Review by copyright_J
"Buggy? Yes. Familiar? Yes. Awesome? Hell yes."
Wow. Just wow. Let's get this out of the way right now and say that this is almost certainly the best game on the PSP. If you have a PSP, you really should consider (strongly) getting this game. If you loved Grand Theft Auto (I mean really loved) then you may consider getting a PSP for this game (and LCS too, but I mean it's like $200, that would take some commitment). Well, whatever, on to the review.
The graphics of Vice City Stories are probably the best on the PSP. In fact, they're arguably better than the PS2 GTAs' graphics. However, every rose has its thorns, and in Vice City Stories that means pop up, both in terms of solid items and textures. Occasionally when you are driving fast, items like fences, walls, even sometimes buildings will pop up after you've hit them. This really doesn't occur that often. However, almost guaranteed to while driving fast, or sometimes even at medium speed, is texture pop up. Things go from textured (beautiful) to untextured (ugly) as you're driving past them (or usually on them as it happens most often to the road). The character models and everything else are great though, so it's no real big deal.
The sound effects of this game are pretty good, although some times sound effects won't come up (when opening car doors, getting on a motorcycle and driving off quickly, etc.) Like the texture pop ups, this is an annoying yet benign problem. The voice overs for this game are, as per usual in the GTA universe, fantastic. Lance in particular is really well voiced, Philip Michael Thomas did as outstanding a job this time as he did in the original Vice City. However, sound effects and voice overs aren't all sound is about. No, the big thing in the sound department is music, or more specifically, the radio! The radio in this game is outstanding in every field, the music played on it (basically every 80's hit that wasn't in the first Vice City), the DJ's of the stations (Old favorites like Lazlow, Fernando, and Maurice Chavez are back, though none of the listed are actually DJ's this time around). and the commercials (hilarious as always). The only problem in this department is that some times (more often on some sessions than others, seems pretty random) the radio will skip out for anywhere from a fraction of a second to a few seconds. This is really annoying when you're driving down Ocean Drive, smash through a police barricade with "Holy Diver" blasting, then suddenly the music cuts out. Sometimes (though much more rarely), the radio simply turns off and doesn't turn back on until you change the station or leave and re enter the car. The songs on the radio more than make up for this however.
At its core, GTA is all about the gameplay, and Rockstar still has its touch when it comes to it. Vice City Stories has some long missions, some short missions, some hard missions, some easy missions, and everything in between. The missions range from "seemingly pointless" (Brawn of the Dead) to "awesome" (a good example is "Leap and Bound"). The missions vary wildly, to being basically a new formula to being old (and in some cases cliched in the series to the point of feeling boring). The fun factor varies as well, but I assure you, the amount of good missions far exceeds that of the bad. And who said you even need to do missions? This is GTA, you can run around, slip into a back alley, come across a machine gun that's just lying around and create some havoc, before carjacking a sports car and leading the police on a high speed chase. Just like in the old Vice City, you can fly helicopters again (and also some planes). Unlike Vice City, you can swim now as well (although only for a little while at first). It;s not really necessary, but it really is a nice touch, and it goes a long way to making boating more enjoyable. All the classic side missions are back, along with some new ones like a life guard type of mission. Another new edition is "Empire Building". You see, every gang in the city owns some businesses that they operate, such as Prostitution, extortion, smuggling, drug peddling, etc. You (after a point in the story) have the opportunity to go about and take over these businesses, build them up, and do missions for them to make your presence known in the underworld. The missions you do for them are repetitive, but that doesn't necessarily mean bad. I enjoyed them as a matter of fact, the routine you follow was a nice break form the hectic on goings of the storyline missions. The more and bigger buildings you have, the more money you get daily. This is awesome because if you need some money, just wait around until 16:00 and bam, you've got some money. There are a few glitches, but I've never personally encountered anything that really affects the gameplay at all. Alot of people say their garage eats their cars, but I've only lost one car throughout my entire playing time.
The story is...good, but not really that compelling. It boarders on "predictable" at some points, is predictable at others, and at some points is actually surprising. I'm not going to go into detail, but you play as Vic Vance, a soldier stationed on leave at Vice City who immediately (and unwittingly) gets caught up in the criminal underworld of the city, with things getting worse and worse for him. After a while his brother Lance (the same Lance from the old Vice City) shows up and gets the wheels really moving for the story. Lance is the catalyst you might say, as the story really doesn't get good until he shows up. What follows is their struggle to make a name for themselves in the drug trade and their rise to power. It's by no means bad, but not as good as San Andreas or Vice City's story. I do have to say it's better than LCS and GTA III's stories though. The characters are all pretty good too, some of them moreso than others. As said before, they are all excellently voiced though.
VCS has some bugs, and it may get repetitive at some points, but at the end of the day it is still almost certainly the best game on the psp.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 11/06/06
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