Review by poisson
"Return to the Land of the Blinding Sun..."
It was inevitable. After the commercial and critical praise Rockstar received after having released Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories for PSP, we all knew a portable version of GTA: Vice City would be released in the same way LCS was a portable version of GTA3. Rockstar has managed again to truly replicate the superficiality of the 80s, this time in 1984. The game remains true to the GTA formula, almost too true. This is perhaps this game's greatest downfall. While still a great deal of fun, there is little new to the game, and still many old problems that are just getting frustrating.
You play as Victor Vance, the older brother of Lance Vance, a character from VC. You are a soldier who has joined up to support your dysfunctional family, including an asthmatic brother and cokehead mother. Like in most GTA games, things don't quite work out the way Vic had planned, and soon he's into the drug dealing, gang-banging, car-stealing lifestyle we have all come to expect from this series.
Like any GTA game, the game is very open-ended in structure. You choose to do the story missions at your own pace, do one of numerous side missions, or even just explore the city. You arm yourself with a variety of weapons, none of which are new, and drive vehicles on land, water, and in the air. The air vehicles are notable for just as VC was the introduction of air vehicles to the PS2 GTA games, so is VCS to the PSP.
The only major new feature of the gameplay would be how you can build your own empire of illicit businesses. By attacking the businesses of enemy gangs and the buying them, you can set up shop in things such as drugs or prostitution. It's similar to the assets in previous games, but not only do you choose what you want them to be, there's also way more, spread throughout the city. The best part is that the money you earn from your empire gets delivered directly to you on a daily basis, instead of you having to go around collecting it.
Rival gangs will attack your empire, and you will spend a great deal of your time running back and forth, fending off attacks instead of doing what you want to be doing. Sometimes attacks will happen one after another, and you don't even have time to get more armor, health, or ammo. This is incredibly frustrating after a while.
Does all this sound pretty familiar? It is. It's a classic, tried-and-true formula, yes, but with no major changes in gameplay, there's nothing to compensate for the other shortcomings of the game:
Probably the biggest problem with LCS was how the controls took some getting used to, and still always felt a little awkward. Due to the fewer buttons and lack of a second analog stick, the PSP controls have to be arranged in a way that they don't feel very natural. Driving and running works well enough, but the combat controls can occasionally border on unworkable.
Your weapons constantly lock onto either friendly gang members or random pedestrians, instead of the enemy blasting you with a machine gun. At close range, there is nothing you can do against melee attack while using a weapon. It feels like Goldeneye 64, except you're the russian and everyone else is Bond. The only thing you can do is run away to a further range, leaving your back exposed to more gunfire. The end result of all this awkwardness is you taking way more hits then you should have, possibly killing you.
The graphics are pretty much the same as in LCS, except everything is bathed in a soft neon glow. The detail in characters is pretty good, as are all their facial expressions. Everything comes together very well to give a great sense that you are truly in 1984.
A recurring problem for all GTA games is texture popping. In previous games, occasionally the game could not load textures or objects quickly enough to keep up with you, and you ended up seeing some pretty weird environments. But this usually only started to happen when the disc was getting older and possibly scratched. With VCS, it's happening all around you right off the bat. Furthermore, in almost every action sequence there are some framerate issues that can really slow things down.
My favourite part of VC was the soundtrack, and VCS is just as good, if not better. The best of 80s pop, new wave, hair metal and more accompanies you as you blast away at enemies.
The story missions are longer than those in LCS, and even mre side missions. All the familiar collectibles are there, instead of 100 hidden packages there are 99 red balloons to pop (get it?). All this makes VCS truly worth the money, if you plan on attempting to get 100% completion.
It's games like this that make me wish GameFAQs allowed decimals in their reviews, for I want to give this game somewhere between 8 and 9. Everything you love in GTA games is here, and it's a blast, but with no real changes and no attempt at fixing old problems, it seems to be that Rockstar either rushed this out as a cash cow, or they are too busy with GTA4. I sincerely hope the latter is true, for I was slightly disappointed with this game.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 11/08/06
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