Scarface Review

Joe Dodson
Scarface Info


  • N/A


  • 1


  • Sierra
  • Vivendi


  • Radical

Release Date

  • 11/30/1999
  • Out Now


  • PC
  • PS2
  • Wii
  • Xbox


I kill a communist for fun.

Cloning is an issue people are generally for or against, and this shows how stupid people are. You would have to be a fool not to realize that some things are worth saving, while others simply need to die. Take pets, for instance. Dogs and cats should all be replicated, especially if they promise to come back evil. Jango Fett, on the other hand, died for a reason – he was a pussy. What moron thought it was a good idea to bring that guy back?

The Dolly du jour in the video game industry is Grand Theft Auto, but most of its copies have strangely turned out to be goats. The solution, as discovered by the developers at Radical, is Moreauvian. To keep their GTA clone from going ba-a-ad (don’t worry, I’ll let that one die), they spliced it with the DNA of crazy Cuban refugee Tony Montana. The result is fun, violent, and every bit as evil as a cross-bred clone should be.
[image1]Scarface is not as good, though, as a genuine Rockstar game would be. There are programming problems (if your car flips over you die) and gameplay crutches (dealing drugs is a lot like kicking a field goal), not to mention the redundancy of resurrecting Tony just to go through all the motions that led to his death in the first place. It’s not a natural birth.
But more important, it’s plenty bloody with lots of cussing. Tony’s new life begins where the first one ended, in the mansion shoot-out. Instead of getting blasted into your own swimming pool, you take control and rip the would-be assassin into red confetti. From there you tear through the mansion, shooting bad guys with a never ending supply of bullets, and escape to a shack in the swamps where you lay low for a few months to lick your numerous bullet wounds. Then you’re back on the Miami streets, with nothing but your balls and your four letter word (Hint: It rhymes with truck).
The idea is to take over Miami, one district at a time, then get your revenge on Sosa. To wrestle control of an area away from guys like the Diaz brothers, you have to buy drug fronts, which boost your reputation. To buy fronts, you need money. To get money, you have to sell cocaine. To get cocaine, you have to do favors for suppliers. Once you’ve built up enough money and influence, you can take out the drug lords themselves. Tony’s got it all figured out.
If this routine carried all the way through the game, Scarface would be a failure, but the gameplay builds along with your empire. You start off selling grams of coke on the street for chump change, but move onto running entire kilos between your fronts for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Once you build up some fire power, you can also start attacking gang cells, some of which will be five dudes with machetes and a few grams of llello, while others will be twenty men strong, all with AKs and hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash. Killing them all, great and small, is sweeter than ice cream on a hot day, and just as messy.
But before we split hairs over splitting heads, I should tell you that Scarface has lots of side missions. True to its genetic roots, you can run random street races for cash, but outside that double helix you can also run missions as Tony’s henchmen. As an enforcer, you’ll kill lots of people with a grenade launcher, and as a femme fatale, you’ll ice single targets with a sniper rifle. Henchmen will also directly bring you any cars, boats, or weapons you own. They’re helpful dudes, even if they’re completely expendable.
[image2]All of this, the henchmen, the missions, the cars and the territory are managed through an easy to navigate menu that pops up at the push of a button. You’ll never be stuck for lack of things to do, although you might have trouble finding locations due to the fact that you can’t place markers on your map of Miami.
You can place some pretty deep dents in your cars, though. They’re stupid fast and handle like bees, buzzing in and out of traffic, over pedestrians and through a scrap heap’s worth of destructible stuff. And the crash physics are straight off an episode of “World’s Deadliest Police Chases” with rippling metal, shattering glass and raw, ball-busting impact. The only speed bump is that the game doesn’t always let you get out of your car, especially if you flip in a narrow place. Instead, it forces you to helplessly watch as your car catches fire and burns you to death. By they way, that’s not as cool as it sounds.
Whether you’re delivering coke to your fronts or gunning down snitches, Scarface bursts with violence and grey matter. You automatically lock-on to targets with one button, and then aim at body parts with the R-stick. The shotgun really shines here, because you can quickly flip the R-stick and blow off several heads in a row. If chocolate could be turned into an instrument of violence, it’d be the shotgun in Scarface. It just makes you feel better.
Enemies aim well, though, and in large numbers with large guns they’ll kill you quick. This is where your balls and your word come into play. Every time you do something cool (i.e. jump a car or blast a baddy), your Balls meter will fill. This is not as dirty as it sounds. You can also add to it by verbally taunting your victims, prompting Tony to shout nuggets like “I told you, don’t fuck with me,” or simply “Get fucked.” This never gets too cheesy because there are so fuckin’ many of them, and they gel really well with all the chaotic violence. Once you’re full of balls (again, not so dirty), you can enter a blind rage where just about any damage you do is fatal to your enemies, and heals you. So if you’re outgunned and about to die, you can go nuts, kill everyone, and have full health, just like in the movies.
The game goes further than the films, though, sometimes too far. From a gameplay standpoint, figuring out when to go nuts is always interesting and engaging, but taking on thirty heavily armed dudes with a chainsaw and surviving is so silly you’ll start rooting for the bad guys.
[image3]If Scarface goes too crazy with the balls, it should be institutionalized for its lame timing mechanic. Several actions in the game, from punking gang members, to laundering money, to selling coke, are handled with a mini-game where you hold a button until a meter fills. Seriously, you walk up to a gang member, mention blow, kick a field goal, and buy some. This is what happens when Canadians try to make a game about dealing drugs.
They got the music right, though. The track list is huge, and most of it is good music you haven’t heard before. The voice for Tony Montana is excellent, too. You can occasionally tell Al Pacino isn’t delivering the lines, but you forget just as often. That’s because the actor is Al Pacino’s former limo driver, who was recommended by Pacino himself for his devastating impersonation.
The graphics aren’t nearly as convincing. As a whole the game looks dated, and certain sequences look awful. But the framerate never skips, and the violence is extra juicy, so at least the developers had their priorities straight.
Which is really impressive, because Scarface would have been an easy game to bungle. Instead, they nailed Tony Montana’s voice and attitude and packed a banana boat’s worth of blood and violence into hours and hours of open, GTA-style gameplay. It’s never going to win a beauty pageant much less a Game of the Year award, but it’s a sadistically delicious way to let your inner-psycho out to play, and that’s all that fucking matters.


I’m Tony Montana!
Cussing and balls
Driving is great
Open gameplay
Drug dealing should be fun
Violence gets a little silly
Graphics are middling to ugly