It was time for me to play Scarface: The World Is Yours. And like many times before, I sat down with my game controller in hand and thought, “It’s my job to play video games. Is that cool, or what?” Right about then, my wife stepped into the study, saw me setting up for a game and said, “Oh, you’re working. Sorry.” She then went to ask my son to take out the trash. It was an ironic moment that made me smile. I hate dumping the trash, but video games, I like. Most of the time.
Same Beginning to a New Ending
Scarface: The World Is Yours is a sequel, of sorts, to the 1983 movie Scarface—a Brian De Palma film that features Al Pacino as the rough-talking Tony Montana who takes over Miami’s cocaine trade and builds himself an illicit kingdom. At the end of this (excessively violent) cautionary tale, Montana becomes a victim of the foul world he tried to master and lays dead in a pool of his own blood.
Of course, it’s a bit difficult to stage a sequel—even in Hollywood and the land of video games—when the lead character is dead. So the game starts with the climactic scene where Montana yells, “Say hello to my leetle friend,” only this time he blasts his way to safety, leaving the rest of his domain in flames.
As Montana, it’s your job to rebuild a decimated drug empire and kill everyone who has wronged you. To do this, you start scratching your way back into the dope trade in Little Havana and eventually run, swim, boat and drive around the whole open world of Miami. Once you get a fistful of cash you can buy out businesses and front some bigger drug action. But money isn’t all you need. The owners sell out only after you complete little mini-missions (like dropping off crates of contraband before the police show up). Eventually you battle your way to controlling entire neighborhoods and warehouses, and get the big dollars rolling in.
But let’s not forget the killing side of the equation. Rival gangs and bosses are the objects of Montana’s wrath and blood-soaked rages. Using a variety of guns (and a flesh-hacking chain saw) you zing off arms, legs, heads and an assortment of other vital body parts. Fountains of blood spurt everywhere and the bodies stack like cordwood.
In the midst of this slaughter, players are also encouraged to taunt, intimidate and swear at enemies as a way to raise Montana’s “balls” meter (a measure of his courage and other people’s respect). Once that meter fills up, the angry drug dealer flies into a rage and the true carnage ensues. All of this leads to an improved reputation and opens up missions and new parts of the Big Orange to conquer.
The Word on the Street
I stood for a quick stretch of my lower back. I wasn’t in much of an enjoying mood, anymore. Scarface was shaping up to be yet another Grand Theft Auto clone—with a motion picture excuse. Still, to its credit, it also displayed a few positive traits that its brethren did not. For instance, here you can’t kill innocents. If you pull the trigger on a passerby, Montana refuses to fire and says, “I got no problem with you, man,” or something harsher like, “I don’t need that s— in my life.”
Police make a difference, too. If you start smashing into cars, running over people in town or initiating wild firefights with rival gangs, the cops will swarm to the area and put a stop to your evil deeds. At that point you’d better run away or hope you can sweet-talk somebody because when the cops start shooting, you always lose. Or, as it’s put in the game, “You f—ed up!”
Which leads us back to yet another pothole in this road paved with mostly bad intentions—the ridiculously foul language. It’s awful. When I played this game I always had to turn the volume way down and lock the study door—even when the only ones home were me and my dog. (You never know what she’ll repeat.) Misuses of God’s and Jesus’ names, s-words, slang terms for male and female anatomy, copious f-words, you name it … well, no, don’t name it, just take my word for it that it’s in there.
If that wasn’t sordid enough, Scarface also throws in a number of scantily clad women. And man-on-the-street discussions revolving around what these women should or could do.
Taking Out the Trash
After playing Scarface for several hours, I decided to take a break. But as I switched the console off, something strange happened. There was an odd feeling hanging in the quiet air around me. And then I grasped what it was. Peace. Shutting off the flying bullets, gushing gore and brain-hammering f-words felt like putting down a 50 lb. sack of cement—the kind Jimmy Hoffa must have been fond of. It’s only when you drop that burden, blood rushing back to strained and knotted muscles, that you understand how much of a pain it was to carry in the first place.
Video game apologists claim that even the worst games are all about entertainment, an escape from the rigors of a humdrum life. Still, at that moment, sitting in blissful silence, I wondered how anyone could be entertained by Montana’s life. Especially since, to finish the game, you’d have to spend 40 to 50 hours in Scarface’s brutal Miami—which is more realistically a place you’d want to escape from. For a brief moment I thought about just walking away myself. Then I remembered. “Oh, right. It’s my job.” And so, with a shrug, I decided to get back at it. Right after I dumped the trash.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.