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That's 'Mr Scarface' to you...

We grab an exclusive chat with Cam Webber, the producer of the forthcoming Scarface videogame...

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

Radical Entertainment knows all about turning big licensed properties into big-selling videogames. With crazily popular hits like Simpsons Hit & Run (and the somewhat less successful Hulk game) under its belt, it's perhaps no surprise to see the Canadian team taking its experience of making sandbox Grand Theft Alsos into a darker crime-filled territory; in this case the cocaine smuggling world of Tony Montana, star of '80s classic Scarface.

Now, simply making a game based around the events of the movie was clearly never going to work. Either the team could do the classic fallback of doing a prequel about how Montana got where he was, or mess with the history and do one of those "ooh, what would have happened if he had survived that manic mansion scene at the end?" kind of affairs. Clearly the latter won out, and that's where we pick up the thread as we grill the game's producer Cam Webber on what he claims will become one of this year's biggest hits...

Eurogamer How is Scarface going to work as a game, given that the game's starting point is actually at the end of the movie?
Cam Webber

We wanted to start out with the biggest scene of the movie, the mansion shoot out, so we start you out in Tony's office, his sister's just died, he grabs his M16 with a grenade launcher attachment. All of his men and his crew have been slaughtered by Sosa's army. Basically you're gonna shoot your way out of the whole situation, you'll escape into the night. So there's a big epic opening shooting mission, Tony escapes out of Miami for three months, comes back to Miami to discover that all of his territory in that area has been taken over by his old competitors - these are all characters from the movie.

So Sosa's working through them in Miami. Tony vows to get his revenge on Sosa, and in the process he also vows to rebuild his empire and take back what he's lost, so there's a very powerful emotional connection of Tony wanting to get back what he had before.

Eurogamer How did that sit with the licence holders when you pitched that idea to them? Were they convinced that that was the way to do it?
Cam Webber

Yeah, we actually spent a lot of time trying to nail down the concept of exactly what we were going to do with it. We explored just about every possible option, and this one just resonated with everybody. I think starting with the mansion shootout was just something that everyone loved - it's like a big epic opening to the game.

The other thing was that we really wanted to make a game that was all about Tony Montana. Y'know, just be Tony f[unk]ing Montana was our big goal of the game and what we're trying to create, and so taking Tony and playing through a storyline that you already know was just like a lot of those other movie games that have been made in the past, and it just wasn't right. The licence and this character warranted something bigger. We wanted to create an open world where the user can build up an empire and be Tony Montana and have tons of dialogue, and put Tony in different situations and see how he reacts.

There's an entertainment value of this character we wanted to deliver on, so we really wanted the user to do things on their own terms, because that's what Tony does; he takes things that he needs, and he does what he needs to do and he does them on his own terms. You know, he doesn't take sh[tuff] from anybody, and we want users to feel the same power and personality of Tony as they go through the game.

Eurogamer It sounds like it's going to be an extremely adult. Do you think you'll run into any problems with the censors over some of the content that you're including?
Cam Webber

We're trying to create an authentic Scarface game. You know, Scarface is a violent movie, there is a lot of foul language in the movie. It's all part of Tony's character. Tony's dialogue consists of the F word at lot. I mean I think he said it 400 times in the movie or something like that. So we want to create an authentic character and an authentic experience that's authentic to the movie so the nature of violence and language and drugs and everything that happens in the game is just consistent with the movie. We're not trying to go any further. We're not trying to shock people in a cheap way, we're just trying to make a great Scarface game, but we're not holding back any punches with it, we're doing what it takes to make it authentic.

Eurogamer Do you have specific target audience in mind?
Cam Webber

We're targeting the 18 to 35 year old crowd, so it's like the core gamers, the big Scarface fans. There's a great cross section of Scarface fans and core videogamers in the market. We're trying to provide a really great experience that really targets those people, who love this character and love playing videogames.

Eurogamer Is Scarface strictly a single-player game?
Cam Webber

Yes, it's all about being the one and only Tony Montana.

Having said that, as you build your empire you're going to have a lot of people working for you, a lot of people managing areas of your business. You're going to have henchmen that fight alongside of you. You're going to have sequences where you're shooting from vehicles where you have someone else driving for you and vice versa, so you definitely have a feeling that you're not alone, that you're running a business, you have a crew that's with you, and you're definitely managing that as you go through, so it's definitely not a game that's a one man show.

Eurogamer Comparisons with Grand Theft Auto are going to be inevitable, so where do you think it distinguishes and differentiates itself?
Cam Webber

First and foremost this game is about being Tony f[lipp]in' Montana. It's his dialogue, his attitude, his moral stance. It's everything that he does. It's not a generic thug. He's a guy that has more depth to him; he's a guy that's entertaining in himself, just listening to him talk. Walking into the Babylon club and seeing how he dances, how he interacts with different people in the world. He's entertainment in himself, so we've got that, we've got this amazing character; he's bringing himself through in the shooting gameplay as well, it's using taunts, using his blind rage, and his personality and his anger in the gameplay itself.

We are an on-foot game first and foremost and we're going to deliver on that to the full extent. We also have some great vehicle gameplay - as does GTA - but we're really focusing on this character and what he does, so that's the first thing. The other thing is we've got some really cool island-to-island play, like the drug-smuggling business. It's really focused on the cocaine business in the early eighties. You're going out into the islands in the Bahamas, you're negotiating with suppliers, you're sending transport through, you're fighting with the DEA, you're building a cocaine business, and it's really specific to the movie and specific to the character, and I think it's going to be a really authentic, really specific, compelling experience for people.

Eurogamer Tells us more about this Blind Rage mode that Tony has.
Cam Webber

For fans of the movie, you'll remember that Tony has this crazy temper that every once in a while gets set off. You hear the organ music play, you see a camera cut to the intensity in his eyes, and he just suddenly snaps. He loses it; he completely loses control and does some really violent things. The mode we created was really inspired by the mansion shootout at the end when he's at the top of the stairs in his coke-fuelled rage. He's just blowing bullets into hundreds of guys, he's taking bullets, and he doesn't even feel the pain. He's just in this zone that no one else can get to but him where he just feels like he can conquer the world and he's invincible, so we really wanted create a mode that brought that through.

What you're going to do in the game is build up your meter, your confidence, your Tony meter through doing skilled gameplay, and you'll be rewarded by building this meter up. When it gets to the maximum it'll be available to use as Blind Rage, so when you walk into a room that has multiple enemies and you feel like you need to use it strategically, you can kick into Blind Rage. It's basically like a Smart Bomb feature, but you need to control it. Basically it's a camera cut. Tony loads up his weapon, he just starts screaming; imagine you've got an M16 and Tony's barking out, screaming at everybody, out of control, waving his gun left and right, you've kind of got this cone of destruction, and you're directing this cone of destruction around the room, and you've got about six or seven seconds to take out everyone you can in the time you have before he snaps out of this rage.

Eurogamer You say Tony's not a generic thug, so he won't kill innocents?
Cam Webber

No, no, Tony won't kill innocents in the game. He's got a moral code. If you try to target an innocent person and hit the fire button, Tony actually pulls his arm back and gives you a line of dialogue talking to himself, but really he's talking to the user saying "what are you doing Tony? I don't need that sh[ort of thing] in my life" and that kind of thing. Everyone he's fighting against is doing it for a reason. They're getting in the way of something he needs or where he's going. He's a very focused character, and if you f[lip] Tony over he's going to take you out, and that's why he's doing it. An innocent person walking down the street, he doesn't care, he completely respects that person and he's not there to take that person out.

Eurogamer So can you kill innocents even if they get caught in the blast?
Cam Webber

Well, you don't deliberately kill innocents. This is a violent world, you've got bazookas, mortar watchers and various weapons; you can blow up gas stations and send a van flying across the street into a crowd of people. You can do some damage, but you can't deliberately target and kill an innocent. That's just not what Tony's about.

Eurogamer Tell us about the mission structure.
Cam Webber

It's a big open world, where we've got Miami, some open ocean and then we've got the Bahamas. It's a fictional chain of islands loosely based on the Bahamas, and we also have Bolivia as a satellite location - that's where Sosa's located. So as you actually go through the game you're going to be building up a drug empire in Miami. We call it Drug Wars. It's a feature where you're going back and forth between suppliers and dealers. You're making dirty cash, you're laundering it at banks, you're using your clean cash to buy different assets, you're upgrading store fronts, doing missions to earn those store fronts, getting guys working for you. You're also progressing onto warehouses, storehouses in Miami in each territory where you're going out to the islands, dealing with the big suppliers, sending shipments into Miami and making tons of cash off those store houses.

So you're building this giant empire - so that's the open world gameplay. Build it how you want. If you want to start in Little Havana, build from there. If you want to go to the downtown area, North Beach, or South Beach, there are different areas of Miami and you can build it how you want to build it, and make the money how you want to build it. The key is, as you build it, as you make money, you're going to be buying stuff with it, you're going to be upgrading your mansion, buying different cars, buying different weapons, buying different suits for Tony, and as you buy that stuff you build reputation, and reputation is really the gate that unlocks the next story mission. You can't just do the story missions one after the other all the way to the end; you have to actually earn the story mission; you have to build your empire up.

You can't go and take out Sosa's entire organisation in one swoop when you're just the little guy trying to build your organisation up. You have to earn it, you have to build through and get to that stage before you can take on Sosa. You got these really deep cinematic combat missions against Sosa that go on through the game, and in between you're going out and building your empire throughout the world and playing tons of ancillary missions along the way.

Eurogamer Can we expect the attention to detail in terms of the soundtrack and celebrity voice actors? Will that be a big part of the game?
Cam Webber

The game's going to be absolutely authentic in every way. We've got a great celebrity voice cast; a lot of people wanted to be involved in this game, so we've got some great voice actors, great content. The die hard fans will be happy with what we have, I can tell you that. As for music, there's going to be a ton of licensed music in the game.

Eurogamer When did the project get underway?
Cam Webber

About a year and a half ago.

Eurogamer Was it based on an existing game engine?
Cam Webber

We've been building Openworld technology at Radical for a little while now with our Simpson's Hit & Run game, and also with our latest version of The Hulk it's a big Openworld city, so we've been building technology along the way, and we're going to follow that up with Scarface and really stretch that Openworld engine into islands and oceans and a city and a wide variety of environments.

Eurogamer Obviously we've got The Godfather coming out later this year. Do you think this re-imagining or extension of old movie licenses is the way things will go?
Cam Webber

I think what we've seen is a pattern in this industry of a lot of games that were coming out with movies as they were released. I think we've had some successes in the business and some failures in doing that kind of model of business. I think what we're starting to see is great old movies... I think the movie has to either have a great character or something about it that has resonated and become a classic and become part of popular culture, and that's what Tony Montana has done, he's become part of popular culture. He's been adopted by the Hip Hop culture. He's got relevance today just like he did 20 years ago. Probably even more so now.

So when you have a character like that and a property like that that's a known entity, you're not trying to build the game alongside of the movie production, and you know what you have and you can build something great with it. It's a great model and it's been a great experience so far for us, and you might see a lot of types of these games being made in the future...

Eurogamer Do you think Scarface will hold up critically?
Cam Webber

Absolutely. We focused on gameplay first. We built our entire Openworld as a grey block, just geometry first, and just filled it with gameplay and just tested our gameplay mechanics first and foremost, and then following it up with texture and lighting at the end. Gameplay has been the focus all the way along, we went really deep into our shooting and how you use Tony's personality and his taunt mechanics and used that in the shooting experience, how you target, how you lock, how enemies react to that, the AI that's behind them. Our shooting experience is fun, it's compelling, it's challenging. As well, our vehicles are fun, we've got a great variety with boats and cars, the shooting mechanics from those vehicles is fun, and just dialogue mechanics and intimidation and negotiation in the Drug Wars gameplay is really fun as well. I have no doubt that great gameplay is what gets you great reviews and that's where we focused all the way through. This thing is going to be a massive hit this fall.

Scarface is due out on PS2 and Xbox later this year.

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