Do you have the balls?
Few games can boast a “Balls” meter. Yet they managed it in Scarface, the game inspired by the 1983 movies starring Al Pacino.
“Scarface” tries to ride both the old skool gangster flicks wave AND the GTA wave
Its faketitude is also one of the first problems encountered in the game: it tries too hard. From the sometimes unnecessary brawly dialogue to the highly ridiculous “Pimp My Mansion” feature, Scarface wants to be a little more than what it really is: a pale imitation of the Grand Theft Auto III series, and of course it suffers by the comparison. The game looks like the product of a bunch of guys giggling around a couple of beers.
You start off as Tony Montana right before the ending of the movie (“Say hello to my little friend!”), and survive the raid on your mansion by business partner Sosa. Yes you heard that right. You simply turn around and shoot the would-be assassin, avoiding the messy and embarrassing moment where you dive to your death in a pool of blood, overlooked ironically by your own motto – “the World is Yours” – , in one of the most iconic scenes of the history of filmmaking. Strike one.
The rest of the game plays itself pretty much like your average Grand Theft Auto clone: out on the street, you lost your empire and need to rebuild it from scratch and get revenge from your enemies. Now that the whole town has turned against you it won’t be an easy task, and in the process you’ll need to kill a lot of thugs, reconquer territory, deal drugs, perform a lot of tasks, and burn a lot of gas around a pretty realistic map of Miami.
On the side of interesting features, the “Balls” meter lets you fill a bar until you reach a flip-out point where you can enter “Blind Rage”. To fill the “Balls” meter, you can shout insults at your enemies, curse at people, start fist fights, or drive close to other cars at ludicrous speeds. Shouting “Next time bring some f* balls” to your fell enemies brings, let’s admit it, a satisfaction previously untapped in video games, with the added bonus that you can at any moment in the game start cursing at thin air in genuine Montana fashion. Another nice thing is the Henchmen feature. You can call your drivers to get a boat or a car, your arms dealer to buy weapons, and even hire assassins and enforcers to do your dirty work for you.
The general environment is also more realistic than other crime games: you can’t just randomly shoot at people and start a spree, nor can you blast away the police on your tail with a nice rocket launcher. If the police gets on your tail – and it will happen more often than you like – you do it old school: you run your butt off until they’re gone. For some this might be a disappointment, since you cannot really, in Scarface, wreak havok like in the GTA series. However, unless your mind is set on doomsday-style destruction, it doesn’t affect the game much and even adds a little of sense to it. You also can make a lot of money selling drugs – sometimes, the game actually demands that you do a little too much of that – , but you have to launder it at the bank, where the manager of course gets their cut. All of these little details – the fact that you have to negociate prices with dealers, and sometimes talk your way out of steamy situations – make the experience, otherwise pretty poor, a little more complete.
As far as sounds and graphics are concerned, the voices were enjoyable, especially the actor who was chosen to replace Al Pacino as Tony Montana – big shoes to fill, but he does a nice job of it. Some of the rest of the voice acting seems a bit contrived, but is globally good. Same with the graphics: the Tony Montana in the game totally looks like Pacino, but it’s obvious that some corners were turned a little wide, at least for the PS2 version, where the general visual feel of the game is really nothing special and can even reach disappointing lows at moments, especially on water.
When all is said and done, it’s obvious that “Scarface” tries to ride both the old skool gangster flicks wave AND the GTA wave, and do both with a half-hearted enthusiasm that screams marketing, even going to the extent of including a “Scarface – the Movie” trailer at the opening of the game – which seems ironic since they changed the ending of that very movie. If you find it pre-played and are a true fan of the genre, by all means buy it, but don’t get it at retail price: instead, go for some of the more quality titles such as the Godfather or the GTA series.
The Bad: Rewrites the iconic ending of one of cinema’s finest gangster movies; All in all a pale copy of the GTA series