Tony Montana: Me, I want what’s coming to me.
Manny: Oh, well what’s coming to you?
Tony Montana: The world, chico, and everything in it.
‘Tis the season to make gamers happy. In 2006 that’s a pretty tall order, since the #1 most wanted items on almost everybody’s holiday shopping lists are PS3’s and Wii’s, and unless you’re willing to camp outside a store 24/7 in the freezing cold and snow or pay 10 times market price on eBay you’re just not gonna get one. So let’s be practical about this – even though you can’t have the world and everything in it there are still plenty of ways out there to spend your hard earned dollar. With an installed userbase estimated at no less than 20 million in the U.S. alone, chances are if you know somebody who likes to game they own a PlayStation 2. If they don’t there are certainly no shortages of the console compared to it’s beefier upgrade, but let’s just assume for the moment you’re just shopping for a game and not the system itself. Your target recipient is ages 17 and up, likes hip-hop and gangster movies, and won’t go for any cutesy fartsy artsy shit like Katamari Damacy no matter how much you try to convince them it’s great (and it is). You walk down the store aisle and who do you see mean muggin’ you right off the rack? Why it’s none other than Tony Montana himself, a character made infamous in the 1983 cult film “Scarface” as portrayed by Al Pacino. Imagine that – a video game where you get to BE Tony Montana. Your on-screen character might even get to recite a few of those classic lines:
Tony Montana: I never fucked anybody over in my life didn’t have it coming to them. You got that? All I have in this world is my balls and my word and I don’t break them for no one. Do you understand?
After a movie trailer and the obligatory opening credits for all of the producers behind the game roll, “Scarface: The World Is Yours” opens with a shot of Tony Montana sitting in war room of his multi-million dollar mansion. It’s strikingly detailed and evokes the feeling of the film right away, from the rows of surveillance camera monitors flickering behind him to the drawn open curtains overlooking his palatial estate to Montana’s slumped and seemingly resigned posture. If I’m not mistaken there’s even a big powdery pile of blow on his desk, although his nose doesn’t look frosted with snow at this point. Before we go any further please bear in mind that this game is RATED M FOR MATUREwhich means your theoretically thugged out gamer friend better at least be old enough to rent the movie this game is based on – ideally 18 and up. We’re about to delve into one of the most violent worlds imaginable, a world that has inspired rap tales both fantastically violent and decadent for two decades, but one that has also inspired many cautionary songs about the pitfalls of being a drug dealer. At its heart the movie “Scarface” is essentially a morality tale, showing not only that you reap what you sow in this world but that if you can’t trust your own family and loved ones jealousy and paranoia will leave you fucked. It’s hard to imagine how much fun it would be to simply play out that tale scene for scene in game only to die in a hail of bullets – wouldn’t you just watch the movie instead? Clearly the idea here is to present an immersive Grand Theft Auto style world where you get to be Tony Montana and make your OWN choices, and live vicariously through them while hopefully avoiding the pitfalls that lead to the original protagonist’s downfall.
The game starts out by familiarizing you with the camera options and button layout on your controller, and then offers a helpful combat tutorial to get you used to aiming and shooting at your enemies later on. I highly recommend you not skip it even if you’re an experienced FPS gamer since it helps later and gives you a glimpse of what Tony’s life was like in Cuba before coming to the U.S. The game really starts to get fun once you get done with target practice and meet your first enemy, which gives you a chance to try out the TAUNT button. It’s exactly what you’d expect – you’ll hear Tony mouthing off in that classically thick and overdone accent, burying all the cockroaches who dare fuck with him. The best part though is that your taunting builds up a rage meter called BALLS, and once that meter is full you go into a blind rage and can literally become superhuman – killing off adversaries easily and even getting health bonuses for each man you knock off. Once you’ve mastered these skills there’s an intro movie which goes through various scenes from the film and lists all the actors who lent their voices to this title. Pacino is credited due to the sampling of his original lines but André Sogliuzzo does a fairly impressive job creating all new lines for the Cuban tough guy. The list of names used within the game is impressive ranging from Michael Rapaport to Ice-T to Cheech Marin – even Jason Mewes found his way into the action when he wasn’t too busy with “Clerks II.”
Without spoiling too much of the actual plot, the game picks up where the film left off but gives you a chance to survive the final epic fight instead of being killed off. From there the world is quite literally yours, but you have to start over again from scratch now that your empire has been left in ruins. What’s impressive about this title is that where GTA games could be almost TOO random in their immersiveness, allowing you to do anything to the point where you get almost nothing done, Tony Montana is clearly goal oriented in this game and aims to end up right back where he was before – drug overlord of Miami and the most ruthless businessman to ever live. Along the way you’ll discover that you can fill your “balls” meter through more than just taunts – the more risky your behavior in-game the faster it replenishes. Do something that seems wild and reckless and it can actually pay off for you in a big way – this is a unique element that really sucks you into the game to a degree I hadn’t anticipated possible before playing. The graphics do occasionally have that cliched polygonal look, but they’re pretty smooth for an older generation game and not any worse than similar GTA type titles. The sound effects are top notch, from the gunshots to the helicopters circling overhead to the other incidentals you’ll hear throughout. The gameplay is hella fun, although at times you may become frustrated by the auto-saves and the inability to pick where YOU want to restart from after a particularly tough scenario. In summary “Scarface: The World Is Yours” is a damn fun PS2 game. X-Box and PC versions are also available but not reviewed here. Make the thug on your list happy this Christmas.