Review by Black Falcon 700
"Grand Theft Auto Shrinks But Keeps Its Large Appeal"
I have been a fan of the Grand Theft Auto series since its 2D inception on the Playstation. When I saw that it was coming to the GBA, I was overjoyed. 2D games are really at home on the GBA, and it seemed like a perfect fit. Well, after playing the game for myself, I have to admit I was right. Grand Theft Auto Advance is a near perfect blend of 2D action and mature themes that will not disappoint.
The gameplay of GTA Advance remains largely the same as its 2D predecessors. The biggest difference is the controls for walking aren't as confusing as before. Instead of relying on the driving scheme for walking (as in the PS-X games, where you hold the X button to walk and turn your character using the directional pad), all you need to do is just press the direction on the pad. Driving is the same, and the hand brake, though quite unrealistic, is really fun to overuse. After playing the game for 5 minutes, I was cruising around the city, whipping around corners, and running over pedestrians like I'd been doing it for hours already. The story missions are varied and interesting, but they are really just a good way to get you deeper into the GTA universe, rather than a reason to play. The real draw of this game is its trademark open-ended gameplay. There are a variety of side missions that range from paramedic, where you deliver patients to a hospital, to vigilante, where you step into the shoes of a cop and kill drug dealers, to taxi, where you drive people around the city earning fares. Plus, you can simply drive around for fun and do whatever your mischievous mind can think of (beat up an old lady, gun down some cops, or drive a car of into the ocean). There are also random fun things to collect such as hidden packages which unlock prizes. Simply put, the gameplay of GTA Advance is simple to master and will keep you occupied for hours at a time.
The graphics in GTA Advance aren't anything revolutionary for the GBA. The models of people, cars, and buildings look a lot better than in the previous 2D ventures. The buildings and certain other obstacles, like the car crusher or tanks at the dock, are 3D, which I personally think takes away from the 2D style of the game. Also when you're in a high speed chase with lots of cops and pedestrians, there can be a lot of slowdown, which does take you out of the action. Overall, the graphics are above average, though.
I know it's unfair to compare GTA Advance to its 3D cousins on the PS2 and XBox, but I can't help but think that the sound in this game could be better. One of my favorite things about the PS2 and XBox games are the different radio stations you can flip to for different tunes. I know that would be a bit tough for the GBA to pull it off, especially with all the other sounds going on, but I've seen it done in other games before and I wish they could've done it here. Other than that, the sound production is just like you'd expect on the GBA.
Like I said before, the story is more window-dressing than anything that really matters, but it is nice and does help to throw a bit of variety into the story missions. It centers around your character, Mike, and his journey of revenge to pay back the druggies who killed your mentor, Vinnie. It's nothing really deep, but there are tons of references to other games in the GTA series, such as places and characters, which is enough to keep you anticipating what you'll see next.
Since you'll be having such a good time with this game, you'll get a lot of replay out of it. To beat the entire game, it will require many hours of searching to find everything (rampages, hidden packages, etc.) There is so much to do and see that you'll find yourself so immersed in the environment that you won't notice the hours tick by.
Overall, Grand Theft Auto Advance is a very enjoyable romp through familiar territory. You'll love the open-ended gameplay and become enraptured in every mission you attempt to complete. I doubt you'll notice the graphical and sound issues that occur. You'll be enjoying this bite-sized romp through Liberty City too much to even think about any problems the game may have.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 11/02/04
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