Remember the bit in Scarface with the chainsaw? The bit where Tony Montana and his brother try to buy some drugs but end up chained to the shower rail about to get cut up by a nutty chainsaw-wielding drug dealer?
It's shown in its lengthy entirety at the start of Money. Power. Respect. It's probably the best thing about the game. And it's over before you've even had a chance to check out the tutorial.
Which isn't to say that this game is especially bad – after all, that's a pretty entertaining movie clip by anyone's standards. It's just that Money. Power. Respect. isn't especially good, either, and, apart from the movie clips that incongruously bookend the 'action', it's not clear what it's got to do with the original 1983 movie at all.
Contrary to what you might expect, Scarface isn't a third-person action game where you blow people away with Tony Montana's little friend before getting high on your own supply and going out in a cinematic blaze of glory.
Instead, it's a turn-based strategy in which you compete with other drug cartels to try to take over Miami, turf by turf, and become the city's drug-dealing kingpin.
In order to do that, you build drug labs to make drugs; hire pushers and sell drugs to raise money; hire thugs to defend or acquire turf; and buy special 'power moves' to give yourself a temporary advantage. It's incredibly simple. And simplistic.
The main game mode consists of ten scenarios that are supposedly based on the movie. What this means is that each stage is prefaced by a clip from the movie, but apart from that it's difficult to discern any sort of real connection between the two. In actual fact, the scenarios act like an extended tutorial, gradually introducing you to the game mechanics with a series of fairly easy objectives (build three drug labs, or hire ten thugs – that sort of thing).
This comes in handy when you're engaging in the Cartel Challenge and ad hoc multiplayer modes, which are more freeform and see you playing the same game, albeit trying to amass a certain amount of money or territory (sometimes within a certain number of turns).
Either way, the substance of the game remains the same: the buy phase sees you acquiring buildings to produce or store drugs or hiring new manpower. The drug dealing phase sees you selling drugs wherever the prices are highest. And the combat phase consists of attacking enemy territory or defending your own turf.
Or, according to the back of the box: 'issue commands during real-time combat to control action at the street level.'
Which is glorifying it a bit, frankly.
What actually happens is that you choose the number of thugs you'll attack with, and any power moves you might want to use. Then you'll watch them stand in a line opposite their enemies and shoot at each other for too long until the outcome is basically decided by weight of numbers. You do occasionally get to choose whether to run away or not, but that's about the extent of your interaction with the 'real-time combat'.
And that's it. Occasionally your drug pushers will get arrested, or a random event will affect drug prices, or someone will play a power move. But that's the game, in its entirety. And because the game plays out across a (rudimentary and small) map of Miami, which is always divided into the same block-shaped turf sections, there's very little variation and as such it gets boring pretty quickly.
There's nothing intrinsically wrong with basing a turn-based strategy game on the Scarface movie. It's just that, sadly, the turn-based strategy game in Money. Power. Respect. is too shallow to sustain any longterm interest.