your mansion a la the movie, or the execution style killings that Tony performs when your enemy is close by, or even the blood spatter on Tony which helps indicate his health level.
A good barometer of which to judge top rate titles is by compiling a list of their faults. With Scarface you know you have a grade 'A' game on your hands as the list includes the mini-map being too small, or the game taking too long to enter and return from a paused state, or the fact that very occasionally characters talk over one another making it hard to discern what is said, or that when traversing long parts of the game world use of the full game map must be made a little too often. All in all these are minor and trifling nuances.
Perhaps the biggest problem though is the fact that too often this game will be considered as just another GTA clone. Yet that is doing great disservice to this title and is far too lazy a comparison. Whilst it would be disingenuous to ignore the parallels between the two, Scarface deserves to be played and enjoyed in its own right. Let's make no mistake though, carrying an 18 certificate in the UK and an M certificate in the US, this is a game made by adults for adults. Gratuitous violence? Check. Blood? Check. Foul and abusive language? Lots of. Tony Montana would be so proud.
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Scarface: The World is Yours Video Interview
Exclusive interview/feature (normal quality)
Scarface: The World is Yours
Trailer June 2006
Scarface: The World is Yours