On paper at least, Scarface lends itself better to a digital makeover than The Godfather. Brian De Palma's movie was riddled with guns, drugs, fast cars and '80s music, along with the kind of dialogue that inspired a generation of gangsta rappers. And wouldn't you know it, so was GTA: Vice City. Coincidence? We think not. Even 20 years on, the film is still hot property.
"We've got a big team at Radical, made up of a bunch of different people from different studios," explains Cam Weber, producer on Scarface. "Some were on The Simpsons titles, some on 007: Agent Under Fire and a couple were over at Dynamix doing Tribes 2. We were working on an original property but in the end VU liked the technology we'd built and so hired us to do Scarface."
Fortunately, Radical has one immediate advantage over EA: it's making a sequel. You read that right, it's a sequel. One in which Tony Montana is alive, and not at all stone-cold dead in a posh paddling pool. Not even a tiny bit. VU and Radical have taken the script and ripped out the last page. In the film, Tony Montana was first sprayed with semi-automatic gunfire, blasted in the spine with a pump-action shotgun before finally falling 20ft into a concrete fountain with little bits of cocaine dribbling out of his nostrils... The game is quite a bit different.
Another thing Scarface: TWIY has that The Godfather conspicuously doesn't is Pacino himself. Admittedly, he doesn't say Tony Montana's lines, but he apparently did pick out his own soundalike from a gaggle of 70 Tony-impersonators.
"Pacino approved a lot of things," recalls Weber. "His digital likeness, the choice of actor to play him. We've got 30,000 lines of dialogue in the game - that's 10-15 days of solid studio work just for Tony's character. It simply didn't make sense to have Pacino doing it. But we've got new dialogue from Robert Loggia (Frank Lopez in the movie, now the game's narrator), and Stephen Bauer (Tony's compadre, Manny), as well as new characters played by James Woods, Michael York and Cheech & Chong."
But surely what Coppola said about games trivialising their subject applies equally well to this game - what, for instance, of the movie's underlying anti-drugs message? Remember that Tony's sister gets riddled with bullets because his nose is buried in a pile of coke so big he can't see the approaching gunman. It may not be a subtle message, yet Weber acknowledges that little of it will make it to his finished game.
"While cocaine is everywhere, it's not a gameplay feature and the anti-drug message isn't a main theme. We do keep a lot of the themes from the movie going though, such as Tony's sense of family and his moral code. He's not a generic thug, so you can't just mow down a bunch of pedestrians - Tony won't let you do that. We had to work around things like that to satisfy the licence owners..."
It's a nice try, but we've seen in-game morality before and it's usually the least important of the RPG stats. Radical will be counting on its acting talent and a script by David McKenna (writer of Blow) to influence the mood. This won't appease the nay-sayers with its reformulation of the film's tragic denouement. In this respect, The Godfather almost certainly has the edge. But what does Oliver Stone, famously opinionated writer of the original Scarface make of it?
"Stone chose not to be involved..." concludes Weber with barely concealed relief. "He was offered involvement and he turned it down. We're fine with that, really..."