Nope, to get to the source of Scarface’s problem, we need to go in-depth and look at how the game works on an hour by hour basis. In brief, our Tony has returned from licking his wounds and he wants his empire back. Starting from scratch, you need to win back your mansion, build up your drugs business, eliminate your enemies and put yourself back in the number one crime lord slot. After a build-up period in which the game steadily introduces you to your capabilities and contacts, you’re off to conquer the city territory by territory.
In practice, this means several things. First, the game has a series of central missions that propel you through the storyline. Secondly, there are fronts: businesses you can buy that slowly give you hold of a territory and provide outlets for your evil empire. You’ll also need to build a reputation by completing missions and buying exotics (luxury vehicles, weapons, henchmen, upgrades for your mansion). Finally, you also need to destroy the competition by eliminating enemy gangs on your turf, and taking over their storehouses.
To make these things happen you’ll need to complete certain missions and earn a healthy quantity of dough. The former isn’t usually a problem. Radical knows that part of the fun of being the bad guy is doing away with people in the most unpleasant and spectacular ways possible and a large number of the missions are based on exactly such activities. Thanks to the elegance of the combat system and the use of Balls, the fire fights are a lot more entertaining than the tiresome shoot-outs in The Godfather, and the game knows when to throw in vehicles or interesting locations to keep things interesting. Add in shotguns, grenade launchers and our good old friend, the chainsaw, and there should be enough mayhem to keep the most bloodthirsty fan feeling cheerful.
However, when the game moves away from this style, it all seems to go horribly wrong. I don’t know about you, but if I’m Tony Montana I want to swagger around threatening people in an imponderably thick Cuban accent, dishing out the damage, and spattering four-letter words like they’re going out of fashion. What I don’t want to do is run gopher missions, yet the game keeps throwing in missions that have you fly-tipping stolen goods or dropping off items at certain points. More seriously, the business of making money is dull. First, your old pal Felix fixes you up with a contact, who gives you a mission; one of several generic efforts that you’ll find yourself repeating as the game goes on, usually involving the elimination of a target, escorting a family member or delivering merchandise by road or water. Having completed the mission, you’re given the location of the supplier and you drive to them to make a deal (done via a golf-game style swing-o-meter). Now laden with Columbia’s second-best known export, you then drive around the neighbourhood selling the stuff to local dealers (using the swing-o-meter to get the best deal). Make sales, make money, and then off to the bank to launder it.