Reviewed: January 7, 2007
Released: October 6, 2006
Who would have thought back in 1983, when Scarface (the movie) came out that a video game based on it would be made 23 years later? It was a movie that has won a few awards in its time, but none worth mentioning than the three golden globe awards back in 1984. This movie had a large following that is being re-energized and has been growing since Scarface the video game was released on the PS2, Xbox, PC, and PSP.
All of the Scarface games are practically identical except for the PSP version which is completely different. What makes it unique is that it is a turn-based strategy game, with real-time combat, as apposed to a third-person, action, shooter.
In Scarface: Money. Power. Respect. for the PSP you relive Tony Montanaís epic rise to power. The location is Miami, where the goal is to battle and kill competing drug cartels. You do this by taking over the cityís multitude of different turfs using your limited henchmen/gunmen and eventually growing your army into an illegal drug empire where you control all of Miamiís drug operations. Doing this wonít be easy. Youíll have to have a good strategy, be able to control large territories, and fight it out in turn-based combat on the streets.
As you know, this is a strategy game with limited combat. When you begin the game you are introduced to the story with a very long video clip from the movie. Although it may initially seem like the story will be a vital part of this PSP game, it ends up not being as much of a part of the game as you would have expected. There are ten different scenes from the movie which set you up for your next big mission. If you arenít interested in the movie aspect you can play through the cartel challenges.
Cartel challenges consist of three game modes: fortune, drug war, and fight to the finish. Fortune mode has you competing to be the first with the most amount of money. Drug war mode is very similar, expect you have a set amount of rounds and you must have the most money at the end to win. Fight to the finish mode is a fight to determine who the last man standing is.
Most of you will play through the story missions which will give you several objectives after the movie clip. For example, the very first scene is when Frank Lopez turns on Tony (you) and your goals are to eliminate his cartel, take over several territories, and earning a set amount of money.
Taking over territories, making money, killing people, it all sounds easy right? Wrong, itís not as easy as it sounds. In fact, after the first movie clip the game will give you the option of playing through the tutorial, DO IT. If you choose not to, you wonít be able to figure out how to play this strategy game.
Once you get past the tutorial, the game is easy to understand. The game works like this, Miami has been divided into twelve or more turfs. Controlling a turf means you can construct drug manufacturing facilities, and hire pushers to sell your drugs. The next step is drug dealing. You must deal within a turf that you control and use the pushers you hired to sell your goods.
One thing youíll have to take into consideration is that each of the turfs has unique demands for certain drugs, meaning youíll make more or less money depending how great that turfís need for a certain drug is. In other words, itís all about supply and demand. The last step is combat where you will control anywhere from one to ten thugs. During the combat stage it is your choice whether to try and take over an enemies turf or defend your own.
Combat is interesting and rather disappointing, it is turn based. There are rounds of fighting and after each one you tell your thugs what to do. For instance, you can target certain bad guys to attack, hire new thugs to replace dead ones, or you can even use power moves (which are special abilities). Power moves are purchased and they are random. You never know what moves you are going to get, so youíll end up buying a lot of them and using very few. Power moves are critical in the combat stage of the game because they can turn the tide if your thugs are getting a beat-down.
Besides the well transitioned movie to PSP video clips there isnít a whole lot of good to talk about in terms of graphics. For the most part youíll be looking at a color coded map and menus. The map isnít anything special and itís very two dimensional. I can see the map being 3 dimensional and being able to zoom in on areas, but that isnít the case. Instead, for the majority of the game youíll be starring at a simple 2D color coded map thatís built only for functionality and not style.
Combat is the only time youíll get to see action and it is a street level view with an annoying camera that you have no control over. Itís so bad that a lot of the time you wonít even be able to see the battle thatís taking place because the camera is set to pan over the area, even if there isnít anyone in view. The character models are simplistic and the explosions arenít nearly as satisfying as they should be, but then again this is a strategy game.
Once again the only real high notes are the short clips from Scarface the movie. The sound effects are pathetic and repetitive. Guns sounds like toy guns and explosions arenít convincing either.
Speaking of not convincing, the voice acting isnít. In fact, itís so terrible that itís funny. I have never heard people do accents so bad in a game or movie. What a letdown considering how good the movie acting was.
Value is one of Scarfaceís greatest strengths. From the single player game, to the cartel missions there is a lot to do. Furthermore, you are rewarded for doing almost everything in this game. You can unlock wallpapers, and movie clips. Not to mention the cartel missions have excellent replay value since they are randomly generated and youíll never play the same mission twice.
If that doesnít satisfy you or itís just too easy, you can always take this game online. Playing against another person is considerably more difficult and Scarface supports up to four players in ad hoc mode.
There is a lot of text to read initially and if you are one of those gamers who enjoys portable games you can ďpick-up-and-playĒ then this game isnít for you. The tutorial is rather lengthy, but if you are willing to put the time into learning how to play this game, then it will reward you with its entertaining gameplay. Itís simpler than it may seem at first and will satisfy any turn based strategy fanís need when they are on the go.
Scarface for the PSP surprised me a lot once I got past the boring tutorial. Itís an unexpectedly enjoyable, highly replay-able strategy game with terrible sound and marginal at best graphics.