Review by MS3FGX

"Much better than I would have ever expected."

It's all on the line, now or never. The police have pulled up behind me while I was trying to escape on foot from the scene of the crime, and if I break into a run now they are just going to radio in for backup. I have no choice but to turn around and attempt to talk my way out of the situation, with 100 grams of cocaine in my pockets.

For the first time in years, I am actually nervous playing a game. I feel anxiety, I feel that I am in complete control of the situation, and that is what has me sweating.

It's now or never. I walk up to the cop, hold my breath, and go for it. One hundred thousand dollars worth of merchandise hangs in the balance, enough money to make or break my entire game rests on one thing.

The B button.

In “Scarface: The World is Yours”, you don't just run around shooting nameless enemies in the face. I mean, sure you do that, you make time for it; but that is not all there is to the game. The game is almost entirely focused around pressing a single button. Perhaps I should explain a bit better.

Almost everything you do in the game, from insulting people in night clubs to buying and selling drugs is handled through a simple reaction based interface. A ring will appear on the screen and inside the ring certain areas will be marked off as giving different results. When you signal that you are ready, the ring will begin to fill in a clockwise direction. The trick is to hit the B button and stop the progress of the filling when it is inside the areas that you were shown. If you stop too or too late, you are doing to get an undesirable result.

The harder the challenge, the smaller the areas you need to stop in. Insulting a random person who said something about your suit will be forgiving, while talking your way out of murder will require absolute perfection.

It is through this mechanism that Scarface becomes more than a simple action game. Using this system, you really feel in control of the game. You are making a profit on these drug deals because you are skilled, not because some AI calculation you can't even see decided the fate of the transaction. Once you are on a roll, you will feel invincible. Moving from dealer to dealer, hitting on the sweet spot while listening to the constant 80's soundtrack and impeccable voice acting for Tony Montana. You will really feel like you are living his life, not just playing a game. The same of course will be true if you are doing badly. Once you start messing up deals, you can easily lose your cool and get out of the “zone”, ruining your connections with the gangland drug suppliers by messing up too many deals. It is truly incredible how such a simple system can completely change the way you play the game.

Not to say the rest of the game is a slouch. As far as a licensed action game goes; this is certainly one of, perhaps the best, I have ever played.

The audio in Scarface is perhaps one of it's other best features. The soundtrack is absolutely fantastic, including not only the complete OST of the Scarface film, but dozens upon dozens of 80's songs, from nearly every genre imaginable. If you can't find music you enjoy in this game, then I don't know what to tell you. Rather than letting the songs just be a complete jumble like in other games, Scarface actually allows you to create playlists and select which songs play by genre. You aren't even limited to only playing music while in cars, you can play it at any time. This is a truly awesome feature, and makes the game feel much more cinematic. However, I constantly had problems getting the music player to remember my settings. I don't know if I was doing something wrong or it was just a glitch, but it was definitely aggravating to have to change my playlist around at seemingly random intervals because the game would simply forget what I had selected before.

In addition to the music, Scarface features a seemingly endless list of Hollywood talent that lent their voices to various characters in the game. Despite the jaw dropping number of stars you will be seeing in the opening credits of the game, Al Pacino does not return to play Tony Montana. Instead a search was conducted to find an actor that could mimic Tony Montana's voice as closely as possible. While I had my doubts, I can say now that the actor they found does an incredible job of mimicking Tony's legendary accent and inflection. While it isn't perfect, it is as close as I could ever imagine it coming without Al Pacino himself doing it. Oddly enough there seems to be at least one scene in the game where they use the audio from the film directly, which is a bit jarring considering everything else you hear from Tony is from a different actor. I am not sure why they just didn't rerecord that section of audio to maintain the continuity.

While Scarface will be a true treat to your ears, graphically it does not fare quite as well. The first thing I should note is that this game runs in 720p if your Xbox is connected to an HDTV, which was a really pleasant surprise. This really makes the character models pop, of which Tony's is clearly the best. His model looks very similar to Pacino, but you can easily tell that the rest of the models were not given nearly as much attention. The same goes for the vehicles and buildings. While the general detail level is more than adequate, there is a clear division between the high quality models and textures and the low quality. The artists apparently felt it better to apply more effort to the more visually catching aspects of the game then evenly spread it around to the entire world. While the result does look a little rough at times, overall the game looks pretty nice; a steady framerate and good draw distance make up for the occasional amateurish texture.

My biggest gripe with the game are the controls. Personally, the layout for the Xbox version just doesn't make sense to me, and even after playing for hours I would still hit the wrong button constantly. I would always be opening up my map instead of the music player, or pausing when I really wanted to check where I was headed. This got very frustrating, and while I admit that a lot of it was probably due to my own inability to adapt to the control scheme, I can't help but feel it could have been laid out a bit more logically. The rest of the controls though, including the fun accurate shooting mode, were certainly adequate; I can't say anything too negative there.

I won't go into the story, since mentioning anything would be risking a spoiler (if you have seen the film, you will understand why), but I can say that it meshes quite well with the film; even though I would have thought it impossible before playing it. While the story is very important to the game, you also have the “go anywhere, do anything” mentality of these sandbox games. In that respect, Scarface really doesn't disappoint. I would even go so far as to say that there is more to do in the world of Scarface than in possibly any free-roaming game I have played previously. From dancing and picking fights in night clubs to redecorating your mansion, there isn't much you can't do in this game.

One of the best features of the game, and one of the most unexpected to me, is the police AI. In that “other” free-roaming crime game, police just appear from nowhere and attack you like flies. But in Scarface there is a fairly realistic representation of police pursuits. If you can leave the scene of a crime without being seen and blend in with traffic, the police will rush right by you. But start driving erratically, and the police might take an interest and try to get you to pull over. The same is true on foot. You can actually hide in alleyways or blend in with crowds, rather than the police constantly knowing your exact location. You can even see police cars on your radar, along with the area they are currently searching and how alert they currently are. It is really well developed, and is just another way that Scarface makes the whole experience seem more realistic and cinematic.

In the end, I feel I really learned something valuable from my time with Scarface. A game that I assumed would be complete garbage (and sadly, so did most of the industry it seems) turned out to be a really fresh look at a genre that is rapidly stagnating. From the feeling of complete freedom with the amount of things you can do in the game, to the absolute control you have over your in-game fate, Scarface really puts you into the world of Tony Montana. Any fan of the film should certainly pick this one up, and I would say anyone who enjoys a good action title should at least rent this and give it a shot. Like me, you might be pleasantly surprised.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 02/22/07

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