Though the license of a successful movie brings with it a fair amount of pressure, the presence of the Grand Theft Auto
series makes it hard for anyone to break into the genre. While other games have managed to somewhat escape GTA
’s shadow, Scarface
has the added pressure of Vice City
, which more or less cribbed parts of the movie for the game’s plot. In order to escape a simple retelling of the movie’s plot, Scarface
picks up at the end of the movie during the film's epic shootout. Tony manages to escape, but is left with nothing. From here, the plot is more of a general outline for accomplishing the goal of retaking Tony’s criminal empire. Playing through the game doesn’t require that you’ve seen the film, but it does help when trying to make connections to some characters and events.
In addition to breaking away from story comparisons, Scarface also makes a number of changes to the traditional GTA formula. Every mission connects to the larger picture in one way or another, giving the entire game a more cohesive feel. Living up to the developer’s idea of having you “play” as Tony, all of the missions you accomplish as you try to retake Miami are for Tony’s benefit alone.
Once you begin to retake Tony’s empire, Scarface opens up to being more than an open-ended action game. Keeping your empire intact is just as hard as reclaiming it. Buying property gives you more than a timed influx of cash and a place to save. Instead, each property you own carries with it certain responsibilities. You’ll have to make sure each of your businesses is receiving the right amount of stock as well as making sure you don’t over-saturate the market. You’ll also have to hire goons to keep your interests protected.
Another original element found in Scarface is the “Balls Meter”, which is meant to represent the insane amount of punishment Tony is able to take in the movie. As you go about your business, taking unnecessary risks, performing well in combat or taunting opponents will fill up the meter. Once the meter is filled, you can enter a special “rage” mode that grants you invulnerability and unlimited ammo for a short span of time. The downside to the “Balls Meter” is that it can either make missions too easy or abnormally hard. Since there is no way to tell where a player’s meter will be at any given part of a mission, there are a few troublesome balance issues.