Review by odino

"Grand Theft Framerate"

Grand Theft Auto is, of course, a great series of games that have made their way to next-gen consoles, but at the same time Rockstar had decided they can still cash-in on some of the next-gen handheld action. This isn't Liberty City Stories, far from it, but the best GTA game a handheld had to offer since GTA2.

When GTA first was released back in the days, I played it quite a lot, even though now I believe it has horrible gameplay. Without going much into details of the first two games released for the PSX and PC, the important thing to note is that Advance uses the top-down view I loathed so much in the earlier games. It is way too basic for any city game to give the player control over what's happening in the surroundings. The mini-map gives you some help but unless you know the city districts by heart, you will find yourself bumping into fences, dead-ends and stuck in the wrong area. Add to this, the gangs around you will hunt you down and random citizens might take a shot at you. Driving around is little fun, as the frame rate can drop down to alarming rates. the GBA is just overloaded at this point because the programmers had decided to give the game a grand GTA feel the next-gen console versions had started to have. For a start, traffic actually moves around with drivers wanting to get to some place. Unlike the first games where vehicles did not move at a green light or disappeared off-screen into nowhere. Now you will actually get this feeling of alive traffic. On the downside, there is a lot of traffic. Now only can this be bad for trying to manoeuvre your way through this place, but seems to affect the speed of the game as well. Next up is the radio station Rockstar has faithfully decided to keep as well. You won't actually get to listen to any funny commercials, talk shows or even a proper song, not to mention anything you know from the music industry. Instead you get some beat banging from the speakers that is supposed to be typical to the car you drive. Unfortunately you hardly get to hear what it is meant to play, so I would have kindly asked the programmers to remove this from the game in favor of some better gameplay. Finally, the graphics are already pretty bad, you would expect more from an Advance game at this point. It seems to me they already had to reduce the quality of the buildings to get this game running at all, however.

Let's get to the sound. Apart from the useless radio stations we get some mediocre, but adequate, sound effects. People may shout at you on the streets if you do something wrong like nearly hit them, nice touch. The screeching tired can get annoying after a while. The rest of the music like heard during the mini-cut scenes is pretty good.

I have already mentioned a lot about the graphics, but the cars are neat and the cut-scenes are also nicely done. The interface fits to the other games. The mini-map is all it can do for the Advance, and is usually a good way to find your way around. Once in a while it is misleading you with dots being where they should not, and you are stuck behind a wall having to go all the way around.

Car controls are ok, the lack of buttons on the machine makes it just enough to get around. Foot controls are horrible as I have mentioned earlier, I just loath this top-down view. They have, however, improved on this slightly compared to GTA1 and 2, but it's not like a gang war on the streets will give you any chance if you are stuck with a single pistol that can only aim in a few directions.

As for the story, it's pretty good. Predictable gangster plot that gets you to team up with different people and do different jobs. Obviously a lot of them are driving around and dropping off things, and believe me you wouldn't want to have more take-out-everybody-in-the-area missions. There is a lot more to do in the city than just do missions, however. As usual there are the 100 packages to find, taxi missions, rampages and even races to name a few. Rewards rank from better weapons at your hide-out to plenty of money. Money, however, doesn't seem to be any issue in this game. You don't get too much from missions and you need just a small amount to buy weapons (if you don't want to get back to your hide-out and get them for free for any particular reason) and spray your car. Spraying your car is something you need to do plenty in the game.

The police are pretty pathetic, however, and easily avoided on 4-star ratings and higher. The problems arise when you need to keep your car and they had some lucky shots to your car smoking. The police is usually only after you when you are during a mission and the game sets it to certain rating, you manage to drive over a hell of a lot of pedestrians in a short time, and you start shooting people. Unless you are a bored maniac, the latter should only happen during a mission as well. One star will usually go away by itself, so that is not a huge problem either. One good thing in this game is that you don't get an instant star for hitting a police car. This is pretty annoying in the other games, and I should think the developers have taken note of the difficult top-down view that makes you bump into cars more often than you wish for.

Finally, it's a nice touch that they have made Liberty City like the GTAIII map with a few small alterations, I think it was a big effort. If you need some more GTA action and have played the others too often already, then give this a try.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 06/05/06

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