The first run through this process it’s roughly entertaining, but it soon gets wearing. The result is a game that – like a bad learner driver – spends a lot of time pottering around in second gear, then suddenly lurches into fourth at the first sign of open road, delivering some really great moments, before crunching back into second with a nasty jolt. You’re regularly weighed down by tedious, repetitive trudges through the least glamorous areas of the illegal drugs business, with you thinking, “I’m the crime lord around here – shouldn’t someone else be doing this stuff?”
It’s not as if you can’t have people working for you. The game actively encourages you to hire henchmen, the most useful of whom is a driver who can be summoned rudely on an appropriately prehistoric-looking satellite phone and told to deliver your car (plus a boot full of weapons) to your current location. The game also throws in enforcers and hitmen later on, meaning you can switch to them to tackle gang-eliminating tasks. However, while this stuff may be very neat – and it is – you never seem to be having quite as much fun as you should be.
And that’s what separates Scarface from the best open-world games. At its best, the genre is all about filling the world with toys, then letting you go out and play with them, and even Radical’s own Hulk: Ultimate Destruction did more to make sure you had fun. Scarface is bold, dashing and violent, but it simply isn’t that playful. Don’t get me wrong: there’s something to be said for its attitude: it has the character of the film down pat, and I love the way it resists the temptation to go for the kind of cheap jokes or stupid quips that might tarnish that. I also love the way it plays true to the eighties setting (though we could have done without the odd anachronistic hip-hop or nu-metal track on the otherwise brilliant soundtrack). Yet even Saints Row – a game which could have sorely done with Scarface’s distinctive personality – was more entertaining outside of the primary campaign. And, in the end, isn’t that what open world games are all about?
Scarface deserves kudos for the classy, authentic way it handles its material, but some tiresome missions mean it’s not quite the game it could have been.