Publisher: Sierra Entertainment
Developer: Radical Entertainment
Release Date: October 10, 2006
Last week, I had the good fortune of attending a pre-launch press event for the open-world action game, Scarface: The World Is Yours. Hosted by Radical Entertainment at their impressive design studio in Vancouver, British Columbia, the event enabled me to spend some hands-on time with the title, mainly with the PS2 and Xbox formats and a chance to chat with the developers.
Based on the classic 1983 film, "Scarface," starring Al Pacino, Scarface: The World Is Yours allows players to assume the charismatic persona of fallen kingpin, Tony Montana, as he tries to rebuild his shattered empire and seek revenge on his enemies after surviving the dramatic mansion shootout that concluded the film. The game boasts Hollywood-level production values, including an original story by renowned script writer David McKenna ("Blow" and "American History X") and an all-star cast of characters played by original "Scarface" cast members and newcomers to the franchise. Unfortunately, Al Pacino does not play Tony Montana on this occasion, but he did lend his likeness to the character and handpicked the voiceover actor, Andre Sogliuzzo, who does a brilliant job of recreating the legendary character's voice.
In Scarface: The World Is Yours, Tony Montana has three main goals as he seeks to rebuild his empire and eliminate his enemies: make money, gain power and get women. The first goal is achieved primarily through drug dealing. Early on, this is achieved through small deals with local dealers, but as the game progresses, Tony undertakes much larger deals with major pushers both in Miami and the Caribbean Islands. Money received from drug deals needs to be laundered at a local bank at a negotiable rate. If it isn't put into a bank and Tony's killed, then all of the dirty money is lost.
Negotiation in the game, whether it's to set a bank rate or talk your way out of trouble, is managed by a technique often found in games of a very different nature where you need to stop the power meter on a bar as close to one end as possible. Consequently Tony's negotiation skills are based on how well your hand-eye coordination works rather than any other real life skills. With money, Tony can buy "legitimate" businesses as fronts for his nefarious drug dealing operation and also spend it on what's called Exotics – things like fast cars, henchmen or outrageous furnishings to pimp out his mansion. These items become unlocked as you rebuild Tony's power or Reputation, which is a measure of everything Tony does, from good drug deals to completing missions.
Another element of Tony's power is measured in "Balls." As you play the game, the extent of Tony's audacity increases with every skilled shot, crazy driving maneuver and every time he taunts a victim after killing him. When the "Balls Meter" is full, you can convert this into "Blind Rage," which allows Tony to overcome insurmountable odds or recover health in perilous situations.
As Tony's Balls and Reputation grow, he will encounter exotic women, or "Femme Fatales," who can be convinced to live the life of a trophy wife in the Montana mansion. These women aren't just collectables, as they have an impact on gameplay by adding to Tony's Reputation as well as making available other upgrades.
In the game, the open world of Miami is divided into four "Turfs," or areas, that Tony needs to control in order to rebuild his empire. Each Turf has a number of storefronts that can be purchased by completing a mission given by their original owners, such as retrieving stolen papers or eliminating a local gang. These storefronts become a main source of income and need to be protected from rival gangs, which can be done by purchasing various security upgrades such as surveillance cameras and hired thugs. When all four Turfs have been conquered, Miami belongs to Tony Montana.
Scarface: The World Is Yours is a game as large and unpredictable as the charismatic Tony Montana. It has taken over 100 people at Radical Entertainment three years to build 40-plus hours of engaging and addictive gameplay. Every significant aspect of the film, including its shadowy characters, infamous locals such as the Babylon Club and the Sun Ray Hotel, amazing soundtrack and chilling story of ruthless gangsters competing for control of Miami's drug trade are incorporated in the game. Above all, it captures the essence of the anti-hero, Tony Montana, even down to his moral code. As vicious as Tony was, he never killed anyone who didn't have it coming. In the film, he lost his empire because he refused to blow up innocent women and children. This moral code extends to the game, as innocent civilians can't be targeted by Tony.
Indeed, the ethical dilemma of creating a game based on building a drug empire through violence while also collecting females as trophies wasn't lost on the developers. They told me that this was a key, and for some a contentious issue, early on in the development process. Nevertheless, in wanting to keep the game true to the movie character and basic story, they didn't shy away from these key concepts. The team did point out, however, that the game targets a mature audience that has already seen the movie. While the ESRB rating of Mature 17+ will ensure it's sold to mature gamers, Scarface: The World Is Yours is accessible to those who haven't watched the film. The storyline is revisited at the beginning of the game during the opening credit sequence, and the game's concepts are easily understood. Overall, I've been surprise by how enjoyable this title has been to play and would recommend anyone who is a Scarface fan or enjoys the open-world action genre to check it out.
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