|System: PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: FarSight||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Vivendi Universal||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sept 2006||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|Review by Patrick||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Patrick Evans
I really wish I could have been in the brainstorming sessions leading up to Scarface: Money, Power, Respect. When just about every other company is porting their half-assed GTA-clones to PSP from console, Scarface goes in a completely different direction, choosing to instead provide ho-hum strategy instead of third-person action. While it is hard to knock a company for trying something different, Scarface on PSP never manages to excite or challenge in its attempt to be different.
Different from the console version that is, and not different in general. For whatever reason, the PSP has suffered a recent rash of poorly thought-out strategy offerings involving crime. Gangs of Londons strategy game was nothing more than an misguided afterthought and The Godfathers was an extension of the single-player story, but Scarface is a dedicated strategy game with a little more thought behind it.
Scarface is structured akin to a very traditional turn-based strategy game, with different phases regulating the action. As they attempt to conquer all of Miamis different neighborhoods and districts they must decide how to best utilize their resources. During the Buying Phase, players can hire thugs (foot soldiers) or pushers (drug dealers), buy buildings to create or store drugs, and purchase Power Moves to use against your rivals (more on power moves in a bit.) Hiring thugs or pushers is as simple as selecting how many you want and where you want them. There are no ranks like in The Godfather; one pusher or thug is identical to the next in terms of efficiency.
While there is no discernable difference in performance between hired goons, there is a huge difference in price. When I played through my first buying phase, I could see the marginal economics at work everywhere in this game. Everything here is so by the book that it could be used as a teaching aide in certain classes. Every thug that you hire in a round is more expensive than the one before him, as are buildings and power moves. The technical term for this idea is diminishing marginal returns, but I would never have known that had I not actually gone to school for economics.
After the buying phase is complete, players then come to the dealing phase where they delegate what drugs were going to be sold in what districts. Just as you must watch to not hire too many people at a time, you also have to make sure not to sell a lot of any specific drug in a district and dive its price down. If you flood a market with coke, the price for coke will decrease the next turn, whereas limited sales to that same district will usually push the prices back up. Again, just like a textbook, Scarface obviously adheres to the laws of Supply and Demand.
The combat phase is the most interesting aspect this title has to offer. When you attack an adjacent district, or are defending your own turf, the game heads into another turn-based mode. Your goons and the enemies goons stand out in the street and fire away for every turn, but at the beginning of each turn you have the option to either focus your attacks on a specific target or use a power move. Power moves would best be described as cards that grant special abilities during combat, like setting a car bomb to prevent the enemy from escaping or tossing flash grenades to stun the enemy. The coolest power move is Say Hello to My Little Friend, which pretty much wipes the entire field out when you use it.
Learning about economics while playing PSP may be a decent excuse not to study for your econ midterm, but it certainly doesnt translate into a fun or interesting game. The entire game, excluding the fighting phase, takes place within a boring set of menus filled with little numbers that mean a big difference. Oh, six of my pushers were busted with heroin in Little Havana? Tap X. I made five million in profit for my coke sales? Tap X. The Diaz brothers are asking for a truce? Tap X. The lack of presentation is staggering and really bogs the overall title down.
Players can play Scarfaces single-player by either following the events of the movie and completing the scenarios set out in front of them, or they can choose to tackle the more open-ended Cartel Challenge. The story-mode seems like an interesting idea; placing players in different scenarios to fulfill the Tony Montana role. Unfortunately, especially late in the game, the action becomes monotonous and repetitive. When you have enough cash in the late game to recover your lost thugs from the round before and still buy a ton of power moves, the game boils down to using a ton of high-powered moves and crushing the enemy with little resistance.
If you arent interested in learning the fine points of micro economics, then Scarface will likely bore you after three or four hours. The menu-based gameplay lacks the personality that you might expect from a Scarface title, and the game becomes elementary after you figure out the system. For a dedicated strategy title without any action gameplay, Scarface lacks the depth to become a legit strategy experience. Scarface fans should stick to the console versions, while strategy fans should resume playing Field Commander.
CCC Staff Writer