Earlier this week during a meeting with representatives from Sierra, we had an opportunity to spend some quality time with a work-in-progress PlayStation 2 version of Scarface: The World Is Yours. In case you haven't been following our previous coverage of the game, The World Is Yours is a Grand Theft Auto-style action game that sees you assuming the role of Tony Montana--the foulmouthed gangster played by Al Pacino in Scarface back in 1983. The game's premise is an interesting one, because rather than playing through the events of the movie or simply being dropped into a world inspired by it, you'll be stepping into Montana's shoes just in time to rewrite the movie's ending by preventing his death in the mansion shoot-out scene.
After shooting and swearing your way out of Montana's ruined mansion, you'll learn that all of the things that made you a feared drug lord--namely your reputation, cash, cocaine, turf, and exotic belongings--are gone. The game proper gets under way approximately three months later, when Montana returns to Miami and finds that his enemies were very quick to move in on his turf while he was away. Your mission, then, is to rebuild Montana's empire and take revenge on the guy responsible for his downfall, Alejandro Sosa. It'll be a lengthy process, though, because you arrive in Miami with very few belongings, no reputation, and certainly no goons to do your dirty work for you. During our time with Scarface: The World Is Yours, we had access to a debug menu with which we could access missions from various stages of the game. As a result, we're none the wiser as far as the storyline is concerned, but we have had an opportunity to play around with several different gameplay mechanics that won't come into play until you're well on your way to getting Montana back on his feet.
Drug-dealing, for example, is an aspect of the game that will change quite considerably as you work your way up from being a nobody to something resembling Montana's former position atop the drug-lord food chain. Early on you'll be dealing only in very small amounts of cocaine, and you'll be making all of your deliveries to the local dealers and such in person. As your reputation grows, you'll be able to acquire warehouses and front businesses that come with their own missions. Warehouses unlock distribution missions that task you with delivering cocaine to dealers and attempting to get a good price for them using a golf-swing-style mechanic, while front missions vary according to the business that you're taking over. An interesting feature of the game's drug-dealing mechanic is that any money you earn through the sale of cocaine is considered dirty, and as such, it will be confiscated by the cops anytime they manage to catch up with you. Dirty money can be spent, but if you're ever going to restore Montana's lost millions, you'll need to get it laundered at a bank, which will take a cut determined by the same golf-swing mechanic that's used during deals and when attempting to intimidate gang members and police.
Front businesses that we saw during our time with Scarface: The World Is Yours included a record store, a bar, an arms dealer, and a drive-in movie theatre. The missions that we had to complete to acquire these businesses were as varied as the businesses themselves and included assassinating a guy on a boat using a sniper rifle and retrieving a number of audio cassettes with satanic messages hidden on them. One of the most interesting things about front businesses is that while they're great for unlocking new missions and providing additional sources of income, they're vulnerable to attacks from rival gangs. If you have enough disposable cash, you can buy surveillance equipment for the businesses and even pay goons to protect them. Regardless of whether or not you do those things, you'll be notified any time one of your fronts comes under attack so that you can go and defend them in person and--after your enemies have all been slain--pay for any necessary repairs. Even later in the game you'll get to use various boats to smuggle large quantities of drugs into Miami from islands off the coast, at which point your enemies will include pirates, coastguards, and the Drug Enforcement Agency.
Dealing in increasingly large quantities of cocaine won't be the only opportunity that presents itself to you as you progress through the game. For starters, you'll be able renovate and refurnish Montana's mansion, and then there's the hired help to consider. In addition to goons who will accompany you on dangerous missions, you'll be able to hire an enforcer, an assassin, a driver, and a boat pilot--the first three of which are playable characters for certain missions. The driver and the boat pilot both proved incredibly useful during our time with Scarface: The World Is Yours, not only because they're able to transport you around Miami in their limousine and seaplane respectively, but also because they can be instructed to deliver vehicles to you anywhere on the map with a quick phone call. Furthermore, if you own the arms-dealer front business, any road vehicles delivered to you will come with a trunk filled with weapons and ammo. You can only carry a limited amount of each when you're on foot, so this feature is invaluable and certainly beats having to make regular trips back to your house or to an Ammu-Nation store in GTA.
Weapons that we got our hands on during our time with Scarface: The World Is Yours included a pistol, a shotgun, an AK-47, an assault rifle, a sniper rifle, and a bazooka--the latter proving very useful during an island mission in which we were tasked with taking down a helicopter. You'll be able to upgrade weapons with larger ammo clips and such as you progress through the game, and ranged weapons can be fired in any direction when you're in a vehicle. Melee weapons including machetes, pipes, and chainsaws can also be wielded very effectively, and the game's hand-to-hand combat includes a satisfying grapple move that can only be used as a counterattack. The enemies in the game don't appear to be particularly intelligent at this point, but they're a decent shot, and they're certainly not shy about attacking in numbers. Non-player characters will react differently to you if you're walking around with a weapon in your hand, incidentally, so it's a good idea to put them away unless you're looking for trouble.
Characters will also react very differently to you according to your reputation in the game. There are eight levels of reputation for you to progress through as you rebuild Montana's empire, and they have an effect on just about every NPC that you meet. Enemies will be less gung ho when attacking you, drivers will give up their vehicles more easily if you ever feel the need to jack a ride, and even the police will be less likely to make trouble for you as you approach drug-lord status.
One of the game's most innovative gameplay mechanics is undoubtedly the taunting of enemies during combat, which not only fills up your balls meter so that you can go into an invincible first-person rage mode from time to time, but also serves to make the already very convincingly animated model of Montana feel even more like Pacino's arrogant character in the movie. You'll often take damage while you're swaggering around and swearing at your enemies, of course, but the trade off is that when you activate the aforementioned rage mode, you'll get health back every time you kill someone.
The other thing that will happen every time you kill someone, regardless of whether or not you're in a blind rage, is that you'll gain "heat," either from the police or from gangs. Likely inspired by the wanted-level mechanic in GTA games, heat determines how likely other characters are to attack you when your paths cross. If you've got plenty of money to spare, it's possible to simply throw cash at the problem and pay off your would-be enemies, but if the situation isn't too dire, there are alternatives. Hostile gangs, for example, can be appeased to some extent with drug deals--provided you can get close enough to their dealers to make the trade.
Gangs are prevalent in all four of the main areas that Miami is divided up into in Scarface: The World Is Yours, which include Havana, South Beach, North Beach, and Downtown. There are plenty of other locales to explore on the map, though, and it was while doing this (in a camper van with a great hippy paint job) that we happened on an old oil tanker that had been converted into a floating casino of sorts. Inside, we were able to wager our hard-earned dollars playing a number of minigames, which included slot machines, video poker, and blackjack. These minigames are available at various locations across the map, though we were told that your reputation will determine how much money you're able to win, so any expert gamblers among you aren't able to rebuild Montana's empire simply by sitting at a card table.
There's a lot in Scarface: The World Is Yours that's reminiscent of recent Grand Theft Auto offerings, but after spending a couple of hours with the game, we're pleased to report that Radical Entertainment is clearly seeking to improve upon Rockstar's winning formula rather than simply imitate it. This is perhaps most evident in combat, when rather than just locking onto enemies and mashing the fire button, you're able to target specific parts of the body once you've locked on for some occasionally bloody and/or humorous results. The game looks to be faithful to its source material in every way that matters, but it also doesn't take itself too seriously, as evidenced by the fact that when shooting enemies, the target points on their bodies not only include requisite stuff such as head, limb, and groin, but also left nut and right nut. In case you haven't guessed already, we thoroughly enjoyed our time with Scarface on this occasion, and we look forward to bringing you more information on the game ahead of its September release.