Version tested: Wii
Imagine my disappointment. Here I was, all excited because I thought I was going to review Scarf Ace, the cult Japanese knitting game that uses the Wii's motion sensing to realistically simulate the joys of furiously click-clacking giant needles like a mad old biddy. Instead, it's shouty swearbox Al Pacino and yet another attempt to recreate joypad-centred gameplay through the medium of motion-sensing. Hmm.
Luckily, Scarface was one of the better efforts to emerge from 2006's brief flurry of unlikely licensed free-roaming crime games, earning a reasonable 7/10 from Kristan back in October of 2006. Taking the bold approach of following on from the movie, and suggesting that Al Pacino's cocky Cuban crimelord survived the apocalyptic raid on his Miami mansion, the stage is set for a devious journey into larger-than-life violent excess and enough potty mouth to make Gordon Ramsay wince.
The basic set-up is, of course, familiar from the GTA series. Walk around, get in cars, shoot people, drive to hot spots to start missions which either propel the story forwards or provide the cash needed to amass a killer arsenal. Where Scarface excels is in giving you several compelling reasons to jump through the hoops one more time - not least of which is Tony Montana himself. By casting you as such a legendary persona, and then taking everything away from you, there's added impetus to rebuilding your empire. Perfectly animated and voiced with just the right mixture of Pacino accuracy and cartoony pastiche, this is a character you'll believe deserves to rule the world. So seeing Montana getting dissed by cheesy nightclub patrons just ain't right - and your quest to reclaim your reputation as well as your worldly possessions is nicely judged. The better you do, the more the citizens of Miami quake at your approach. And it feels good.
Another solid improvement to the GTA formula (which by San Andreas had become so diffuse and open-ended that many never bothered to see the main story through) was the tight focus on Tony's business. You're a drug dealer, plain and simple. You may be tasked with buying up local businesses through side missions, but only so you can use them as fronts for your coke-peddling antics. Meeting suppliers, delivering kilos and negotiating prices (even if it is by a slightly imprecise press-the-button-at-the-right-time mechanic) all work together to give the game a clear throughline. You are, at all times, following Tony's mantra - first you get the money, then you get the power, then you get the women. Well, mainly the first two. At least in this game.
The final area where Scarface improved on other walk-and-drive crime spree sims was in fixing many of the longstanding flaws in GTA's combat with a more precise aiming system, and offering a driving experience that crashed through the sweet spot between realism and over-the-top mayhem. It was a game where you never felt that Tony's swaggering form was out of your control.
Yeah. You can see what's coming, can't you?
In making the belated journey across the console divide to the Wii, that precision has been...not lost, exactly, but fudged slightly. Before hordes of rabid Wii fans light their torches, grab their pitchforks and march on my castle, it's not that the new control system is unworkable, just that it's a fairly needless change dictated by the Wii itself rather than gameplay necessity. It's fiddly to learn, often awkward to use when it matters most, yet doesn't reward you with any tangible benefits when you master it. Kind of like how it's entirely possible to design a car where you steer with your feet and accelerate and brake with your hands. Sure, you could get used to such a system, but when there's a more intuitive alternative already available, there's no real incentive to make the effort.
So it is here. Control of Tony is split down the middle. The stick on the nunchuk moves him around, while the remote is used to move the camera and aim your weapons. Other functions, such as shooting, taunting, entering vehicles and accessing menus are scattered a touch haphazardly across the various buttons and triggers. While walking around, everything works fine. There are four different settings for the remote, allowing you greater aiming precision with a slower turn speed, or fast movement with a broader target area. All have their pros and cons, and you're free to tinker until you find one that suits.