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PlayStation: PS2 Reviews

Review

Scarface: The World is Yours

PS2 proves it's got balls as Tony 'F******' Montana unleashes hell and bullets
"Say hello to my little friend," whines the tiny Cuban in the bad trousers. Having just hoovered up more cocaine than a Columbian soap actress with Dyson-powered nostrils, potty-mouthed crimelord Tony Montana is facing a gun-handed scrum of angry henchmen. He returns fire, swears a bit, then takes a shotgun shell to the back, flops into an indoor pool, gurgles, then dies. The end. Fin. Roll credits.

Or at least, that's the end of the movie. And yet it's only the beginning of the game. For while your average arse-brained movie-game conversation is content to set you on rails, then wheel you sedately through the events of your favourite motion picture in chronological fashion, Scarface: The World is Yours treats Brian De Palma's movie as nothing more than a launching pad, a springboard into a whole new world of sex, drugs, violence and bad trousers. So it is that you're given the opportunity to change movie history by successfully guiding Tony through that fateful shoot-out, after which time you must help him restore his crumbling empire. It's a genius idea, right up there with 'nuclear fission' and 'reading on the toilet.'

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In Tony's absence, Miami has been carved into quarters by rival gangs. To regain control you must first - that's right, clich´┐Ż-spotters - restore your reputation. Your ascent back up Cocaine Mountain begins in its foothills, with you as a small-fry drug-peddler. The opening half dozen missions thus take the form of moron-friendly 'big flashing arrow' tasks. Follow the arrow here, pick up the drugs, follow it there, sell the drugs. Repeat for half an hour or so and you'll earn enough coin to a buy a 'front', a seemingly legit business through which you can deal cocaine in quantities that could kill a herd of 80s rock musicians.

DRUGS MEAN PRIZES
The more drugs you sell, the more money you make and the more 'Exotics' you can buy. These luxury items - be they sports cars, home furnishings or pet tigers - help to bolster your credibility among the criminal classes, which in turns unlocks more lucrative missions and bonus areas. You can also buy henchmen, hired arse-kissers who constantly snivel around you, attending to your every need. Your driver, for example, is on call 24-hours to deliver your choice of sports cars to wherever you may be. Handily, he'll also tag along for the ride and wade in should you become embroiled in a gun fight.

And you'll need to participate in a serious amount of gang-banging (of the non-internet variety, unfortunately) to get ahead in 1980s Miami. Each of the four territories - Little Havana, Downtown, South Beach and North Beach - is host to its own local gangs, who must first be flushed away like yesterday's breakfast before you can regain control. Handily, the location of each gang is marked on your map, which means all you do is drive over, shoot the place up, then drive off before the police arrive. Defeat every gang in a given district and it's all yours.

RUNNING SCARRED
It's during these shoot-outs that Scarface stops being a reasonably enjoyable, slightly plodding simulation of the life and times of a 1980s drug-pusher and exposes itself to be a very serious rival to GTA: San Andreas. The simple fact is, Scarface gives good action. Be it a back-alley shoot-out against a dim-witted scrum of rival hoods, or a cross-city car chase in a hot-wired security van, the intensity throughout remains firmly set at 'Borderline Unbearable.' As you'd expect for a game fathered by one of the most blood-happy movies of the modern age, the gun battles are almost unforgivably violent. Heads pop lazily like ripened zits, arms and legs fall away as though attached by soggy Blu-Tack and blood spurts freely like great streams of horse piss. Our advice: don't let mummy see.

Two nice touches here: 1) When you shoot someone it tells you precisely where you've connected, right down to which kidney you've hit. And 2) the Balls meter. Armed combat is, apparently, all about the balls. The more balls you have, the harder you are. (And the harder it is to get your underpants on.) Gaining balls is a matter of killing your enemy, then swearing at them. Do this enough and you'll eventually be able to enter a Rage, during which time you're invincible and deadly accurate.

The only downside to the gun battles is that the goons are phenomenally stupid, the kind who'll blindly run towards your firing pistol like a child to an ice-cream van. We're talking seriously dumb, the kind of moron who'd get lost in his own shower. But then surely that's exactly what you want - walking, talking, screaming targets, ready to explode into a bleeding mush of gooey bits at a moment's notice.

Thankfully the 'driving bits' are every bit as good as the 'shooting bits.' The car handling is pitched just right, the vehicles being slippery enough to make them interesting without ever being overly fussy. Indeed, the controls are equally as reliable for both the in- and the out-car missions, the only problems occurring during missions that involve driving and shooting at the same time. Oh, and the speedboat missions stink too, but then that surely that's a given.

EVIL EMPIRE
If all this empire building - with its dealers and suppliers, its fronts and its territory - sounds kind of confusing, that's because, well, it is. To begin with at least. The menu system is cumbersome and somewhat unwieldy, and it'll take you at least two hours to figure out precisely how the structure of the game as a whole hangs together. And yet it's worth it. Because however much pissing about Scarface requires you to do (and the honest answer is: quite a lot) it's all in a good cause. Namely, ensuring that this is more than just another second-rate San Andreas knock-off. There's a real depth here, a level of complexity that rival titles simply can't offer. In sophistication terms, Scarface makes The Godfather, True Crime: New York City, Driver: Parallel Lines and Yazuka look like cave paintings of Barbara Windsor's boobies.

And then there's Miami, a lovingly rendered urban sprawl that seemingly goes on forever (it's actually a giant loop, but it fooled us). It all feels thrillingly seedy, from the wee-smelling alleyways to the derelict harbours and the slab-shaped urban high-rises. Significantly, it also manages to perfectly evoke the mood and flavour of the film, helped along by a sturdy 80s soundtrack, top-quality voice-talent and some seriously creative swearing. The only disappointment is the strange lack of human life about town. It's quieter than a mouse breaking wind in a vacuum-sealed library.

The history books will doubtless record that Scarface fell some way short in its attempt to slit the throat of GTA: San Andreas, the reigning godfather of urban-based crime-hungry gaming. It just doesn't have the charm of the GTA titles. Or the scale. Or the attention to detail. And yet this only tells one half of the story. For while Scarface isn't without its problems - occasional control issues, lousy guard-intelligence and a somewhat repetitive cycle of missions - it nonetheless succeeds where countless movie tie-ins have failed in delivering both a decent sense of the movie and solid, often stunning gameplay. Best of all, it's a game with real ambition, a title that isn't afraid to overreach itself in the pursuit of perfection. Fittingly, it's game with real balls. Tony Montana would be proud.

PlayStation World Magazine

Overview

Verdict
Not as good as GTA: San Andreas, better than The Godfather. Buy me
Uppers
  Empire development adds depth
  Miami looks really lovely
  Plenty of missions
Downers
  Lacks the spark of GTA

Screenshots

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