Genre: Grand Theft Pacino
Publisher: Vivendi-Universal Games
Developer: Radical Entertainment
Release Date: Fall 2006
The Godfather might have been a fun sandbox game in its own right, but let's face it: it completely failed as a licensed title. From the total lack of subtlety to ludicrous elements like the horse-head stealth mission, the game sometimes felt like a profoundly extended exercise in missing the point of the original movie. I bring this up because the upcoming Scarface: The World is Yours is in some ways a remarkably similar title. Not only is it a GTA-style sandbox game that prominently uses a classic film license to distinguish itself, but it also draws on a film from basically the same sort of genre as The Godfather.
The big difference between the two games, aside from some of the special gameplay elements, is that Scarface: The World is Yours is less likely to make a fan of the films either laugh or want to throw things. Radical Entertainment has pulled out all the stops to try and create a game that feels wholly authentic to the Scarface films and tone. Much like the movie that inspired it, Scarface: The World is Yours is an almost nonstop carnival of reprehensible behavior and shocking violence, punctuated only by the strict moral code of the title character. It is somehow both ridiculous and shocking at the same time and seems ready to make for some very compelling gameplay.
What is compelling about Scarface isn't anything really different or original. At heart, it's GTA again, right down to adhering strictly to an early 1980s aesthetic that is conveniently part of the original license. There are some gameplay features that expand Scarface's appeal from the basic sandbox type, most notably the way the game ramps up the scale of title character Tony Montana's criminal empire. You begin with little more than a few grams of cocaine borrowed from a friend, and through your own hard work, can turn that into the cornerstone of an illegal drug-dealing empire, complete with warehouses and enormous webs of corrupt politicians and lawyers. Early in the game, you guide Tony directly through missions and the ensuing firefights, but later on, Tony can summon henchmen in cars to assist him, and toward the end, you'll play the down and dirty street-level missions with wholly different characters. Boss Tony has grown far too big and powerful to be bothered with the missions he finished so long ago. In the course of these missions, you'll be able to work on customizing the look of Tony and his mansion with your hard-earned cash, and drive around all manner of cars, boats and other vehicles.
Now, while all of this stuff is the makings of decently neat gameplay, what is compelling about Scarface is the sheer intensity of it all. Tony Montana is rightfully remembered as one of the most frighteningly intense characters of American cinema, and the game does not fail to do him justice. Playing as Tony is like controlling a force of nature, especially in the early parts of the game that are based directly on the film's ending. He can take tons of enemy fire and mow down countless enemy mooks with a gun in hand. Everything you do builds up your "Balls Meter," with particularly ballsy moves like spouting off one-liners as you shoot down enemies. When your metaphorical balls are full, you can shoot your theoretical wad to enter an invincible killing rage, where Tony just demolishes everything his path. All of Tony's kills are accompanied by frightfully dramatic bursts of blood and shattering bone, especially when you pick off guys at close range or with headshots, and both Tony and his enemies will fling totally uncensored profanity at each other as they go. There are more uses of the f-bomb in this game per minute than I have seen in all other video games ever combined. Perhaps more uses per second.
This incredible intensity is paired with a loving attention to the finer details of the original film. The game opens with a retelling of the movie's ending that allows you to change one simple but crucial detail. In the game, you can opt to have Tony turn around during his famous death scene, and blow away his would-be killer. Of course, Tony's still lost everything he has, so he is forced to take to the streets to rebuild his criminal empire from scratch. This means buying and selling lots of drugs without getting caught or blown away by rival gangs. You start off with Tony as a street-level dealer, and then move on to getting a front for your operation. From there, you can move on to a warehouse, and then multiple warehouses, until eventually Tony reclaims everything he had at the height of his power, and then some.
As Tony climbs back up the social ladder, he gets to encounter and battle it out with several characters who are only mentioned in the movie in passing. You'll finally get to find out more about figures like the Diaz Brothers and Gaspar Gomez, and in time, to topple all of the kingpins of Miami. Perhaps best of all, despite the overwhelming gore and violence in the game, Tony's moral code is reflected with perfect accuracy. Even if you try to draw your guns on women or children, you won't be able to fire on them. As Tony says, "This is sh*t I don't need in my life." It makes one wonder if this rule will somehow make Scarface sit better with opponents of video game violence than the GTA games themselves.
Being a GTA clone, Scarface is not shaping up to be a particularly pretty game. The graphics are perfectly functional, of course, and even in the pre-alpha PS2 build being shown, the in-game Tony model bore a very respectable resemblance to Pacino himself. The music for the game didn't seem finished, but it was crammed full of voiced dialogue in both the firefights and the cut scenes. While the voice for Tony Montana isn't being provided by Al Pacino himself, the actor is a remarkably sound-alike chosen from a Radical casting call of over 200 actors. Al Pacino himself picked the final candidate from the top candidates, and his selection certainly sounds accurate. Similarly, all of the game's dialogue just sounds fantastically authentic to the movie. There is constant, brutal cursing of the sort that crammed 1980s violent action films, and absolutely no attempt is made to dilute it. This is a gritty adult game that refuses to pull its punches. There are some gameplay factors designed to help casual gamers with poorer skills get farther in the title than they might otherwise, but also plenty of chances for hardcore gamers to let their reflexes and smarts shine. For instance, if you do well enough in the game's first level, you can simply skip the tutorial.
Whether or not the world really needs another name-brand GTA title is up for debate, but Scarface's authenticity and raw intensity aren't. This game grabs you by the collar and demands that you play it, while perhaps suggesting that you'll feel very sorry if you don't. Violently sorry. Fortunately for you, it's hitting the PC, both Xboxes, and PS2 when it finally comes out this fall. Any sort of fan of the original film or the hard-boiled crime stories in general will love it.
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