The film Scarface was released more than 20 years ago, but it continues to inspire wannabe thugs and nihilistic megalomaniacs to this day. As popular and action-packed as the film is, it makes sense that it would be tapped as source material for a video game. What's surprising about the PlayStation Portable game, Scarface: Money. Power. Respect., is that it doesn't just slap a familiar license on a generic action game. Instead of testing your trigger speed, Scarface tests your business acumen by challenging you to manage the operations of a drug cartel. Scarface is a turn-based strategy game that is simple enough to pick up and play but still provides an engaging and rewarding experience. The subject matter isn't for everyone, but if you've seen the movie, you know what to expect. Even then, the notion of playing a drug-dealing strategy game on the go does seem absurd, but the sense of unabashed excess makes the game all the more fun to play.
Scarface on the PSP eschews the open-world gameplay of the console games for an interesting and enjoyable take on turn-based strategy.
Unlike the Scarface game for the PlayStation 2, Xbox, and PC, this game doesn't alter the story of the film, so don't expect to see Tony Montana rise from the dead. In fact, Scarface on the PSP isn't very concerned with the story. In a single-player game, you can play a series of 10 scenes from the movie or you can play cartel challenge. If you play the movie scenes, each scenario is set up with a clip from the movie, and then you're given a specific objective relating to that particular scene. For example, when Tony Montana turns on Frank Lopez, your objective is to simply eliminate the Lopez cartel from the map. There are also secondary objectives that require you to take over a set number of territories, win several consecutive battles, or earn a certain amount of money.
In addition to the movie scenarios, you can play the cartel challenge. In the cartel challenge, you can choose to play as the cartel of your choice (although all but one cartel are locked when you first start playing). There are three game modes in the cartel challenge. In race to a fortune mode, the first player to earn a certain amount of money wins. In drug war mode, you play for a set number of rounds and the player with the most money at the end of the game is the winner. Finally, in fight to the finish, you play until there's only one cartel left on the map. The variety of objectives in the movie-scenario missions add a welcome bit of variety to the game, but the cartel-challenge missions require more strategy because you usually start with less money and fewer territories. The cartel challenges also offer more replay value since the missions change every time you play.
Regardless of which mode you play, the gameplay is simple and easy to pick up. Scarface is a turn-based strategy game, where you are the head of a drug cartel and you have to move thugs, push drugs, and make a whole lot of money. The game takes place in Miami, which is divided into more than a dozen different neighborhoods. If you control a neighborhood, you can build drug labs to produce cocaine, heroin, or marijuana. You can then hire pushers to sell the drugs, which is your primary source of income. Buying facilities and hiring crew members takes place in the first phase of the turn. Once you've fortified your territories, you can move on to the dealing phase. In the dealing phase, you choose a territory that you own and assign pushers to sell the drugs that your labs have produced. Each territory has different demands for different drugs, so you can make a lot more money if you sell the right drugs in the right neighborhoods. After the dealing phase, you move on to the combat phase. You can have anywhere from 1 to 10 thugs in any given territory, and during the combat phase of your turn, you can either choose to send thugs into an enemy territory to try to take that territory over or you can defend and move your thugs around your own territories to fortify any weak or vulnerable areas.
When combat is initiated, you have a street-level view of the turf. The opposing thugs will start shooting it out and the combat ends when there's only one cartel left. You don't have direct control over the combat, but after each round of combat, you can issue orders to your thugs. You can tell your thugs to target certain enemies, you can purchase new thugs to replace fallen ones, or you can play power moves.