RETRO – Through blood, gore, cocaine dealing and constant killing, Tony Montana, aka Scarface, became the master of the underworld but eventually lost everything. At the end of the film, Al Pacino is shot in the back with a shotgun, but he still gets away with it in the game: as “Antonio f*cking Montana”, you have the chance to reclaim your wealth and power in Radical’s excellent GTA clone.
There are very few films that I could watch any number of times, any time, and I’ve seen them a million times; I know every scene, every line, every gesture, every facial expression of every actor… I could probably list five of them off the top of my head: Blade Runner, the very first Star Wars, Dune, the French film noir Samurai and Brian De Palma’s classic gangster film, Scarface.
The Scarface is a true classic of cinematic history. It’s not just a simple mafioso blockbuster, but an incredibly spot-on chronicle of the Miami underworld in the 1980s, starring Al Pacino in what is arguably the most incredible performance of his career. It’s no coincidence that he also inspired the makers of Rockstar and that Grand Theft Auto: Vice City had plenty of Scarface references.
However, Radical Entertainment has embarked on no less an undertaking than making a game out of Scarface itself, changing the ending and saving Tony’s life by picking up where the film left off: In the palace of Scarface, as Colombian hombre pour in from all sides to put an end to the drug lord’s life…
“You need a f*cking army to kill me, bitches!”
The very first thing you see immediately on loading the game is that, in terms of theme development, Radical certainly woke up with Scarface and went to bed with Scarface. They don’t flaunt all sorts of poorly rendered animation in the main menu like the makers of Reservoir Dogs. Still, instead, we get a bloody professional film trailer right at the start of the remastered DVD, followed by a homemade montage of the film with incredibly hit effects, in which we get to see some of the more familiar scenes from Scarface. Anyone who hasn’t caught the film’s vibe yet (if there are any such people on the planet) is guaranteed to be hooked, thanks to this trailer.
Then the game itself begins… and at first, the one-time PC gamer will be a little disappointed. The film’s final frames show Tony walking up to the armoury, pulling out his brutal military machine gun, blasting the door open with his now-legendary battle roar, and then wreaking unbelievable carnage amongst the ranks of Colombian mobsters who are besieging his room and often hitting Tony. Of course, to prevent his death, I turned around and shot the assassin who shot Montana in the film, but somehow this “revenge” was a bit of a mess compared to the sitcom.
And Tony’s escape from his palace was little more than a sort of Serious Sam-style kill (we’re barely hurt at the beginning), where we get our first taste of “blind madness”, where Tony’s vision blurs, and he is healed by every shot he fires, and he is not hurt at all. (More on this later.) This first – slightly exaggerated – non-stop massacre is, thankfully, far from typical of the great game as a whole.
“I’m Tony Montana, a political refugee from Cuba, and I want my f*cking human rights! NOW!
As you’d expect, Scarface draws on elements of the Grand Theft Auto style of play. We are in Miami, 1983, and the heroin trade has to be brought back to the top with the help of a lot of blood, bribed underworld figures, police and other influential people, and of course a lot of vehicles that have been ridden – not only in terms of money but also to regain our fame, influence and… “ball”, which translates to “balls”.
The gameplay of Scarface is just as nonlinear as it was in the GTAs: you can steal cars for hours on end to drive through the streets of Miami, cruise around on luxury motorboats (no motorbikes, planes or free helicopter rides, unfortunately), or focus on heroin trafficking or related missions.
The truth is that, whether we like it or not, we have to spend a lot of time distributing white powder because to progress, we need to have enough money to do so, because conquering Miami’s underworld is not just a matter of killing off rival gangs, but also of investing in all kinds of business. Of course, this is also familiar from GTA: Vice City, but unfortunately, due to some crazy developer idea, you don’t get any revenue from these establishments during the game but have to finance everything from drug deals.
“Manolo! Get your yeyo together! Quick!”
The way the heroin trade works every time is that you talk to Felix, your most important and trusted man, who gives you a side mission, which usually involves killing rival mobsters or protecting your informants. Then when you’re done, you can negotiate with the buyer to buy the stuff for a small amount and then with the dealer to sell it to him for as low a price as possible.
Once the deal is done on both sides, you have to launder the proceeds in your bank, and only then can you legally own the sushi. Once you’ve raised enough money, you can buy one of Miami’s entertainment and nightlife establishments: the game will slowly put you in control of hotels, casinos, music stores, cinemas, but only if you’ve helped the owner sort out a tricky case: taking out rival gangs and gang leaders, busting corrupt lawyers, busted accountants, or simply saving the owner’s life.
Although this organisational game-style mission structure may seem a bit dry and monotonous, each owner is such an interesting character. The missions are so exciting and creative that you won’t get bored of the primary missions for a minute. Unfortunately, this is less true for the heroin trading part itself, which is a bit monotonous in the long run compared to the rest of the game.
“F*ck Gaspar Gomez, and f*ck the Diaz brothers!”
As well as making Scarface a well-thought-out GTA clone with lots of new features and cleverly saturated with menander elements, the makers have gone all out to make you feel fully in the role of Tony Montana. The basic story is about taking back control of Miami with Tony and getting revenge on Alejandro Sosa. Still, the Scarface movie doesn’t “weigh” too heavily on the game, as so many film adaptations tend to do.
Since almost everyone in the original film died, David McKenna, who also wrote the screenplay for American Story X, was thankfully given free rein to invent new characters. Thankfully, they are not tied to the old ones. There are some old familiar faces, but it’s the characters we’ve always wondered about but never seen: the (f*ck the f*cking) Gaspar Gomez and the Diaz brothers (who were referred to in one scene by Lopez, Tony’s boss), and of course Sosa, who keeps phoning Tony.
But the real star is Tony Montana himself, and his character is incredibly well portrayed in the game. Although it is well known that Al Pacino himself did not do the voice work, he found an actor to replace himself who managed to recreate the ‘Al Pacino’ voice delivery and intonation in a shocking, almost eerie way. André Sogliuzzo’s Cuban accent is exactly like Pacino’s, and he swears as constantly as the Italian actor.
Seriously, there is simply no one who can tell the difference between Al Pacino and his counterpart in the game, even in a single moment of the incredible amount of dialogue. At times, I even thought that it was Pacino, but he didn’t want to add his name… Besides the voice, the producers have also done a great job with the actor’s looks and movements. Not only his face and body were perfectly modelled, but also his gestures, his shrug, his head and his gaze.
Even though the real Marlon Brando was the voice actor, the Godfather in Electronic Arts could hide behind Radical Montana. If you’re going to be a goose, be a fat one: besides Sogliuzzo/Pacino, the other voice actors did a professional job, which was not difficult, as they were voiced by world stars such as Michael York (Jerry the lawyer), James Woods, Robert Davi, Ice-T and Steven Bauer, who is not Manolo, as Tony shot him in the film.
“I’ve only got one thing on my mind, man! My balls!”
Of course, a great game structure and an unbeatable atmosphere wouldn’t be enough for salvation, but fortunately, Radical hasn’t neglected to work on the action elements. I think it will stay with every Scarface fan forever is the final scene, when Tony, fuming from heroin, executes an army of Colombians until he is finally shot in the back by an assassin.
He seems invulnerable, unharmed by bullets for a long time, and the radicals have woven this into the game with their ‘balls’ system. The more bad guys you kill with Tony, the more “full of balls” you get, and when you’ve had your fill, Tony’s brain goes haywire, and seeing everyone through a sort of purple haze, he not only becomes invulnerable, but all his shots are almost instantly lethal, and he even heals.
This way, you don’t have to constantly search for health packs (although there are some in the game), and you can fight your way through an army of muchachos without too much difficulty, although the game is still not easy. Some maps are challenging, and sometimes there’s a big difference between starting with full balls or empty ones, and when you die, they empty, so it’s a pain to start again…
“Say hello to my little friend!”
Another feature of the action sequences is that Radical doesn’t use the Rockstar-style targeting for shootouts; but instead, you can aim with a crosshair like in a regular Max Payne or other TPS. Although those who want it at all costs can use Caps Lock to select enemies automatically, you get more “balls” if you aim manually, and even more if you choose different body parts, and this is more ideal for us PCs anyway, so we finally feel like we’re being taken care of a bit more.
Exxon is almost always a smouldering firefight, so there’s not much point in hiding or positioning. The enemies aren’t known for their over-developed AI or their various sneaky tricks (they do sneak up on you sometimes, but they don’t do much else), but that wasn’t a big deal in the GTAs, or even a requirement for this style, so we can overlook it.
What is noticeably better than in GTA is the way the police work. Whereas there we were generally chased mindlessly, here the alerted cops throw out a “zone of influence”, which is a bluish ring on the map and is larger the higher the police “heat” (you can read about “heat” in the box).
A red thermometer shows you how long it takes to get away if it’s complete and you’re still there, or police cars are sirening at your heels, the game tells you, nobly and straightforwardly, “you f*cked up”. You can still try to run away, but it’s completely useless because the whole interface disappears, suddenly all the cops in Miami are on your tail, and you’re dead with one shot. This can be terribly annoying when you’re in the middle of a difficult mission. You’re about to solve it, but the yard comes out, and you screw it up.
“I’ve always dreamed of coming to the US.”
Another negative of the game is the slightly outdated graphics: whichever way you look at it, this is unfortunately not the “American dream”, but a GTA: Vice City-level visual world. I wouldn’t call the Scarface ugly, and some elements (like Tony and some of the more important characters and the design of some cars) are first-rate, but there’s no Tony Montana to tell a cop that this isn’t a genuine Xbox, PS2 remake. (It’s no coincidence that the game wasn’t made for Xbox 360.)
However, if you crank up the resolution, this sunny Miami looks nice – I didn’t have a problem with the rendering, but it’s not a 3Dmark-baiting wonder, that’s for sure. I was a little more bothered by the fact that the streets aren’t as ramified as we’re used to in ‘big brother’, so your journey is narrowed down to a single route a lot of times, so you’ll see certain streets all the time, which gets a little boring in the long run.
From the second half of the game onwards, it also becomes increasingly monotonous to invest in more and more entertainment facilities. I also ran out of money somewhere, and it was terribly soul-destroying to suffer from petty drug dealers again instead of progressing through the main story. Aside from these few missteps, Scarface GTA and fans of the film will find it an unmissable treat. And we can also quietly say that the curse is finally broken.
+ Excellent GTA clone, with many innovations
+ The style of the original film has been perfectly recreated
+ Great atmosphere
– A bit poor graphics by today’s standards
– Route problems
– Sometimes boring
Publisher: Sierra Entertainment
Developer: Radical Entertainment
Release date: 2006