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Scarface: The World Is Yours

Radical Entertainment talks tough.

It's half past ten in the morning, UK time, and we're standing by a pool in the Spanish sunshine, being offered champagne by a parade of bronzed models sporting the itsy-bitsiest of bikinis and the highest of high heels.

Everything, except the ladies of course, is draped in red velvet or faux leopardskin; golden Venus de Milo statues are dotted all around, and across the other side of the pool palm trees cast shade over another group of lovely ladies patting a beach ball about.

Clearly, it's all designed to give us a taste of what it's like to "be" Tony Montana - which, as we're repeatedly informed by various Vivendi types throughout the day, is the whole point of the Scarface game.

It's a bit hard to feel like Tony Montana, though, when you had to get up at 4am to go to Heathrow and you're still wearing your enormous London coat that looks like it was made out of a sleeping bag. In fact, it's hard to feel flashy at all when you remember that whatever you've got under the sleeping bag can in no way match up to what the ladies handing out the champagne have got. Especially when you remember that the only piece of beach attire in your suitcase is a black one-piece that you can't remember wearing since school made you in 1993, and which is probably still emblazoned with your Bronze Survival patch. No man is going to tear his eyes away from these ladies, even if there is visible proof that you can rescue rubber bricks in your pajamas.

But let's worry about that later - right now, there's a job to be done, namely interviewing game designer Jason Bone and finding out all about Scarface, which is due to arrive on PC, PS2, PSP and Xbox this autumn. For those who aren't familiar, the PC and console versions are set just after the end of the film, and take a bit of artistic licence - turns out Tony didn't die after all, and now it's your job to rebuild his drugs empire in sunny Miami.

To the hardcore Scarface fan, this might seem a bit, well, rubbish, bearing in mind what happens at the end of the movie. Why didn't developer Radical take the easier (and arguably more logical) option of simply making a game that follows the plot of the film?

Hooray for Hollywood

"We didn't want to rehash the movie because we feel that to make a good game, there needs to be a compelling storyline with good characters that drive you through it," Bone explains.

"There have been a lot of games that have been made based on movies, and when they follow the exact storyline of the movie, you lose a little bit of interest if you know where things are going. We felt that a fresh start would allow us to have the freedom to do new and interesting things to keep the player motivated and engaged."

Most movie tie-ins that have used this strategy have been a success, Bone argues, highlighting Chronicles of Riddick as an example: "You see that movie and you get one experience; you play the game, you get another experience that's just as satisfying, but engaging at the same time."

So just what kind of an experience can you expect from Scarface? Well, one that'll be familiar if you've played any of the games in the Grand Theft Auto series - and Bone doesn't deny that GTA was a big influence during the development process.

"[Rockstar] tried to make the Scarface game at one point, and they couldn't because they didn't have the licence," he claims.

"We felt that to make the ultimate Scarface game, we had to take what they'd learned and put Tony Montana all over it... That sort of gives it a brand new flavour."

Havana good time

Later on in the game you'll get to explore locations in the Bahamas and Bolivia, but it all kicks off in Little Havana, where you're tasked with taking over three fronts in any order you choose. To do this, you need to do a favour for each front manager - he'll then sell you his place and start working for you.

You can get around town in any of more than 100 vehicles, which include sports cars, sedans, vans and trucks. Naturally, there's always the option to do a bit of carjacking - and neatly, you'll find it easier to force people out of their vehicles as you play through the game and Tony's reputation amongst the locals grows.

But if you can't be bothered with all that, you can always use your big eighties-style mobile phone to call your driver. He'll either turn up and drop the car off wherever you are, or chauffeur you to wherever you want to go. Your mobile phone also comes in handy for viewing which deals you've got on the go, and for checking out any available side missions. As you'd expect, there are plenty of these to choose from.

As you'd also expect, there's an awful lot of violence in Scarface. But while you certainly can randomly blast your way through the game, using the L1 button to lock onto targets, you'll be rewarded if you opt to use skill instead.

Using the left and right analog sticks, you can aim the reticule precisely - aiming for the head or kneecap, for example. In fact, according to producer Cam Weber, "You can actually target the left or right testicle." Which brings us neatly to the reward you'll receive for your efforts - 'Balls Points'. Collect enough and your Balls Meter will fill up to the point where Tony goes into a Blind Rage, unleashing all manner of violent destruction on anything that gets in his way.

Ball games

So, er, why the emphasis on balls? "We looked at the movie, we looked at those classic scenes, and one of the big things that Tony says is that all he has is his word and his balls," Bone says.

"If you want to progress in the game and take control of Miami, it's about being ballsy and doing things that are aggressive, and making sure you're playing as much like Tony as possible.

"We could have called it many things, but balls kept coming up in the movie, and balls really felt like that legitimate way to score the player."

And besides, Bone admits, "We're a little childish at times. I just like any excuse to say balls."

We've talked enough balls for now, so let's return to the GTA question. Namely, why didn't Radical decide to do something different with the Scarface licence? Aren't there enough GTA clones on the market already?

"Well, the thing that we've done that is different from a lot of those games is that you usually play a generic character that doesn't really have a lot of personality," Bone says.

"When you put Tony Montana into this situation, it's a very different experience. You're playing around with his dialogue in the game, and we realised that there was something very compelling about throwing that into the mix. Being Tony makes it a completely different experience."

Dialogue comes into play in various different ways - not just when you're doing drug deals or having a chat with the local hookers. Tony has a selection of verbal taunts, for example, which form part of the combat system. But his voice isn't done by your actual Al Pacino because - according to Vivendi bigwig Adam Roberts - "He just can't physically do it any more. He tried, [but] it took a lot of physical effort to do the Montana voice - it's very heavily accented, very difficult for him to do."

Stars of the show

You can expect performances from James Woods, Cheech Marin and Huey of the Fun Lovin' Criminals, not to mention Motorhead frontman Lemmy and Ricky Gervais. Apparently Gervais is a huge fan of the Scarface movie, so he "jumped at the chance" to appear in the game.

Gervais isn't the movie's only fan, of course (and nor is Puff Daddy who, we're informed during the game presentation, has seen it 63 times). Isn't Radical worried about living up to the high expectations of the film's fanbase?

"Obviously it's a big concern, but there's a lot of us who love this movie; we live and breathe this movie," Bone says.

"I'm constantly amazed at how classic all of the scenes are, and that's tricky to pull off, but working with the writers, and working closely with Universal and the original people who did the movie, I really feel like we've nailed the essence and the soul of that character - which is the biggest hurdle to overcome.

"Now all we've got to do is make sure that the game around it is fun from beginning to end, and I think we've got it."

It's hard to believe that Bone was feeling quite so confident around May of last year - Scarface failed to impress at E3, resulting in quite a bit of negative feedback. Bone concedes that a lot of it was fair, adding: "Open world games are definitely a difficult challenge - making a straight linear game that has controlled levels and very small areas you can focus the art on is one thing, but when you rip all that wide open and everything needs to look detailed it's very different."

World of trouble

Did Radical underestimate the challenge they were taking on, then? "Oh, absolutely. We do have a bit of experience with open world games, but they were on a much smaller scale - there wasn't a lot of detail in them. With this game, we needed it to feel cinematic and yet be an open world game."

And that, they discovered, is no mean feat - hence the game's release date was delayed. But now, Bone says, everything's in order, and the development team is mainly spending their time "polishing and making it look very, very pretty."

You might have thought they'd also use the extra time to get to work on an Xbox 360 version - but apparently not. "We didn't want to distract ourselves with next-gen; when we do next-gen, we want to do it right, we don't want it just to be a port of the game we're working on," Bone says.

However, "We have the licence for quite a while, and if it feels right to make another Scarface game, I think there's a good possibility of that happening. And if we did, it's definitely going to be next-gen."

Does that mean we could see a Scarface game on PS3, too? "Absolutely, yes - that would be a silly market to ignore."

Radical did find the time to develop a PSP version, although it's quite different to the PC and console games. For starters, the PSP game follows the plot of the film - "It's more [about] reflecting scenes in the movie and more about running a drug empire in a sort of a number-bouncing way; drugs are going to sell for certain amounts in different neighbourhoods, and so on... It's a bit more strategy-based."

Portable problems

The thinking behind this, Bone explains, is to do with the fundamental differences between handheld and console gaming: "The console version is about great visuals, and console gamers like to bash buttons and interact with the controller. The PSP isn't as good for that; it's got a smaller screen, the button configurations aren't as adaptable.

"The PSP game is going to give you a very different experience. They're just very different markets, and we feel that we've hit them both."

To find out whether he's right, of course, we'll have to wait till later in the year. Until then, it's time to get on with enjoying the sunshine and champers, and trying not to wonder how much time one you'd have to spend in the gym to look like those girls in the bikinis. A couple of male models have turned up, but one of them bears too much of a resemblance to Chico and the other looks like he's just come out of prison.

Still, there's always the evening's entertainment to look forward too, although apparently they couldn't provide tigers in cages "due to Spanish animal cruelty laws". So, obviously, they've covered a couple of topless ladies in orange and black body paint instead. No doubt Tony Montana would be very impressed.