reviews\ Oct 24, 2006 at 8:00 pm

Scarface: Money. Power. Respect. - PSP - Review

As a “political prisoner” from Cuba, Tony Montana envisioned a future of great wealth and power in an era when excessive drug use was rampant throughout the nation. Falling in with all the right players, Tony built his empire while stepping over rivals and the authorities. It’s a story of corruption, greed and great violence that made the movie such a fan favorite and, most recently, a game on both the Xbox and PS2. Now the PSP gets its own Scarface game. Be warned, though, this game isn’t like the console version at all.

Scarface for the PSP is not a Grand Theft Auto inspired game nor does it follow the same story concept as the console version where Tony Montana doesn’t die in his mansion like in the last act in the movie. This one follows Tony in the events seen in the movie. The game’s main story mode (called Movie Scenarios) starts with Tony coming to work for Frank Lopez (played by Frank Logia in the movie) who sees something in Montana. He gives him rules to live by like not underestimating the other guy’s greed as well as instructions on how to manage a section of territory on the playing map. We follow Tony as he climbs his way to the top, eventually starting his own drug cartel empire.

If you’re a fan of the strategy game genre or new to this genre, I highly suggest starting with the tutorial that will take you step-by-step into every aspect of the game’s many few features. It is here that you will learn how to build up each section of territory you own and how to make it earn money for you. With the funds you earn throughout the game, you can purchase storehouses, build drug labs and hire thugs and pushers. You’ll find that Miami has a number of big cartels fighting to be at the top of the food chain. You’ll have to go up against Nacho Contreras and Gaspar Gomez, the Diaz Brothers, the Ribera and Echevierra cartels. You’ll even have to deal with the Colombian drug cartel run by the dangerous and educated Sosa. Each cartel will invade the others’ territory as they fight to conquer the playing map.

The concept is simple: the game is played in a series of turn-based rounds where every decision counts. There are three phases to the game that revolve around Buying (the mentioned storehouses and other necessary buildings), the Drug Dealing phase (putting your pushers to work as well as shipping various narcotics when in demand) and finally the Combat phase (shooting it out with other cartel thugs to acquire new turf). You can offer an alliance to rival cartels or accept an offer when given, either way you slice and dice it you will make a nice profit from learning when to go to war or settling things in a peaceful way.

Movie Scenarios mixes in scenes from the film itself as a way to tell the story of Tony’s rise. Each level has you attempting to complete a list of primary as well as secondary objectives. The objectives range from simple (hire up to six thugs) to the more difficult (secure territories from two different cartels). The main objective remains the same: take over the playing map by securing as much territory as possible. To do so you must learn how to manage your drug trafficking movements as well as learn how to defend your territory as well as attack enemy territory yourself.

Attacking an enemy territory opens up a separate combat game that just so happens to be one of the game’s many weak points. For starters, the combat segments pops up frequently when another cartel attacks another and secondly you’re given very little involvement during battles that feature your side. You have the options to flee, attack, hire more thugs to help out or use a Combat Power Move (special moves you can purchase, such as the “Say hello to my little friend” move that allows you to fire a grenade launcher) but there’s not much to it other than that. You’ll just be forced to watch your thugs fire at your opponent’s thugs out in the street.

While Movie Scenarios mode is a lengthy affair, Cartel Challenge offers three game modes of fun challenges that have you racing to complete a list of objectives before your rivals do. For instance, Race To A Fortune has you attempting to earn 15 million dollars before your rivals do while Drug War you try to be the first player with the highest wealth at the end of six rounds. Finally there’s Fight To The Finish where you attempt to destroy all the cartels on the map as you attempt to take over Miami. The good news is that this mode also makes up the game’s multiplayer mode. Up to four players can play through an Ad Hoc connection.

Unfortunately, while the game’s controls fit the gameplay style perfectly, turn-based strategy game fans will feel that Scarface lacks depth as well as exciting developments that add new challenges to mix. The game seldom strays from its formula and thus growing more dull the more you play. Wouldn’t it be neat to run across some interesting new developments such as any alliances you made in the game become something more? There are just not enough features to make this game exciting enough to want to keep playing solo.

Visually, Scarface is what it is seeing as this is a strategy game and not the same experience as the console version. We are greeted with a playing map with color-coded sections of owned territories and while it looks good it’s really nothing special. The same can be said about the combat game that displays 3-D characters shooting it out. There are some character portraits and the majority of the cut scenes are handled via movie clips that look mighty sharp on the PSP screen.

The game’s sound is the same way. There’s very little in terms of sound effects and the game’s soundtrack isn’t as good as the console game or the movie. What we get instead is some great voice acting, especially when it comes to Tony Montana. Just like the movie, though, expect the profanity to flow as easily as coke at a 80s disco.

Scarface for the PSP is quite a different experience from the console version and while we’ve played better strategy games before this one still has its share of shining moments. Much like the movie’s main character, the game is bold enough to set itself apart from the rest but, in the end, is massacred thanks to its most obvious flaws. Lacking excitement and depth, Scarface is simply a decent strategy game you might want to check out if you love the movie.

Review Scoring Details for SCARFACE

Gameplay: 6.0
While not incredibly deep or big on features, the strategy aspect works fairly well and gives fans of the genre plenty to digest during the single-player modes as well as the multiplayer option. We’ve certainly seen better combat in other PSP strategy games but at least the game’s story mode is nice and long.

Graphics: 6.5
It’s a strategy game so don’t expect much detail or brilliant visual effects. The game does contain some high-quality movie clips and the game’s overall presentation isn’t bad at all.

Sound: 6.5
The voice acting is excellent throughout the game and you’ll absolutely love the Al Pacino sound alike who does a magnificent job of pulling off Tony’s best lines. There’s a soundtrack and it’s not bad but the sound effects are just plain dull.

Difficulty: Medium/Hard
Miami is wide open and ripe for the taking but with the Diaz Brothers and Nacho Contreras breathing down your neck expect plenty of competition. With intelligent opponent AI, you will be seriously reconsidering every move you make in this game so casual strategy game fans need not apply.

Concept: 7.0
It’s a strategy game in the Scarface universe as you climb to the top as Tony Montana himself … that alone is interesting, indeed. There are great movie clips to unlock as well as cool wallpaper for your PSP but the real treat here is the lengthy game modes.

Multiplayer: 7.5
Up to four players can join in a wireless multiplayer match using the three Cartel Challenge game modes. While these game modes were fun playing them solo, it’s just a lot more fun having a group of friends taking up the role of the other cartel families.

Overall: 6.2
The world of Scarface might make for a decent Grand Theft Auto-styled adventure but it also makes for an Ok PSP strategy game that isn’t the best in the genre but has its share of fun moments. With lengthy single-player modes and an excellent multiplayer mode there is little to complain about in this department but you’ll wish there was more excitement to the dull combat. This one is worth renting but strategy game fans should look elsewhere.

Above Average

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